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Making A Safe Home For You And Your Growing Family

Expecting a new baby is a good chance to make sure your home is safe and ready for your growing family.

Knowing you have prepared a safe and welcoming place to bring your baby home to is important and means you can focus on getting to know your little one.

When it’s time to bring your newborn home, you want to be sure the house is safely set up and the best time to do this is long before they actually arrive. 

Once your baby starts to crawl, you will need to do double check again that your house is safe for when they are on the move. 

  • Every home should have smoke alarms on each floor of the house and in the main living area.

    • Check the smoke alarms all works each week
    • If they run on batteries, change them least once a year - never ‘borrow’ the batteries to use for something else
    • Keep them clean of dust and dirt.

    Fire safety is another good reason to keep your home smoke free.

    • Many house fires start because of cigarettes not being put out safely.
    • Make sure that all electrical products are unplugged when left. Don’t overload plugs; use the ‘socket calculator *here*.

    Work out how you and your family would escape in case of a fire. Make sure each adult knows what ‘their job’ would be and talk through your plan with older children. *Click here* for some tips on making an escape plan. 

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning is very serious and can be fatal. It is caused by faulty gas or other heating fuel systems. It is particularly dangerous because you cannot see, hear, smell or taste it.

    Carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk if your home has;

    • Appliances that are not electric
    • If you use liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood, coal, or other fuels
    • If you have a home with an attached garage.

    It is very important to have a carbon monoxide detector and check it works every week.

    Make sure your heating is serviced regularly. If you live in rented accommodation your landlord must provide detectors and regular servicing.

  • Check the temperature of your water at home. If you are able to set your hot water thermostat it should be at 60 degrees. Higher than this and there is a risk of scalds and burns.

    • During pregnancy bath water that is too hot can cause overheating, dehydration and may make you feel faint.
    • The same is true of hot tubs, saunas and Jacuzzis – they also may carry germs. It is best to avoid these in pregnancy unless you are sure you can keep the temperature low and they are maintained to a very high standard.
    • Always run cold water into baths and basins first – get in the habit ready for when you are getting the bath ready for baby.

    Whilst you are pregnant you can begin to look at risks to children in your home and garden.

    • If you have a pond now might be the time to fill it in whilst you have more time – or think about how you can secure it.
    • Make sure your child will not be able to get to any family or neighbours ponds too.
    • Make sure you have a safe place to store buckets and mops – keep them empty when not in use.
  • There is no rush to get a nursery ready for your baby – it is advised that babies share a bedroom with their parents until they are at least six months old. 

    • You should not use pillows, baby nests or cot bumpers or duvets. They often are included in bedding bundles but they are not safe and should not be used.
    • Changing tables should be used with caution as babies can fall from a height if they are not watched every moment – the safest place to change your baby is on a mat on the floor.
    • Think about where you will store toiletries nappies, wipes and nappy sacks. They should not be where baby can reach them - they have caused babies to suffocate.
    • Keep your room and the nursery clear from clutter to avoid trips and falls – a risk when you will be caring for your baby at night and when you are tired.

    Safe sleep is very important. Babies should only sleep in something that has been especially designed for a baby to sleep in. This is because it reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Cot Death).

    Their cot or crib should be kept clear of anything other than bed linen. This keeps your baby as safe as possible as they sleep.

    • Make sure the cot / Moses basket / crib is safe.
    • Place their cot away from windows and radiators. Ensure all blind cords in your house use safety fixings to keep them out of baby and children’s reach.
    • They have a firm, flat, well fitting waterproof mattress. Read more about how to check your mattress is safe *here*.

    If you are buying a second hand crib, cot or pram;

    • Buy a new mattress that has the CE standard label
    • Buy from smoke free homes only
    • Check the condition carefully – don’t buy if you can see any damage
    • If the cot you are buying is old, or a family heirloom, make sure it would pass todays safety standards.
  • The room temperature in your home should be around 16 – 20 degrees Celsius to make sure baby does not get cold or overheat (which increases the risk of sudden infant death). The Lullaby Trust has information on this *here*.

    During your pregnancy get a room thermometer so you can get an idea of what the temperature is in different parts of your home.

  • Pets are an important part of family life. When your family is growing it is important to think about how you can be sure;

    • You and your family avoid the germs that animals carry
    • That your baby is kept safe from your pets
    • That your pets continue to get the love and care they need.

    When you are pregnant hand washing is even more important than usual. It protects you and your baby from harmful germs. Get in the habit of washing your hands after being around your pets and always before eating.

    Animal Poo

    • The clearing up of animal poo by the pregnant person should be avoided where possible. This is particularly true of cat poo – it can carry a disease called toxoplasmosis which is dangerous to unborn babies.
    • If you do need to clear up after pets (and when gardening) always wear gloves and wash your hands carefully afterwards.

    Other Animals

    • Snakes and lizards and other reptiles can carry salmonella. Find out more about how to avoid this bug which causes serious stomach upsets *here*.
    • Touching and handling farm animals should be avoided by pregnant women where possible. *Click here* to find out more. 

    Getting Prepared

    Start thinking about how you will keep pets separate from your baby when you cannot supervise them. Preparing early means you and your pet will be able to get used to the new ways before baby arrives and your pet is less likely to be jealous.

    If you have a pet that needs exercising who will help with this in the early days?

    If you plan to walk a dog alone with your baby;

    • Let your dog practice walking alongside the pram before baby arrives.
    • Never tie a dog to the pram.
    • Take someone with you until you are all used to it and more confident of how it works.

    However lovely your pet is remember animals can never be totally trusted. Something may frighten your pet. They may be accidentally hurt and they react by instinct. Do not leave your baby or young child alone with a pet.

    *Click here* or more information about animal safety. 

Who can Help?

If you feel worried and want more advice you can speak to your midwife.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

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