baby proofing

Baby-Proofing Is A Waste Of Time

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brat is cuteNew and soon-to-be moms looking for unsolicited advice take heed- baby-proofing is a complete waste of time and money.

I fully cop to being a nervous mom. I carry a first-aid kit in my bag, I have the number to poison control committed to memory and my family always wears sunscreen. I am also a sucker for advertising, so when I was pregnant and creating a registry, seeing aisle upon aisle filled with child-proofing products was very reassuring. There were tons of gadgets designed by experts to help me handle the seemingly impossible task of keeping miniature humans alive. I bought them all and thought I could relax, but now that my kids are mobile I’m learning baby-proofing is an exercise in futility.

Most baby-proofing products are made of light-weight plastic, easily manipulated by tiny hands. Those outlet covers I painstakingly placed in every room of the house? They are literally child’s play, since it took the boys approximately 2.3 seconds to figure out how how to pull them out of the wall. To add insult to injury, they treated the outlet covers like pacifiers. Not only I had done nothing to fix the whole electrocution risk issue, I had sprinkled choking hazards all over the house.

Baby-proofing solutions are designed to be temporary, which is code for “highly likely to break or fall apart when you still need it.” We have a baby gate in the kitchen that my husband initially installed according to manufacturer’s directions by wedging it against the door jam. That thing didn’t stand a change against two twenty pound toddlers demanding milk.

After weeks of pulling kids out of the refrigerator and a very scary afternoon where the gas stove was turned on accidentally, we decided resale value of the house be damned and drilled the gate into the kitchen wall.

The best luck we’ve had with keeping them out of things has been with unconventional solutions. This means my lamps are tied to other furniture with old exercise tubing and all of the closets and drawers are sealed shut with duct tape, but I am willing to sacrifice being featured in Better Homes & Gardens if it means keeping the kids alive.

I don’t want to be a helicopter parent, but it feels like I can’t turn my back for a second before I hear a loud crash and that specific wail which accompanies a real injury.

Never, ever look away.

The places in the house where I can safety stash them while I go pee is forever shrinking. A giant canvas print hanging high on the wall went from tasteful decor to deathtrap overnight once they learned how to jump up and down on the couch and knock it over. A lock on the glassware cabinet was disabled faster than the cast of Ocean’s Eleven can access a safe. Sometimes they even use the childproofing equipment as tools to aid in their mischief- the open net design on a baby fence acts as the perfect foothold to gain access to the office and its bucket full of Sharpies.

I’ve learned that trying to keep children from getting into dangerous situations in your home is like trying to prevent a Taylor Swift single from topping the charts- no matter how annoying it is or how frustrated it makes you, you can only slow it down, you can’t stop it from happening. In the future I will take the money I save on baby-proofing gear and use it to buy wine for my off-duty hours.

(Image: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock)

53 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Wakefield

    September 6, 2014 at 9:09 am

    I have a college friend who paid for someone to come over and baby-proof her house. In her blog she commented on how many ‘dangerous’ things were in her home that she didn’t know about AND how much it was going to cost to make sure her house was safe.
    This was mind boggling to me.

    OF COURSE the company told her all that – they are trying to make money! If they can convince someone that a house is a death trap, the parent will buy the supplies and their services and the company has fattened their wallet.

    We put locks in the kitchen out of laziness because I didn’t want to rearrange my drawers and cabinets. And baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs because…obvious. But other than that, we did nothing.

    • Spongeworthy

      September 6, 2014 at 10:33 am

      That’s crazy, paying someone to come and do that. It reminds me of that show Pregnant in Heels and the crazy stuff some of those people would pay for (although I did like Rosie Pope, she seemed sweet and would set parents straight in a nice way if they needed it).

    • 2Well

      September 6, 2014 at 11:39 am

      So I’m taking an income tax class, and we were talking about imputed income, which is the income derived from doing it your own damn self. Everyday living for normal people not on those kinds of T.V. shows could be considered imputed income, and thus taxable if the government wanted to. Everything can be hired out. However, a tax on existence would be an administrative nightmare.

    • Elizabeth Wakefield

      September 6, 2014 at 11:49 am

      But this is also the friend that blogs about her Kendra Scott jewelry collection, the latest Tory Burch sandals, and who owns a $220 umbrella stroller.

    • Spongeworthy

      September 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      That explains a lot!
      The idea of paying $220 for a freaking umbrella stroller makes me ill. But I guess having money doesn’t make you smart.

    • Elizabeth Wakefield

      September 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      We were sorority sisters in college and I used to read her blog because I wanted to keep up with her life, but since she got married and had a baby….I just hate-read it because she’s so obnoxious about brand-name-dropping and her social climbing.

