Babies have an unfortunate way of cramping your style. Sure, you have a baby, but you don’t want your house to look like it.
That’s more doable in the beginning when all a baby needs is milk, a place to sleep, and lots of diapers. The problem is, eventually, babies become mobile and curious. They wobble around the house, get into everything, and want to put anything that will fit in their mouths. It’s like living with a tiny drunk person with a death wish, who doesn’t understand the concept of death or danger. That’s why babyproofing your home is necessary.
There are plenty of companies that exist that will perform this service for you, but that’s not necessary. They can certainly give you peace of mind, but a lot of this stuff can be done on your own. You’ll also have to determine how much babyproofing you want or need to do—and that depends on the space you live in and the kind of kid you have.
What do I have to do?
So you’ve had a baby and now you’re home. Now what? Before the baby starts walking and crawling, there’s some bare minimum babyproofing you should do. HealthyChildren.org, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a more comprehensive list, but here are some basics:
- Cover outlets
- Lock cabinets, especially those with chemicals, medications, and alcohol
- Cover sharp corners
- Take breakable stuff off of low shelves
- Anchor heavy furniture like chests and TVs to the wall
The good news is you can do this in a way that’s not very disruptive to the appearance of your home. "There are some good products out there that are pretty invisible, like cabinet locks that are installed inside of the cabinet, but I tried to make the visible fixes blend in as best as I could," says Leah Weinberg, an interior designer and mom of two young girls, of her own babyproofing. "It wasn’t perfect, but all of the methods I used were temporary and could be removed without ruining any of our furniture once she was old enough to get around safely."
So look for products that use adhesive and don’t need to be drilled into your wall, and search for clear or silicone items that don’t stick out, like outlet covers or corner covers that are clear or white. Furniture anchors are also not bothersome since they’re meant to be hidden by design anyway.
So much of babyproofing depends on your space and your kid. Most of us with young kids would probably feel better in a padded room—for more reasons than child safety.
"Once [my older daughter] Winona started cruising and walking, I started to notice a few hazards around our home that made me nervous," Weinberg said. "For example, our coffee table had a hard edge, we had floor lamps that weren’t secured, and heavy books that she enjoyed knocking off of the shelves she could reach."
Weinberg said she looked to Pinterest for inspiration. "I found a few things that blended in as best as I could, like the black foam padding that I stuck onto my black coffee table. Otherwise I took a DIY approach, like using a white plant hook and chain to chain my floor lamp to the white wall."
What should I probably do?
If you live in an apartment with no stairs and a toddler who’s content to play in one spot, chances are, there’s a lot less you’ll have to do. But if you’re in a multistory house with stairs in different places and your kid never stops moving, you’re going to need some strong reinforcements.
The number one answer to this question is install baby gates, unless you want to be running in panic every time your little one teeters toward the stairs. I have an almost two-year-old, and this is a situation where I wish I had taken my own advice sooner: I spent far too long running after her every time she got near the top of the stairs, and I felt much saner and calmer once I put in a gate.
Some gates come in bright colors that scream A TASTELESS BABY LIVES HERE! But gates don’t have to be ugly. Many of them come in white or black (I have this one), and now there are also oh-so-trendy plexiglass baby gates on the market. If you want something that makes a bit more of a statement, look at pet gates, which tend to have more stylish options, or on Etsy, where custom gates abound. You could also talk to a contractor and have something custom made, but remember: this period of life is only temporary.
Also: bear in mind that there are two types of baby gates on the market: pressure mounted and hardware mounted. The former is held up by tension (like a curtain rod) and is best for doorways, keeping a baby contained in a room, and the bottom of the stairs; the latter is drilled into the wall and the safest option for the top of a stairway.
Consider a professional
Installing gates is one of those things that may make you consider ditching your spouse and children for a new life. If that’s you and the budget allows, it’s okay to enlist support in the form of a professional.
"If you have the means, hire a babyproofing service and take that off your plate, which is similar to how I view interior design services," says Houston-based interior designer and mother Lizzy Rose. "They’re experts and they’ll have much more knowledge than you can Google. They also typically provide the covers and other materials—which means you also aren’t having to order those goods as well, and takes another item off your plate."
Many families also choose to go the extra mile and take the following safety measures:
- Cover doorknobs
- Cover stove knobs
- Install motion-sensing door alarms
- Install toilet locks
- Set water heater to a lower temperature to avoid scalding
Anecdotally, I haven’t done any of those things, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart and reasonable things to do. If you feel better babyproofing every inch of your home, then by all means, do. And if you’re willing to pay, a babyproofer can also come to your house, do a comprehensive audit, and do all these things for you.
How do I make babyproofing look natural?
The best way to babyproof your home is to think of it as a part of the regular decisions you make when you furnish and decorate your space.
"My best piece of advice would be to buy furniture that is inherently baby-proof to begin with," Weinberg said. "Get an ottoman instead of a coffee table because of its soft padded surface and choose performance fabrics that are easy to clean when your kids inevitably spill. Try to avoid glass and sharp corners."
And if you don’t already work with an interior designer, this might be the moment when you consider doing so. They can help you make these choices. But like most things, it is doable on your own, and other pro tips include: picking stain resistant/performance fabrics, springing for surfaces and materials that are wipeable, and resisting the urge to buy a white couch.
"Choose durable fabrics, finishes that already look beat up (insert ‘patina’) and use hidden storage pieces help hide life," Rose said. "Giving yourself and your family grace about this period goes wonders. Stains and scratches are going to happen; things will be destroyed. I have to constantly remind myself that this is the season for a slightly disheveled home and that is OK."
We love the products we feature and hope you do, too. If you buy something through a link on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission.