New baby, or baby on the way? Here’s the first thing you need to know about childproofing your home: It’s not a one-time event — it’s an ongoing process. As your little one masters new skills, he’ll be able to get into more trouble. To stay one step ahead of him, use this what-to-do-when babyproofing guide.

Before your baby arrives

  • If you don’t have them already, install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors outside sleeping areas. They should be 15 to 20 feet away from fuel burning appliances, such as furnaces.
  • Prevent scalds by installing mixer faucets, which allow hot and cold water to merge before coming out of the tap, on sinks and tubs that don’t already have them. Unless you’re handy and certain you can do it correctly, hire a plumber for this job.
  • Set the temperature on your water heater to below 120 degrees F.
  • Use brackets to secure bookshelves, dressers, TV stands and other topple-prone furnishings to walls.
  • If you have blinds, shades or other window coverings with cords, replace all of them with cordless window coverings. Never put a crib next to a window with corded window coverings. Cords are on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of top five hidden hazards in the home. A baby can easily wrap a cord around her neck or strangle herself on a cord that forms a loop.

When your baby turns 3 months old (before she can crawl)

  • Install door stops so that little fingers can’t get caught in door jams. One-piece stops are safer than those with springs or other small parts that could come apart and pose a choking hazard.
  • Fit edge bumpers (also known as corner pads) to the corners of coffee tables or other low tables. Use bumpers on any other hard, sharp edges in your home, such as a raised fireplace hearth.
  • Prevent electric shocks and burns (or worse) by outfitting every outlet in your home with plug-in covers or outlet plates. If you use plug-in ones, make sure each one can’t be pried out easily and isn’t small enough to choke on. It should be too large to fit inside a toilet paper roll.
  • Cover power strips with power strip covers.
  • Install window guards on windows, as well as window stops so that windows open no more than four inches. Move chairs or other climbable items away from windows. Falls from balconies or second or third floor windows are a common cause of injury in small children. Don’t rely on screens to keep little ones safe.
  • Put locks on all toilets.
  • Install child safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases. Hardware-mounted models (which require drilling into the wall) are more secure than pressure-mounted varieties. Never use accordion gates or those with a V-shaped design, as children’s heads have become trapped in the spaces.
  • Move cleaning products, medicines and other potential poisons in low cabinets to ones that are well out of reach. Or put safety latches on lower bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
  • Take a baby’s-eye view of your home. Get down on all fours (yes, really!) and crawl around in every room. Even if all you find is a stray coin or that missing jacket button, it’s worth the effort.

When your baby turns 6 months old (before he can walk)

  • Fit doors leading outside and into any areas that aren’t childproofed with doorknob covers. These will prevent your child from being able to turn the knob.
  • Don’t be tempted to put your toddler-to-be in a walker. Even though these play tables on wheels have lost popularity in recent years, about 3,000 kids wind up in emergency rooms with walker-related injuries. Keep your little one entertained — and safely in one place — in a stationary exercise saucer.
  • If you have a pool or hot tub, enclose it completely. Put automatic latches and alarms on gates leading to the pool. Make sure the drain covers in your swimming pool or spa aren’t broken or missing. According to the CSPC, the suction created by a drain can be strong enough to trap a child underwater.