Babyproofing & Childproofing

Renting vs. buying baby equipment

It's estimated that parents spend $9,000 to $11,000 in the first year of a baby's life. Renting at least some baby gear is one way that parents and grandparents can save on the expense of buying cribs, car seats, strollers and more. Renting can be a good option for traveling parents who don't want to pack all the equipment a baby needs. In addition, parents may also find they appreciate the efficiency of renting some equipment for a short time, such as a hospital-grade electric breast pump, rather than buying.

Subscription services for frequently used items, such as a cloth diaper service, may be another cost-effective way to handle baby-related costs.

Angie's List is here to help consumers make informed hiring decisions. Members have access to local consumer reviews on baby equipment rental companies and service providers in more than 500 other categories.

Childproofing tips

Over 1 million babies and young children are hurt at home each year. Accidents range from falls, the likeliest cause of nonfatal injuries for children 14 and younger, to burns, poisonings and electrocution. A great place to start with childproofing your home is to experience a child's perspective: get on your hands and knees and crawl around. You'll be surprised at the dangers you see from that angle.

Here are some actions to take to decrease the likelihood of home accidents:

• Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

• Keep fire escape ladders readily available.

• Lock up medicines and household cleaners.

• Use outlet covers, toilet-lid locks, cabinet latches and locks, furniture straps and anchors, and table and window guards.

• Install safety gates on stairs and mesh fencing around pools and ponds.

• Closely monitor a child during bath or feeding times.

• Fit garage doors with motion detectors to keep them from closing on small children.

Hiring a childproofing professional

The average homeowner may not realize all safety hazards a home may pose for a child. An experienced childproofer can examine your home and come up with safety solutions. But before you hire, determine if the childproofer:

• Can offer comprehensive services, from installation services to educational tips.

• Thoroughly discusses potential hazards inside and outside the home, including windows, outdoor pools, stairs, bookcases, electrical systems, appliances and exercise equipment.

• Seems aware of the latest safety hazards and solutions.

• Has access to sophisticated products not readily available at local stores.

• Is prepared to address peculiarities of your home, such as lofts, bay windows, etc.

• Specializes in child safety. Any contractor can say they can childproof your home. But if not installed properly, safety items can actually pose an increased risk.

• Has experience and credentials. Ask how many homes he or she has childproofed. Ask if the childproofer is a member of the International Association for Child Safety and uses products approved by the Juvenile Product Manufacturer’s Association.

• Ask about insurance and, if required in your area, licensing.

The cost of hiring a professional is often determined by the amount of childproofing you want and the size of your home, so be sure to get a written estimate. The childproofer should conduct a room-by-room walk-through. Many companies offer free in-home evaluations, others charge $50 or less. Then you will receive an itemized estimate detailing charges for materials and labor. Be sure to ask about warranties on installations and guarantees on products.

Car seat guidelines

Vehicle accidents are the top killer of children between 1 and 12 years of age. The best preventive measure is a car seat or booster seat that fits the child and is installed correctly.

General car seat rules include:

• Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.

• Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions; read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits. (LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children; LATCH is a system that makes child safety seat installation easier, without using seat belts. LATCH is required on child safety seats and most vehicles made after September 1, 2002.)

• To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements. Keep older child in the back seat at least through age 12.

• Infants and toddlers should stay in a rear-facing car seat until they're 3 or surpass the manufacturer's recommended weight limit. Children between 4 and 7 who fall within the manufacturer's weight guidelines should use forward-facing car seats.

• Booster seats should be used until the child can correctly use a standard seat belt. Lap belts should fit snugly against the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should sit across the chest. If a lap belt covers the child's stomach or a shoulder belt crosses the face or neck, the child is not ready to use a standard seat belt and should stay in a booster seat for optimum safety.

Car seat and booster seat advice

The National Highway Safety Administration offers these age-specific suggestions for child car and booster seats:

• Birth - 12 months: A child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

• 1 - 3 years: Keep a child rear-facing as long as possible. The child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, she's ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

• 4 - 7 years: Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. When a child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time for a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

• 8 - 12 years: Keep the child in a booster seat until he's big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

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