Balance in Baby Proofing

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Categories Balance, Co-parenting, Infants, SafetyTags , ,

We purchased our first home in anticipation of having a child, and found out that we would be having twins soon before we moved in. I was prepared to install every baby proofing gizmo known to mankind, but my husband had other ideas. When I proposed baby gates on either side of our the kitchen area of our open living space, he argued that our children should be included in food preparation and taught kitchen safety. My suggestion of foam bumpers on the corners of our dining table was countered with a recommendation that we see how old the twins were before they were tall enough for those corners to be a concern. I wanted to invest in a television cabinet that could be closed against inquisitive fingers, but my husband believed that children should be taught their limits within an adult world, instead of having a limited area of the world cordoned off for them.

I think we struck a healthy balance on the baby proofing front. A couple of the lower kitchen cabinets had baby latches, keeping the girls away from electronics and chemicals. They had free access to pots, pans, and food storage containers. We installed outlet covers on unused electrical outlets, but we taught the babies not to touch plugs instead of preventing their access to them. The only significant injury suffered by either of our daughters was a magnificent bump on J’s head from diving off the couch at around age 2. I was right there, but didn’t quite reach her in time to prevent her head from hitting the tile. I called 9-1-1, but the paramedics declared J perfectly fine and concussion-free.

The girls’ cribs were our 100% safe spot. My husband insisted on solid wood construction without any moving pieces. I insisted that the cribs not have bumpers, because of the suffocation hazard, and used sleep sacks to keep them warm. When I absolutely had leave the babies, they went in their cribs. Yes, even mothers of twins must use the bathroom, and even shower occasionally. We were lucky that M and J had never thought to climb out of their cribs by the time we deemed them ready for big girl beds.

The knowledge that M and J can understand and honour limits has always made me feel like I can handle them in any situation. My mother is astonished that I’ve always taken the girls everywhere with me, starting at about 6 weeks of age – to work functions, on playdates, shopping, to restaurants, to parks, fairs and festivals, and to friends’ houses. Frankly, Mum was surprised that I felt comfortable taking the babies anywhere. It never occurred to her that one could go out with a baby, because our home had been a completely safe space during my childhood, and household staff ensured 24/7 oversight of my younger sister by the time she was born.

Honestly, the day that the children and I don’t leave the house was a rare one when we lived in an area I knew well. As with many people, I may have reacted to an extreme in my own childhood—a narrow, protected world—by taking my own parenting to other extreme. In retrospect, my husband’s foresight in teaching our children limits within the home has given J and M discipline and given me confidence as a mom. It’s this discipline and confidence that has enabled us to hunt worms, ride bikes, “fish” in puddles, enjoy theatre and make new friends.

To what extent is/was your home baby proofed? Is there a relationship between the degree of baby proofing that was right for your family and the frequency with which you explore the larger world with your kids?

Sadia is a working mom of 5-year-old identical twin girls, J and M. She used to blog publicly at Double the Fun, but took her blog private as the girls entered elementary school.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

8 thoughts on “Balance in Baby Proofing”

  1. Sounds like me and my husband… kinda, but in reverse. We have generally removed things we don’t want them playing with and/or potentially dangerous, but mostly for our sanity (less yelling) than for safety. I like the idea of them roaming and being apart of the house, because it’s their house too. We have had more than just one “fall off the couch” but my girls are extra rambunctious I think, and kids are exceptionally resilient!

  2. We are both more like your husband. It helps that our older son never really got into things. And that they went to daycare. Since our younger son will only be at most 18 months when this second surprise set of twins is born, we will be using a nanny. We realized the other day that this means babyproofing! Egads.

    Did you really call 911?!?

  3. My girls have had their share of injuries, including knocks to the head, but I did call 911 that one time: J briefly went completely limp in my arms and wouldn’t respond to her name. Even though it was only 5 seconds, I was very concerned.

  4. My husband is more like you and I’m in between – sometimes too easy-going perhaps. I like your husbands take on this issue, and I’m always trying to do it that way. With balance as you mention. Some things should simply be out of reach.
    Our big mistake was a water dispenser with a boiling- hot water tap. I tried the explaining and hovering thing until the day my daughter burnt her arm from it. Now of course we’ve raised it to a level they can’t reach.

    We’ve had many falls and hits too, but I’d have been scared too if my child went limp in my arms. Glad J was fine!

    We take our children out as much as possible and they also go everywhere with us. It does get tiring when it’s long periods of times away, in particular long holidays in unfamiliar homes or hotels that are not at all suitable for babies or toddlers.

  5. I always think it is safer (for babies) and waaaaay less frustrating (for mommy) if things that can’t be had are out of reach and preferably sight. But I’m a stay-at-home-mom. We are in our house 24/7. (Well, not really, we do go places but still). I definitely want the girls to be able to roam the house but they aren’t allowed in our room alone or in the office at all. I have no desire to be saying “No no! Don’t touch that!” 5000 times a day. Times two kids. I think that if your kids are old enough to learn limits and use self-control, you are beyond the baby-proofing phase.

  6. Stephanie – I think I would have probably had a somewhat different perspective if I didn’t work outside the home when my girls were infants. Between work/daycare, our commute, and weekend social activities, the babies probably spent 2.5×5+10×2=30ish waking hours in the house per week.

  7. I’d love to know how you respond when J. and M. don’t respond to the rules and boundaries (if that ever happens!). My girls are usually very good about observing the rules of the house (knowing what they can have and what they can’t), but lately they are breaking a lot of those, especially in the pantry. We’ve yet to discover what might be prompting this, and so it’s been harder to help guide them back to the limits.

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