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How to Baby Proof, by Stages

Everything you need to know about baby proofing your home (and your life).

How to Baby Proof, by Stages

By eight months pregnant, I was in full-blown nesting mode and could not do a thing about it. Our house was under construction, we were packed to the brim with clutter, and to make matters worse, we had to travel last minute for my husband’s work. The renovation that was supposed to be done “no later than June” was finally finished in mid-August…approximately three weeks before I was going to give birth. People asked me if I was “all done baby-proofing yet,” and I wanted to cry. My house was a wreck. I didn’t even have a place to sit, let alone a nursery. My husband and I knew we couldn’t do it all, so we sat down and strategized (and Googled, and asked for lots and lots of help) to figure out what needed to be done first and foremost.

As it turns out, baby proofing is so much more than outlet covers and furniture attached to the walls; and newborns have different needs than six-month-old babies and toddlers. So without further ado, here is what you need to baby proof your home (and your life), by stages.

1. Newborns. At this point in a baby’s life, parents’ top priority should be sleep safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to share a room with baby for the first six months, with him sleeping near your bed in a bassinet. Baby’s sleep environment should be bare -- no bedding (beside a fitted sheet), no blanket or pillow, and no plush toys. The AAP also recommends to swaddle a baby until he or she can turn over. After that, a sleeping bag is a great way to keep him or her warm all night long.

Though outside the home, the car seat is a baby-proofing must. You can choose from a vast selection of infant car seats and even convertible options with infant inserts, which you’ll be able to keep through the toddler years. You need to ensure that you install your car seat properly. This means tight (most likely with a base) and rear facing. If you can, stop by your local fire station, where firemen can help you. Alternatively, see if your local baby store has Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians.

Shop this stage:

HALO Bassinet, $250. Buy here.

Burt's Bees crib fitted Sheet, $13. Buy here.

Love To Dream swaddle, 25. Buy here.

Aden & Anais sleeping bag, $20. Buy here.

2. Three to six months. Don’t be fooled by the fact that your little one isn’t crawling yet. At this point in their lives, babies develop a slew of new skills that will get them (and their reach) far. So don’t ever leave them unattended, and make sure they can’t roll off of anything and get hurt. You’ll be surprised at how fast they move and how far they can go by just rolling and worming their way around. As they become masters at rolling over, they’ll also start to reach for things around them. So keep breakables, cords and any objects that are not age-appropriate toys out of babies’ reach.

Babies that are just learning to sit will use their hands to find their balance, but they can be a bit wobbly too. So if you sit them down, you’ll want to put them directly on the floor, on a mat, which will provide cushioning to soften any falls. You can also surround your wee one with pillows so that when they do fall, they don’t hurt themselves. You just need to make sure to keep an eye on them, as always.

Shop this stage:

Skip Hop playmat, $80. Buy here.

3. Six months to One Year. As baby's motor skills develop, his instinct will be to poke, hold, and taste anything and everything he comes across; and almost everything that is small enough to pick up can end up in his mouth. So if you haven’t done much baby proofing yet, now is the time to do it. More specifically, as your little one starts to crawl, you’ll need to keep the floors clean and clear of objects that are not age appropriate and that he could swallow. Since baby’s probably gonna lick the floor more than once, try to favor baby- and eco-friendly cleaning supplies that are free of harsh chemicals.

Once he can prop their way up to a standing position, he'll reach new heights, which means that you’ll need to remove all objects from the coffee table and any other low furniture -- even magazines, which can be torn, rolled up and chewed, becoming a choking hazard. It also means securing furniture to the wall and putting covers on all electrical outlets, especially those that are in plain sight and easily accessible.

At this point, you should also think about locking cabinets that you do not want your baby to access (those with medication, cleaning supplies, pet foods, breakable items and so on). And if there are entire rooms or areas that you want your baby to steer clear of, a gate will be the way to go. If you have the room for it, you can also keep your baby secure in a playpen or a freestanding gated play yard.

Shop this stage:

Babyganics all-surface cleaner, $17. Buy here.

Munhckin plug covers, $5.75. Buy here.

Dreambaby cabinet locks, $5,75. Buy here.

Safety 1st gate, $65. Buy here.

The stair barrier, $149. buy here.

Summer Infant portable playard, $80. Buy here.

4. Toddlers. Once little ones can walk, it gets even more real. With mobility comes more exploring, and they’ll be able to interact with everything in your house. Everything. Even the stuff on the counters. Some children are more curious or adventurous than others, so you can gauge your little one’s personality. But it’s generally better to err on the side of caution. So in addition to baby gates and cabinet locks, you’ll want to lock the bathroom door and the toilet. Stove knob covers are also a must-have in the kitchen, and make sure to lock the oven door. As our little ones explore, they’ll have many opportunities to bump their heads on furniture. So watch the sharp corners of your tables. You can either rearrange your furniture to move them out of baby’s way, or purchase corner covers. If you want to soften any head bumping

You’ll also want to remove any sharp objects, like scissors and finger nail clippers, from baby’s reach. Get rid of items that are hanging over the crib, and move the crib away from curtains and cords, as all of these can become strangling and suffocating hazard.

Shop this stage:

Monkey door lock and pinch guard, $15. Buy here.

Child Safety locks for cabinets and toilets, $14. Buy here.

Safety 1st stove knob cover, $7.59. Buy here.

Roving Cover corner guards, $9.79. Buy here.

Image from Huffington Post.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

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