Batten down the hatches, here comes baby

2022-08-20 00:55:53 By : Mr. Xiao Yang

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The Mainello family in their Brunswick split-level home. The couple created custom baby-proofing, like this gate, to accommodate their daughter and dog, Tripp. 

The Mainello family -- including wife Jen, husband Matt, 16-month-old Madelyn and dog Tripp -- in their Brunswick split-level home. The couple created custom baby-proofing to accommodate their family. 

The Mainello family in their Brunswick split-level home. The couple created custom baby-proofing to accommodate their daughter and dog, Tripp. 

The Mainello family in their Brunswick split-level home. The couple created custom baby-proofing to accommodate their daughter and dog, Tripp. 

The Mainello family in their Brunswick split-level home. The couple created custom baby-proofing to accommodate their daughter Madelyn and dog, Tripp. 

A 6-month old baby boy chews on an electrical cord. Don’t worry the power was off during the shoot.

A gate used to babyproof a stairway. Shot with Canon 5D Mark 3. rr

A baby reaching for a power socket but the power socket is protected by a child proof power socket cover.

Preparing for the arrival of  a baby is different for everyone, but one of the most common concerns for apartment dwellers and homeowners is baby proofing.

The safety product market, which includes car seats, baby monitors, baby gates, outlet covers and corner protectors, is projected to be a $2.9 billion global industry by 2025.

A crowded product market paired with a parent’s natural instinct to plan ahead leaves expecting families with a choice: Invest in every item with a five-star review, or wait and experience life with a growing baby and adapt living spaces along the way.

“I’m a bit paranoid and always thinking the worst, but my husband is way more relaxed,” said Jennifer Mainello, who lives in Brunswick with her husband, 16-month-old daughter and their large rescue dog, Tripp. “I bought a lot of baby-proofing items, but soon realized we needed to implement our own systems to fit the style and state of our house.”

Prior to starting their family, the Mainellos purchased a complete fixer-upper with the idea the projects would be done in a do-it-yourself fashion and on their own time. The first step to baby proofing for the couple was accepting the house would not be fully renovated by the time their daughter arrived.

There was also another being in the house that would need to adjust.

“We love our rescue dog, and we live our life according to him,” Mainello said. “He is protective by nature, so we wanted to make sure he knew this little girl coming into our lives was a person he should want to protect and not make an enemy out of, and oh, does he know that now.”

Mainello said the baby-proofing items she purchased were rarely used, though the family still had a need for others, like baby gates, by the time her daughter began to crawl and walk. She opted for the magnetic lock system for protection on kitchen cabinets, and her husband used his passion for woodworking to create half-door custom gates that protect their daughter from  stairs in their split-level home, and were also designed in a way that makes the dog comfortable, too.

“Many people do not consider their pets and the adjustment it is for them when someone new joins the household,” Mainello  said. “These gates have been great as they allow my daughter to walk freely, and Tripp can still poke his head in and interact without being in her personal space.”

For families without a skilled handyman or for those looking for baby-proofing products that match a particular style, local options are available.

“Most commonly, we replace existing stair railings with new railing that has smaller openings, as well as add custom gates to the existing railings,” said Colin Roy, founder and owner of Round Lake Forge, LLC. “Current building code requires there be no space in a guardrail (what inspectors call railings in place to prevent fall or injury) large enough for a 4-inch diameter sphere to fit through, which is the average size of a baby’s head.”

Roy said many older homes were built according to a previous building code that once allowed for larger spacing, putting families in situations where a child could fall through the railing.

As a custom shop, Roy and his team replicate the style of the railing on new gates for a more seamless, yet functional look.

“We make and install baby gates so that they can be removed in the future without any sign they were ever there,” Roy said. “The way I see it is this can be a huge money saver for the homeowner, while also giving them an opportunity to match the current design of the house.” 

In addition to the custom gates Mainello uses to baby proof her home, she says it was a non-tangible investment, professional dog training, that put her mind at ease the most before bringing her baby home.

“I was worried for so long during my pregnancy how it would be bringing the baby home to the dog, and it brought tears to my eyes finally seeing them interact after the training we did and how we prepared.”

For the Jeanmaire family in Clifton Park, their knowledge of baby proofing also changed once their 15-month-old began to move around the house.

“Before becoming a mom, I thought baby proofing was just covering the outlets and adding ugly plastic cabinet locks in the kitchen,” said Kelly Jeanmaire, a professional wedding and events planner with a toddler with a second child on the way. “We bought both of those things once my son started walking, but he doesn’t even notice half of them.”

Jeanmaire purchased baby gates for both the top and bottom of the stairs, but within a few months,  her son learned how to open them both. “We’ve taught him to safely go up and down the stairs and leave the gates mostly open now,” she said.

Jeanmaire’s approach has been to reimagine the existing furniture layout to maximize space for the baby to play, even if it compromises the layout of traditional living spaces. Recently, she rearranged her living room sofa so that it no longer faces the television directly, but is up against a wall to make more room.

“It becomes a lot harder to baby proof when you need to make your existing layouts functional rather than focus on what you can buy to baby proof the house,” Jeanmaire said. “A toddler needs to have enough space to push toys from room to room without too many obstacles.”

She’s thankful for her oval-shaped furniture, like the coffee and dining room tables, which eliminate the need for corner protectors to keep her baby from hitting his head on sharp edges. When it comes to purchasing anything new, Jeanmaire makes sure fabrics are easily washable, and furniture has no sharp edges and is sturdy enough to not easily knock over.

“It’s hard to anticipate how babies are going to interact with any space,” Jeanmaire said. “And some of your most used spaces might look more like a playroom than a living room, but in the end it makes for less worries and allows more safe space for them to play.”

For some parents, the intense marketing of baby-proofing products or the recommendations from peers doesn’t always impact how it’s handled at home. For Alexandria Cook, a Latham mom of three, it was her own childhood memories and maternal instincts that led the way.

“When I was pregnant with my first child, I was overwhelmed by the baby-proofing items online and thought about how my mom raised me and my two much younger siblings,'' Cook said. “We were fine without most of these measures.”

Cook kept her registry free of baby-proofing products and vowed to make the decision when her child reached that point. Today, she has a 7-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 20-month-old son and hasn’t changed her stance on baby proofing.

“For the most part, we don’t really make a big deal with things,” Cook said. “We gate the stairs and lock the cabinet under the kitchen sink where chemicals are stored, but that’s it.”

Cook noticed if she and her husband had a more casual approach around the house and didn’t draw attention to what’s not to be touched, then her three children would avoid things, too.

But even after baby number three and minimal baby proofing for every crawling toddler, Cook acknowledges the occasional urge to switch things up and secure the entire home. She sometimes feels pressure from social media, and acknowledges it can cause some parents to second guess their decisions while seeking approvals from others online.

“This is just what’s worked for us,” Cook said. “We are absolutely still cautious with our children, but I think in some ways excessive baby proofing can take away from valuable teaching moments with our kids, and would make me more of a helicopter parent, which I want to avoid.”

Cook also said she hasn’t let her children affect her design aesthetic in the home. She has rules that protect certain rooms and pieces of furniture (like not taking food outside of the kitchen), but continues to decorate and keep her home in a style that aligns with her personal taste.

Now that her childrem are getting older and she continues to raise them alongside her husband in a safe, loving way that works for them, Cook sees this simplistic approach as a key to her success.

“I think we should get back to the basics. ... I don’t want to lose my natural intuition because of what I see or read about online. We are all scared of messing up, but should focus on being the best we can be, which is imperfect — and being confident in doing what’s right for us and our own families.”