When it comes to baby-proofing, most first-time parents do it wrong. It isn’t that they forget some piece of foam or corner protectors. It isn’t that they don’t have the outlet plug-ins filled with little plastic covers. It isn’t even that they don’t have the curtain cords up or the stairs blocked off.
No matter how big your baby is when she is born, and no matter how smart she is, she will not move one inch without your help for several months. In that respect, baby-proofing your home is something you can do long after you bring baby home from the hospital, with one important exception.
The most important baby-proofing step in your whole house is noise prevention and reduction.
While it is true that your baby won’t roll, crawl, walk, open drawers, shut doors, pull on furniture, or play with cords for some time, they will take a nap the very first day you bring them home from the hospital. And, more importantly, they WILL wake up from that nap at the smallest of noises.
As hard as it can be for new parents, whether they be first-time parents or experienced parents, to get the new baby down for a nap, the last thing in the world you need is to wake them up accidentally with something that could have been prevented.
Don’t just think about the nursery. Sure, you want baby’s room to be as quiet as possible, but that isn’t enough. A baby falling fast asleep in Mommy’s arms will be crying at the top of his lungs seconds after the microwave beeps when Dad’s burrito is finished heating. (And Mom will be plenty angry at Dad, too.) Then there is the dryer buzzer, the doorbell, cell phones, computer (particularly laptops) beeps, and all other manner of “done” or “ready” signals.
If you still have a way to go before baby’s arrival, put “Volume Control” on the top of your must-have list for ANYTHING you buy for the next year or two. Even better is “Mute” or “Sound Off.”
Some top offenders for waking baby include the microwave (does it really have to beep with every button press?), coffee makers, computers, alarm systems (does yours beep every time a door or window opens?), car alarms (turning them on and off), and of course, alarm clocks.
Keep in mind that baby has spent the last nine months in a world where every sound is muffled by Mom. Tiny noises can be very disturbing. Even quiet noises can wake baby if they are unfamiliar, and everything is unfamiliar at first. Be especially aware of high pitched noises, which baby has never heard before. (To understand why, put on a quality pair of headphones, or ear protectors, or just hold your hands over your earns. Muffled sounds = Low-pitched sounds.)
Don’t assume distance will save you. One father earned a crying baby and the wrath of the mother who had just spent an hour trying to get little baby to sleep when it turned out the microwave popcorn popping sound in the kitchen, a floor below and off to the side of baby’s room was loudly connected to baby’s room by some metal tubes called the “heating and air conditioning system.”
Go through your house making a list of everything that beeps. Then, put that list where it is easily accessible so you can add all of the things that beep that you don’t think of as making noise. When the list is complete, figure out how to turn off or quiet every one of those objects. Download instruction manuals if you have to.
Non-essential items that can’t be turned off should be relocated (unplugged, of course) to storage. Essential items without volume control can sometimes be muffled with the help of masking tape or duct tape. If that isn’t enough, try taping some cloth – washcloths work well – over the speaker or the holes that the sound comes from. If that doesn’t work, locate the offender as far away from baby’s sleeping, feeding, and playing areas as possible.
A silent house is impossible to achieve, but if baby wakes up due to something out of your control, at least you’ll know you did everything you could.