    • candyvines

      September 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      I have a $200 umbrella stroller 🙁
      I guess I’d rather buy one that will last on city streets than four that won’t. Points for it being a shower gift from the in-laws?

    • Spongeworthy

      September 6, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Eh, I think if you’re going to use it hard that makes sense. I think the difference is buying one like that because it’s practical and you need it to last, as opposed to buying one so you can say you have a $200 stroller. At the end of the day, that one purchase wouldn’t matter that much to me, really. Just a different perspective. I use mine for trips to stores, then throw it in the back of my car for 6 months. So $200 would be a huge waste.

    • candyvines

      September 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Oh, thank goodness. Can’t have my internet friends thinking I’m a dumbass!

    • Spongeworthy

      September 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Haha no way!! If that stroller is working for you, that’s all that matters 🙂

    • Elizabeth Wakefield

      September 6, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      It wasn’t just the $200 stroller. It was the $200 stroller plus the high-end high chair, carseats, crib, and even stuffed animals.

    • candyvines

      September 6, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      Fair enough! I don’t blog about my stroller either 🙂

    • Jamie

      September 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      This is so off-topic, but I have four-day old identical, blonde, girl twins and one is named Elizabeth, which has been my favorite girl name since I read Sweet Valley Twins in kindergarten!

    • KaeTay

      September 6, 2014 at 10:40 am

      see I just got a baby gate for the kitchen but now that she’s older there’s nothing in the drawers except the plastic ones and the knives are constantly in the sink dirty or in the dish washer, locked.

    • Elizabeth Wakefield

      September 6, 2014 at 11:37 am

      I was more worried about the cleaning supplies under the sink and my serving dishes in the island cabinet.

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    • ChickenKira

      September 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Pretty much the same here, only we don’t have stairs so we don’t need the gates.

      I have things on the kitchen cupboards, mostly because I’m sick of opening a cupboard to get a plate out and finding a pile of blocks in there (always the blocks, WHY?) and we cover the electrical outlets because we have little miss sticks everything in them, but other then that there are things I have been told are hazards and all I can say is “Yes, but we need to be realistic here”. Sure I could stick foam on the corner of every single table, but where do you draw the line? On the corner of bookshelves? The couch legs? The bed frame?

      My Nanna pointed out yesterday that Egg is now tall enough to hit her head when she stands up under the dining table and “You need to do something about that”. Umm… do what exactly? Not eat at a table anymore? Tape pillows underneath it? The kid can learn to duck, or, you know, just not stand up under the table.

    • Pappy

      September 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      I know this is late but… “The kid can learn to duck, or, you know, just not stand up under the table.” YES. Can I just take a moment to commend you for this parenting strategy? Cracking your head on things is how you learn not to straighten up quickly while under a hard object.

      “Protecting” your child from smacked heads, bruised shins and sundry injuries is only delaying the learning process. Overcoming minor suffering and learning from it is character-building. Go ChickenKira!

    • iamtheshoshie

      September 8, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      My 7 month old decided that he loves crawling under short things. And then he sits up and bonks his head. My husband and I figure that’s the best way for him to learn to not sit up when he’s under short things. He doesn’t tend to bonk it particularly hard, but it upsets him. He seems to be figuring it out because we’ve had far fewer crawl-sit-bonk cycles recently.

    • Cat

      September 13, 2014 at 1:14 am

      My mum says that when I got tall enough to hit my head under the table they told me to sneak (I must have been 2-ish?)… she also says that for weeks afterward I would whisper “sneak-sneak-sneak” any time I was under the table.
      Kids are so stupid-smart.

  2. Tisa Berry

    September 6, 2014 at 9:17 am

    We had one of those door proofing things at the daycare, and no matter what half the parents couldn’t open the damn the door. Pretty much every child 3 and up did it with ease.

    Also, OKDHS requires us to have outlet covers all on the outlets (even the ones 6 or so feet up on the wall). And we lose outlet covers left and right. And those little fridge thingies are jokes,, we ended up having to but a lock.

  3. Katherine Handcock

    September 6, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Totally agree. There are a few items that are key – a baby gate is one (and yes, drilled into the wall – even one kid can take down a pressure-mount gate!). I had one cabinet with all the dangerous cleaning stuff etc. in it, and I used a serious handle-lock device on that one. I also had a child-protected doorknob on the door to the basement. Otherwise, it was mostly “watch the kids like a hawk”, because given a little time to think about it, most kids can figure out their way around these devices.

  4. Maria Guido

    September 6, 2014 at 9:52 am

    All my coffee tables have round edges, my knick-knacks are kept on high shelves, and anything that qualifies as poison is stored in the garage. My blind cords are tied up – I basically think my house is child-proofed. I can exist in it without following my kids around everywhere – that makes me happy.

