Throughout my 19 months journey as a stay-at-home mom, I have tried not to leave my baby alone and unattended, but the reality is this. When I’m the only adult at home, and I need to cook, to use the toilet, and most importantly, to keep my sanity, I have no choice but to leave my baby alone. Over time, I have learned how to do it right.
So can I leave my baby unattended? Yes, most of the time. When you’re at home, you can place him in a secured environment, such as a playpen or a crib, and use baby monitors to monitor him while you leave him alone. When you’re outside, you should not leave your baby unattended. Never leave him alone in a car and walk away, even for a few minutes.
Now let’s see how you can keep your baby secured so that you can leave him alone. Once that is settled, we’ll look at some real scenarios where it may make sense to leave your baby unattended, and see if it’s really safe to do so.
How to keep your baby secured when you leave him unattended
To figure out how to leave your baby unattended, you must first prepare a suitable place, a secure environment. When you have a proper place for him to be alone, you can go along and do what you need to do with little supervision on your baby.
These are the methods I use to keep my baby secure and safe. When he is in these areas, I can leave him alone for short periods while I go about my chores.
1. Using playpens to keep your baby secure
Playpens are excellent to keep your baby secure while you work. From zero to six months old when your baby can’t sit up yet, you can place him on the bassinet inside the playpen. When he reaches six months, and show signs of sitting up, stop using the bassinet and let him lie on the lower part of the playpen.
Make your playpen a safe environment for your baby by following these best practices:
- No soft bedding
- Find a sturdy playpen
- Mesh sides should not be more than a quarter-inch
- No protruding rivets
- No draperies or blinds near the playpen
- No pillows, blankets, toys inside the playpen (I’m guilty)
This is just a quick list, I have written an elaborate article on how to make a playpen safe for babies to sleep in, what are the things to take note and avoid. I also tell you how to remove hazards from playpens. If this is what you want to know, then read this article.
2. Using a gated play area to keep your baby secure
When your baby can sit up, it’s a good idea to increase the size of their secured area, and if you’re already going to buy foam playmats, you might as well use it to build the secured area. Since the mats are interlocked, your baby will need to be a year old before he has enough strength to break out of it.
It’s a lot cheaper than getting a set toddler fence. I got four sets of this and I can build a huge area for him and have enough left to build the wall. The padding is also good to dampen the impact when he falls backward. Click here to go to Amazon if you want to get what I got.
Handling a toddler is quite different from handling a baby. It’s best not to keep your toddler inside a playpen for long periods. Personally, I don’t want to confine my toddler to such a small space as it limits his chances to explore, thus slowing his creativity, learnings, and growth.
It is time to get a proper fence now as the playmat can no longer hold him. While the fences are expensive, it is very secure. Find those that have suction cups at the bottom, coupled with the interlocks, even I can’t move the fence unless I do it right!
Build the play area as large as you want, place some toys in it, let him do his activities in it. It can keep his attention for a long time and since you built this place to be safe, you can leave him unattended for longer periods of time.
3. Using baby monitors to get a peace of mind and give you alerts
If you intend to leave your baby unattended by placing him in a playpen, a crib, or on the floor, having a baby monitor can be a great way to give you peace of mind.
I have a baby monitor that will tell me if my baby leaves his crib, or for whatever reason, his heartbeat or breathing stops. I’m worried about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) [source], so the baby monitor I was looking for must be able to alert me the moment my baby stops breathing.
I found one called the AngelCare baby monitor, and I’m actually quite happy about it. It’s so sensitive that even at the lowest sensitivity setting, it can detect if my ceiling fan is turned on or not. The problem? I have to turn off the ceiling fan and use the air conditioner or it’s never going to sound the alarm. But it does what I want it to do most, telling me if my baby stops breathing!
Sometimes there is a bit of false alarm. When my baby rolls to the edges of the playpen, it can beep, but I can live with it. When I put him on the floor and he rolls out of the mattress, it will beep, which is very good! If your toddler escapes from his crib, it will beep, very handy. It also comes with visual monitors, awesome.
You can get the AngelCare baby monitor from Amazon, or any other type of baby monitor. Investing in one is worth the money, let it do the monitoring for you so that you can leave and do what you need to do. Don’t go too far away though, when the monitor beeps or you see something dangerous happening through the screen, make sure you can run to him fast.
4. Childproofing your house
When your house is childproof, it becomes easier to leave your toddler unattended. Childproofing the whole house can be challenging, so you can start by childproofing the area he is usually at, and place him in that place when you need to leave him unattended. Here are some of the things to do.
- Use outlet plugs and plug all unused power sockets.
