When you have a baby or toddler, one of the main considerations is how safe your little one is in your home.
Baby-proofing the property means you must assess every potential hazard and ensure you've taken every step to provide a soft landing.
This can be a big job, and if you're in a rental property, there are even more things to consider before you begin. Here's a guide to baby-proofing your rental to help keep your baby out of harm's way.
Speak to your landlord
A pivotal point to consider is that many baby-proofing tactics involve drilling and hammering holes into walls, meaning you'll need permission from your landlord or letting agent before you make any significant changes.
The process involved here will depend on whether you're already a tenant or you're currently looking for a new rental for your family:
You are looking for a new rental
If you're currently looking for a new home and are either due to have a baby, already have children, or planning on having a baby during your tenancy, it's worth taking the time to assess how baby-proof the properties already are. Use each viewing as an opportunity to explore where potential hazards are.
How steep are the stairs? Are there large gaps between the blusters on the bannister? How many sharp edges are there? Thinking of these points before you commit to the property is one way to ensure your rental is baby proofed.
During the viewing process, you can also determine whether your prospective landlord would allow you to drill holes into any walls to fit gates or other baby-proofing tools. Some may be happy for you to move in and add in this type of safety equipment you need to protect your little one. In contrast, others may be more concerned about any potential damage from amendments you make to the property, so it's important to get a clear idea of what's allowed before you move in. There are many different safety solutions, some requiring permanent fixings, others not – so it's worth investigating what's on offer.
You are a current tenant
Should you be expecting a baby, it's important to speak to your landlord about the steps you want to take to make the property safe. By letting them know as early as possible that you need to baby-proof their property, you can plan how to go about it. Plus, your landlord might already have ideas about how they'd like to remove hazards.
Check your tenancy agreement thoroughly, too. Make sure you know exactly what's expected of you if you make any adjustments. For example, does the agreement state you need to make good any damaged paintwork or fill in any holes in the walls from safety gates before you move out?
Knowing this information before you speak to your landlord can be a good starting point for a conversation. You can acknowledge what you need to do if you make any holes in the walls and see their thoughts about how to baby-proof the property if they want you to find alternative ways of doing this.
Whichever of these categories you fall into, you must have a conversation with your landlord first. This is because plenty of areas could need adapting around the property. If you add screws or drill any fixtures into place without returning the wall to its original condition, it could affect how much deposit you get back when you move out.
Assess the property
Once you know what safety measures your landlord will likely allow in their rental, you can focus on the areas that need attention. Often, it's only when your little one starts to move around that you see where the danger spots are, but you can still try to look out for as many as possible beforehand.
Take a look at each room and make a list of the potential hazards. The best way to see where the problem areas are is to get down on all fours and see things from your baby's viewpoint. Only by assessing every corner and surface can you get an idea of where you need to introduce safety tools and equipment.
Once you have your list, you can decide what solutions you'll need. Many of these will be temporary additions that aren't likely to leave a mark, but some might need a rethink to avoid causing any damage to the property.
We've already covered having the initial conversation about baby-proofing with your landlord. However, it's worth running your ideas by them once you've come up with your list. For example, if you're thinking of adding just one stair gate instead of the two you initially thought you needed, they might be happy for you to fix it to the wall after all.
Keeping your landlord informed and following what they ask for means you're more likely to get your deposit back in full when you leave.
Now you can get to work on baby-proofing. Using your list, address each hazard in order. Here's a rundown of the essentials when tackling baby-proofing your rental.
Crawling babies tend to make a beeline for exposed sockets. Provided the sockets are installed to modern standards, even if your child does stick their finger into plug sockets, they won't be touching live wires. If you aren't convinced the sockets are up to modern standards, it's time to speak to your landlord and voice your concerns. They are responsible for ensuring the electrical equipment in your home is safe. 'Child safety plugs' intended to cover sockets have been proven not to be particularly effective, as children, even of a very young age, have no issue removing them. To find out more, take a look at the advice set out by Electrical Safety First.
Stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs are a natural choice for preventing accidents. A pressure-mounted gate could be a good solution if your landlord doesn't allow you to drill or screw your gate to the wall.
However, these are only suitable for the bottom of the staircase. If they're used at the top, your baby could apply the right amount of pressure and fall through. If you explain this to your landlord, you might find that they're more likely to allow you to drill some small holes. As long as you confirm in writing that you'll repair any damage before you leave or you agree to allow a professional tradesperson to install the device, there's a higher chance that they'll let you go ahead and fit the stair gate to the wall.
Baby gates can also be helpful when blocking off the kitchen or other potentially dangerous rooms.
There are a few things to think about when it comes to windows. Firstly, how secure are the window locks? Having the right tools in place can prevent fingers from being trapped and your little one from falling out. You can buy window restrictors and safety catches relatively cheaply, and plenty of options don't require drilling.
Another risk when it comes to windows is blind and curtain cords. Investing in a cord tidy or pinning them up out of reach is essential. There are also blinds available that use a wand in place of a cord, so if your landlord is happy for you to add your own window dressings, this is a good opportunity to choose ones with a wand.
If your rental home has a freestanding bookcase or other furniture that's not secured, there's a risk that they could topple, particularly with toddlers, who use furniture as a means to transport themselves by pulling themselves up onto it. To avoid this, speak to your landlord about fixing everything to the wall. It might be that they decide to swap the furniture for an alternative shelving solution, or they're happy for you to screw things to the wall.
Foam corner protectors are another readily available option. Slot these on the edge of TV stands, cupboard doors and coffee tables to offer a soft material for small heads to collide with as your baby starts to crawl and walk around.
Foam stoppers placed around the edge of doors and cupboards are perfect for preventing hands from getting trapped. Easily removable catches placed inside cupboard doors and drawers are also ideal for protection. Magnetic locks and adhesive strips usually work well in a rented property as you can remove them without leaving a mark.
Whether you're renting a flat or a house, ensuring your baby is safe is essential. You'll find that as they grow, they'll be able to reach things they couldn't before, so baby-proofing tends to continue long after they first start crawling. So, it's worth reassessing how baby-proofed the property is as they age and adapting the measures you take to fit.