    • Megan

      September 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      My coffee table became an impromptu stage, so we had to lose it 🙁

  5. Heaven dip

    September 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

    We got the gates and cupboard locks- again out of pure laziness because I got tired of picking up toys plus all every stinking kitchen utensil, bathroom accessories plus plus… As she’s gone from crawling to walking the tide line of reachable stuff rises. I’ll stick to the ounce of prevention model.
    And seriously , if you’re going to pay some one an obscene amount of money to figure out what you could on your hands and knees with a little critical thinking and a paper towel tube, you’re way more cashed up them me. For half the cost give me a call and I’ll come over with a couple of plug covers and a bottle of wine and we can go over the manual of how to calm the f*ck down.

  6. keelhaulrose

    September 6, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I didn’t baby proof except for a gate with my first, and we had no issues. Second showed us just how stupid we were… by figuring out every baby proofing thing we did in less time than it took to install it, and then showing us you can’t baby proof everything (that bar to keep the sliding door closed makes a great big sister whacked).

    • Megan

      September 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      What is it with the sliding door stopper bar that makes it THE best toy ever?! I always manage to get whacked too in the tussle to take it away.

  7. M.

    September 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

    We put up a baby gate (actually it was a pet gate meant for large dogs, so taller than usual with prison-like vertical bars- no toe holds!- and my kid couldn’t get past it for his life) in the main living area that kept him out of the kitchen/laundry/rest of the house. In that area only we put outlet covers in the outlets after he discovered them and was endlessly drawn to them. Babyproofing done, and he’s 3 and still alive!!!

  8. Spongeworthy

    September 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

    We didn’t need a gate, since we live in a ranch-style home. It’s nice not needing it, simply because I remember as a kid we had gates up for our dog, and they were a pain to always step over. The only lock we have is on the cupboard under the kitchen sink, where all the cleaning stuff is. Other than that, we didn’t have to do much. Our house isn’t very large, and being all one floor and all open, it’s a little easier to keep an ear/eye out.

  9. KaeTay

    September 6, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I disagree.. those plastic covers are never a waste of time. If your kid can pull them out then your outlets need replaced.. because if that can just be pulled out then chances are you run into the problem of stuff always unplugging itself.

    Baby gates for stairs is still a must, I also use a baby gate for the kitchen but now it’s just for the dogs to keep them out. Really the only proofing I did was specialized to my daughter; glass things put up, baby gate for the stairs and kitchen, and plastic plugs in the outlets she seemed to be drawn to.

    Closing the bathroom door is the cheapest bathroom baby proof you’ll ever do as well (learned my lesson when she discovered the toliet and even threw a mega block in it.. I flushed.. it went with it).

    • LK

      September 6, 2014 at 10:45 am

      The idea that if your kid can pull outlet covers out of outlets, that your outlets need replaced is completely ridiculous. My son has been able to get them out whenever the hell he wants since he was probably 9 months old (including ones that take me serious time and effort). Doesn’t mean anything is wrong with my outlets or my outlet covers. It means I have a kid with tiny digits and some serious dexerity, who does what he pleases cause he’s a freaking toddler.

    • KaeTay

      September 6, 2014 at 10:47 am

      yes and I also have a toddler, just like everyone else who is usually determined to complete a task when they start. The covers worked for me and I would tape the suckers in before I’d risk her getting a shock..

    • LK

      September 6, 2014 at 10:50 am

      I’m glad they worked out for you, but I’m just saying the statement that if a kid can removed them, then your outlets are somehow insanely unsafe and defective is, in fact, ridiculous. And also the insinuation that parents who don’t have locked outlets are somehow exposing their children to mortal danger is also, ridiculous.

    • KaeTay

      September 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

      actually no it’s not ridiculous. I’ve lived in many rentals apartments and homes where the vacuum wouldn’t stay plugged in. We replaced them ourselves because we consider them a fire hazard. I’m not in their home so I’ll point out that that could contribute to the issue. I prefer outlets where I have to walk my lazy butt over to the outlet to unplug the vacuum rather then a slight tug.

      You’re the one who is making it a much bigger deal then what I said. If other shit has trouble staying in the outlets, the covers sure as hell won’t stay in, outlets are meant to have a tight grip on things you plug in.

      It worked for me and I think it’s important to point out things like that. I wasn’t being like; OMG YOU’RE IN DANGER REPLACE THEM NOW! it was more of a “check your outlets” because they do need replaced after awhile.

    • KaeTay

      September 6, 2014 at 10:48 am

      I found a way to get mine to stay in, even if it meant extra time for me to get them out. She threw her tantum about it and moved on and now we don’t need them anymore.

    • Elizabeth Wakefield

      September 6, 2014 at 11:54 am

      You have a solution for everything.

