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Falls are the leading cause of injuries for children younger than 1 year, a Canadian study found. Many of these and other injuries can be prevented by using products made specifically for babyproofing--and by employing some good old common sense, such as keeping a close eye on your child and always using safety straps.
What you need to protect your baby changes with her development, so here's a timeline to help you prepare. As you do, keep in mind this insight from Penelope Leach's Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (Knopf): "Minor bangs, bruises and grazes are a normal part of a child's life. If yours never had any kind of accident, you probably would be overprotecting him and de priving him of his rightful share of exploration and adventure."
Birth to rolling over (typically 4 to 5 months but can be earlier)
Don't leave your baby unattended on any elevated surface; keep plastic bags out of reach; make sure the crib mattress fits snugly and slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
Crawling (typically 7 to 10 months)
Get down on the floor and look for choking and other hazards; secure unsteady furniture to walls; block stair-railing openings that are wider than 4 inches; place a nonslip mat and spout cover in the bathtub; keep pot handles turned toward the back of the stove; remove poisonous plants; keep your purse out of reach.
Cruising, walking, climbing (typically 8 to 12 months)
Remove hanging toys and bumpers from the crib; use a detachable guardrail on bigger beds; keep anything the baby might climb up on away from unsafe areas, such as windows.