Babyproofing Hysteria

Each week I get an email blast called “Connect with Kids” that veers between helpful and crazy-making. Today it’s the latter. (

In a little article about babyproofing, it quotes an “expert” who casts her eyes around a new parent’s home and, “immediately spots something she doesn’t like in the kitchen. Plastic trash bags.”

Continues the blog: “‘You think these are great for your trash cans, well, they are, but it’s terrible for your baby,’ she explains. ‘Children love plastic. For some reason, they are drawn to it. They will eat it, and they will suffocate.'”

Excuse me, but children are not drawn to eating plastic bags. This expert has confused children with turtles (who may or may not confuse plastic bags with jelly fish).

The threat to children from plastic bags happens when a bag falls onto them and they are too young to be able to pull it off, or even to lift their heads to catch a breath. Very young. The other threat is when children fall asleep against a plastic bag and, again, their neck muscles are too young and weak for them to turn their heads to breathe. Here’s a report on just that from the Consumer Product Safety Commission: Also note that 90% of the kids who die are under age 1. They are not eating bags. They are accidentally smothered.

Of course, any parents reading this babyproofer’s advice may well think that now they must banish that staple, the plastic garbage bag, from their kitchens. I know, I know — plastic garbage bags are bad for the environment. What I’m talking about, though, is how blithely parents are expected to upturn their lives in the interests of preventing an exceedingly, excessively, outrageously unlikely danger.

If we acted that way with grown-up dangers we’d be wearing helmets at work (a plant could fall off the file cabinet!) and drinking that awful office coffee from our hands (because plastic cups contain hardeners, paper has been chemically treated, mugs may leach glaze and bottles could shatter). (The coffee is awful just because it always is.)

At some point we have to say to ourselves there is only so much we can worry about. And I say this as a bona fide worrier — ask my kids.

So yes, by all means, do try to keep your child safe. Ask a babyproofer’s advice, if you’d like. Nothing wrong with that. But also try to keep danger in perspective: The average American home is not a death trap.

(The mortgage – that’s another story.) — Lenore