  10. LK

    September 6, 2014 at 10:57 am

    What kind of babyproofing is completely dependent on the kid and the house. If your kid is a climber, you might have to pile certain furniture in the basement for awhile. If they are an explorer, you may need more cabinet locks than your friend did. And I think a fair bit of the babyproofing still is completely useless and another fair bit, while probably not life or even injury saving, it might be worth it just to keep a parent sane if there’s some random thing they don’t want to worry about. But at the end of the day, most kids will manage to get hurt in some random way you never thought about anyways.

  11. Allthingsblue

    September 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    My baby gate was broken by a two and a one year old fighting over it. They cracked the hinge. Worthless. I like locking interior doors from the inside and keeping the pokey unlock tool in a high place (top of door jamb).

  12. chickadee

    September 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I am reluctant to say that childproofing is a waste of time, but I do think this is one of those YMMV situations….the outlet covers worked for us, as did cabinet locks. But I am not about to tell anyone that they aren’t using them right if their kids can pull them out. Baby gates, though , were just extra jungle gyms.

    My advice to to try the basics and adapt to your kids.

    • AP

      September 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      My mom claims she never used baby proofing to keep us out of things, but to slow us down. Outlet covers means it takes Baby 10 seconds and two steps (remove cover, stick finger in cool hole!) instead of 1 second and one step (stick finger in cool hole!). The additional time made it more likely an adult would have time to intervene and put a stop to the mischeif.

  13. Valerie

    September 6, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Meg this cracked me up and omg, when Ben was maybe 9 or 10 months old, he figured out the sweet spot he had to hit on our downstairs baby gate to make it come crashing down. He would literally slam himself into it when I wasn’t looking and escape. Child-proofing is totally futile.

    • Erin Murphy

      September 6, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      We had a baby gate with a cat door because of our dogs. My kid hadn’t been crawling two weeks when I heard this funny grunting. I discovered him dangling down the steps through the cat door! His diapered butt is the only thing that saved him.

  14. Emily A.

    September 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    So basically… Baby-proofing is not a waste of time, but conventional baby-proofing tools are a waste of money because duct tape is cheaper. Mommyish may wish to work on its headlines.

  15. jendra_berri

    September 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    My son has ripped out the babyproofing at his daycare: the knobs and the outlet covers. We use gates and heavy furniture to block him from shit. But our biggest tactic is taking him outside. He may eat dirt and chase pigeons and sit in puddles of water, but he’s not tearing our home apart.

  16. AP

    September 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I was just telling this story: I worked in an old building with those huge wall registers for the central fan system (the 3 x 3 or so grates on the bottom of walls.) The building was so old, the grate was cast iron and weighed about 50 pounds, and was bolted into the wall.

    One of my coworkers brought in her three-year-old, who promptly stuck his fingers through the hole on the grate and tugged, pulling the whole thing half out of the wall. We stopped him before got it fully out and exposed a gigantic air duct that hadn’t been cleaned in 20 years, that was coincidentally the exact size a child would want to crawl in.

    We kept stuff in front of that grate permanently from the on.

    • Layla

      September 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

      How long was the kid doing it before this actually happened? Was it a matter of going up to it and a few seconds later or was the kid not being properly supervised and there for several minutes. Scary!

  17. Layla

    September 7, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I don’t think baby proofing is a waste of time. It gives me peace of mind that I can go to the bathroom in peace and/or take a shower without major fear.

    I think this article should be re titled “crappy baby proofing products” or something of that nature since it does not seem that you are advocating not babyproofing just that a lot of the products available are fairly shitty or can be made with things around the house.

  18. allisonjayne

    September 8, 2014 at 10:53 am

    We didn’t really baby proof. Granted, we live in a 2 bedroom, one floor apartment, so no stairs to worry about. We put a couple of electrical covers on the things in her room, and I did screw all the tall furniture to the wall (but I did that pre-baby too, because cats), but yeah…we figured we would just deal with hazards as they came.

    Other than this new “i’m going to climb up on the toilet to look out the window” business (for which the only hazard so far has been her crying that she fell in her poop-filled toilet…and I’m like, well I told you not to stand on the toilet seat! you stand on the toilet seat, you risk poop-foot! deal with it!) we haven’t had to do anything.

    I am probably jinxing myself or something with this post though, right?

  19. iamtheshoshie

    September 8, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    We did pretty minimal baby proofing when our son started to crawl. We moved the things that would probably kill him/we didn’t want to be destroyed. Aaaaand, that’s basically it. I think outlet covers would encourage our baby to go for outlets, to be honest. I wouldn’t leave my 7 month old unattended for more than a minute to go pee or something, but I feel OK with him crawling around our house as long as someone has a casual eye on him.

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