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Take steps to baby-proof house before child is welcomed into home

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VICTORIA - Welcoming a baby into a home is a moment parents look forward to, but it often requires months of preparation, including baby-proofing.

When Jennifer Murphy and her husband David Amodeo brought their new daughter home, they had taken some precautions to increase the safety of their Victoria residence, but Murphy says they largely waited for Sloane, now age one, to become more active before they installed the majority of their baby-proofing.

"Having a toddler and this little person who moved and got into things changed the way I saw my house," says Murphy. "Stairs became super perilous. We lived in a three-storey house, so we needed baby gates everywhere."

Even though Murphy knew baby-proofing her home was necessary for safety, she says many of the materials are expensive and might be out of the price range of some young parents.

The cost of many of the baby-proofing gadgets beyond gates meant that Murphy and Amodeo looked to do-it-yourself options, like rubber bands as cupboard door locks, along with telling Sloane what was safe.

"We have found ourselves doing a bit of baby-proofing as we go, but it depends," says Murphy. "Once Sloane hit a certain age where she could understand what we were saying we more rely on saying 'no, not for babies' or 'that's hot.' We try to explain to her to stay away from things, like the fireplace, for example.

"We don't have a big gate around the fireplace because we just tell her to stay away and when she goes near it we are pretty consistent in telling her 'no, don't go there,' even if it isn't on."

David Drutz, owner of Kiddie Proofers in Toronto, says when it comes to safety, there are no alternatives.

"A lot of parents say, 'We don't need a certain aspect of baby-proofing because (we) will watch the baby,' but unlike our parents and especially our grandparents, our generation is so preoccupied," he says.

"We have our BlackBerrys, our iPhones or tablets, the TV, and so on and everyone expects instant responses to texts and calls. We tell parents anything that would bother you, let's start dealing with that."

Drutz says the areas they look at addressing first when it comes to baby- and kiddie-proofing a home is sharp corners and edges and electrical outlets. He also recommends parents install locks on their cupboards and drawers, particularly those in the kitchen where breakables, sharps and hazardous chemicals are stored, and those in the bathroom that house medicines.

"Some people want to do that, and there are others who say they don't need to lock certain cupboards, but if they want to leave grandma's china on the bottom cabinet, you can't blame the kid for breaking it," he says.

According to Drutz, in this day and age, particularly with parents living in homes with multiple staircases, baby gates are a must.

"I think eventually, at least in Ontario, baby gates will be a law," says Drutz. "You can't smoke in your house when your kid is there, and you can't smoke in your car, so why wouldn't you have a gate on your stairs?"

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