The Mom Stop: Safety still makes good sense
It took less than a minute for my 18-month-old sister to climb up on top of the kitchen counter-top and reach for a pill bottle that sat on the kitchen windowsill.
The iron pills looked like M&Ms and she somehow popped open the child-proof cap.
We still have no idea how many she actually ingested.
My mother had been on the phone, back in the 1980s when we didn’t have cellphones and talking on the landline meant being tethered to the wall. I was almost 5-years-old and don’t remember much.
But I do remember my baby sister throwing up and my mother frantically calling 911. My sister was taken by ambulance, her stomach pumped, and she was in the hospital for several days because of poisoning from the iron pills.
It could have been so much worse. In 2014, more than 64,000 children were taken to an emergency room for medicine poisoning, averaging one child every 9 minutes, according to Safekids.org. Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning.
The experience served as a stark reminder once I had kids of my own: Baby-proofing your home is important. Whether putting medications out of reach or installing a baby gate across stairs, baby-proofing is vital to keeping children safe.
But one New Zealand blogger caused an international uproar last week when, in an interview with the New Zealand media, she said she doesn’t believe in baby-proofing.
“Let them learn and they won’t do it again,” said Abby Plested, a mom of a 3-month-old and a 3-year-old.
The statement rippled through the media, including the New York Post and on the “Today” show. After the uproar, Plested backtracked on her original statement.
“It’s about boundaries,” Plested later told Stuff.co.nz. “Of course I baby-proof my home in terms of having certain things up high and out of reach, such as medicines and knives, but I’m not going over the top about it.”
Plested said they haven’t installed baby gates, because they prefer to let their children climb the stairs. When they bought a large cactus, their oldest child learned not to get near it after being pricked, she said.
There is a kind of logic to her idea. I agree that children should have a certain amount of freedom and need to learn from hands-on experiences. However, watching your young toddler falling down a flight of stairs is not one that I advocate. My heart still races whenever I think about the time that my 1-year-old daughter fell down 11 hardwood steps while visiting a relative over the holidays last year. Thank God nothing was broken.
Also, while it’s wonderful for kids to learn through experiences, that doesn’t mean their lives or their safety should be put at risk in the process. Even close parental supervision isn’t 100 percent. Believe me -- I’m embarrassed how many times I’ve had to call poison control when my first child was a toddler. There was the time she ingested Pepto-Bismol tablets in my purse, along with the wrapper, and the time she sprayed Windex in her mouth when she was 2. And that was with our house thoroughly baby-proofed, with cabinet locked, door knob covers and a baby gate installed even though our home is only one-story.
I can only imagine what my very active first child would have gotten into if we hadn’t baby-proofed at all.
Word of advice: Let your child experience, but within reason. Baby-proof your home, but always keep an eye on your kids, too. Even with baby-proofing, you never know what the kids will get into.
-- Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.