Oh, baby: How to keep that infant safe

Manager of Ambulatory Care at UVA's Outpatient Clinic

Q: My wife and I are expecting our first baby in about a month. What are the baby-proof basics?

 A: Baby-proofing a home is something you have to think about from day one, and you need to consider the potential dangers of everything within reach of your infant or toddler.

The crib is one obvious thing that needs to be baby-proof. Side slats should not be any further apart than 2 and 3/8 inches. There should be no sharp edges or peeling paint anywhere on the crib. Corner posts and decorative head posts can also pose a threat if they can snag clothing, and make sure the mattress is fits the crib well so that your baby can't get stuck in between it and the crib.

Be aware of things your baby can pull or tug from his crib. Mobiles are usually safe for newborns, but as a baby gets older he might grab at it, causing it to fall on top of him. Cribs should also be located far enough away from walls so that the baby can't get hold of any loose cords or strings, such as those attached to blinds. Even pacifiers with strings that go around a baby's neck can be dangerous.

Don't place any big sheets, blankets, or large stuffed animals in the crib that can suffocate. At the same time, don't put in any toys that are so small the baby may try to swallow them.

Babies should never share a crib, nor should a parent share a bed with an infant.

Finally, once a baby is big enough to climb out of the crib, move her to a bed with rails so she doesn't try to climb out and hurt herself.

Serious baby-proofing begins once your tot's on the move. Avoid buying anything used to baby-proof the house since it usually comes without a warranty, and you don't know who tested the product.

Definitely get some baby gates to block off the bottom of stairways and rooms your baby shouldn't go into by himself, such as the bathroom. Don't put a gate at the tops of stairways if your baby can climb over it, though. If she does, she'll fall farther than she would if she simply attempted the steps.

Cabinet locks are important, especially in the kitchen, around the sink, or any others that may contain dangerous objects or substances, all of which should be placed out of reach anyway. Be careful with your purse, since you probably keep things like nail files or personal medication in it.

Turn your water heater down to at most 120 degrees in case your baby turns on a faucet. His skin is thinner than an adult's, so he could end up with a third-degree burn if the water's too hot.

Buy corner protections, doorknob covers, and socket covers for every room. As your baby learns to walk, she's going to get a few inevitable bumps and scrapes, but you can do your best to prevent any serious injury.