This week's guest columnist is Keyana Vernado, MD, Family Practice Resident at Ochsner University Hospital & Clinics.
I have recurring nightmares of my seven-month-old baby and her daredevil antics. I wake up hyperventilating, dreaming I couldn't save her from flipping out of her crib or stuffing a battery in her mouth. This is a mom’s deepest fear: their kids having no sense of danger.
Fear inspired action. I googled “Top Baby Proofing Products,” filled my Amazon cart with said products, hit send and waited for nightmare-proofing to arrive on my doorstep. Next, I reverted to an 18-month-old version of myself, crawling around to find anything that might pique my baby's curiosity when she became more mobile. Cords, coins, cabinets. Pills, poisons, plastic bags. Mop buckets and toilets, too.
Two main tenets of babyproofing are to secure and seclude. Secure windows and stairwells with locks and gates. Secure furniture and appliances that baby might pull over. Keep all power cords out of reach. Poison, from household items like cleaners and medications, account for about 50,000 Emergency Department visits per year, so seclude them out of reach. After all, toddler rules are explore, grab, put in mouth.
Toddlers are top-heavy, their heads a bigger part of their bodies than ours. When they check stuff out, they tumble head-first, including into bodies of water like pools and ponds. If you don't have those, you do probably have toilets, aquariums, mop buckets and bathtubs. When toddlers fall into these head-first, they can't do a handstand to push their heads back out of the water. Toilet seat locks on order!
The first items to arrive were furniture corner protectors that stick onto coffee table edges. When I installed them, my baby promptly began chewing on them. Choking hazard perhaps? Big sigh, as I peeled the things back off.
I'm no superhero, though my mask and the calluses on my hands (my 95th percentile-weighing baby makes the carrier heavy!) might say otherwise. All parents try to be one by watching their kids for danger 24/7 and baby-proofing their entire world as discussed above. Ironically, exhaustion from constant vigilance has led to my most embarrassing and potentially dangerous parenting bloopers. Like when I dozed off while breast-feeding, baby tumbling from my arms to, fortunately, a soft landing. And you thought you were the only one!
Besides baby gates, furniture straps and cabinet locks to protect baby, you need to protect yourself too – from burnout. Go for that run, lock that bathroom door, invest in that massage, see that therapist and accept that babysitting offer you've been turning down. This is especially important with the recent increase in economic and social stress during the pandemic.
Self-care starts with the basics, which are difficult with demanding babies and toddlers. Get enough sleep. You may need to put off watching that TV show or doing that extra work you brought home to get to bed at a decent hour. Eat right: three healthy meals and healthy snacks for you and your children are harder to pull off up front. However, a little planning pays off in the long run, and leads to weight not gained and better energy when the chips are down. You need to make time for the other soul- and mind-feeding stuff, too: exercise, church hobbies, and other time to relax and heal. That way, when Baby Daredevil goes for the high dive off the kitchen counter, you're your best superhero self to make the catch.