- Make sure electrical plugs and wires are not exposed. Place them in boxes.
- All cupboard compartments such as drawers must be locked.
- Furniture that they can climb must be secured to a wall.
- Gate the stairs so they can’t climb it.
I’m only writing a quick list here because I’ve already written a detailed childproofing method with pictures and videos on how to do it. Head over to this article to read it.
Smart and safe ways to leave your baby unattended indoors
Now that you know how to keep your baby safe while you leave him unattended, let’s take a look at specific scenarios and what you can do about it. There are some smart ways you can “semi-leave” your baby unattended.
1. Leaving your baby unattended to take a bath
Ideally, you want to take a bath when your baby sleeps. But there are so many things to do in that precious time, so we need to be selective in what we do when he sleeps, so why not take a bath while he is awake?
To bathe when your baby is awake, place your baby in a bassinet or baby chair, then leave the bathroom door open and have your baby face you. If you’re within his sights, it’s unlikely that he will make a fuss.
You should also do this if you’re taking a bath when he sleeps. That way, if he wakes up, he can immediately see you and won’t feel alone. You can also just turn around and make funny faces to keep him calm.
Keep your baby near you. You want to attend to your baby the soonest possible when he cries because at such a tender age, giving him that sense of security is so important.
I place a lot of emphasis on building that sense of security and trust from young because if a baby feels secure, they will be better in their learnings, social skills, adaptability, and emotional development [source].
2. Leaving your baby unattended to use the toilet
You probably don’t have a choice here, and if it’s urgent, you have to go right now. If you can, put your baby in the bassinet or baby chair, then go in. If you don’t have time, place him in the crib and playpen and go, but never leave your baby in an unsafe place.
I always have the playpen ready with the baby monitor so even in urgent situations I can just leave him inside and go do my business. Your baby may cry very loudly, but you’re not doing this often try not to feel guilty about it.
When my son became a toddler, I just go in and do my business with the door open. He will come and go but as long I’m within his sights he is ok. Just make sure the place is childproofed so that he can roam around safely.
3. Leaving your baby unattended to cook
Using the time your baby sleeps to cook is probably one of the best use of their sleeping time. Place your baby in a playpen or crib, have the baby monitor alert you if he wakes up, and go cook away.
I don’t recommend you to place your baby nearby you while you cook. The noise may wake up him and you may spill hot stuff on him. My toddler likes to hang around me while I cook and it makes me nervous, so I placed a gate towards the kitchen to keep him out or let him watch TV.
If your baby is awake while you cook, then it can be challenging. Most of the time you can continue to cook while your baby plays with toys in the playpen or crib, but if you need to attend to him, switch the stove off before you go. You don’t know how long it will take and forgetting that the stove is on can be very dangerous.
Speaking about placing toys in the crib or playpen, choose hard toys and not soft toys so that it wouldn’t become a suffocation hazard. The toy in the picture below is a good idea. (The blanket is not a toy, don’t put it in)
4. Leaving your baby unattended while he sleeps
When your baby sleeps, it’s the perfect time to get things done, take a nap yourself or have some me-time. Don’t camp in his room watching him sleep! Use a baby monitor so you know when he wakes up.
Make sure you are nearby and can attend to him when he wakes. Do not go out of the house and leave your baby alone at home. You may think that taking a quick drive to the store and back won’t take you 10 minutes, but if you get into an accident and get sent to the hospital, no one else knows your baby is at home, alone.
There are many parents who do it, and I won’t say it’s wrong, I just think that 1 mishap is too much so I won’t leave my baby alone at home, even for a while. Just know that if you do, many parents will shake their head and even condemn you, my suggestion is to evaluate their words but don’t let it get to you, no one can tell you that you’re a bad mom just because you had to go out.
5. Is it OK to use televisions to keep your toddler occupied?
Sure, it’s OK if you do it in moderation. I only allow my toddler 2 hours of television a day. It is a very handy distraction while I get things done. Show him good videos though, those that impart good values or are educational in nature. Here are some of his favorite YouTubes.
I normally screen through what he views and pay close attention to what is being said on it. I have encountered channels that are very good, but occasionally a video about magic and Halloween will appear, and I will immediately switch out.
The point is, it’s easy to let your child view things that he shouldn’t view or things that you don’t want him to be exposed to, so while it’s OK to use televisions to keep him occupied, don’t blindly trust the contents that he views.
Is it ever safe to leave your baby unattended when you’re outside?
Leaving your baby unattended outside of the house is an entirely different matter altogether, something that is generally shunned upon for good reasons. You may even be breaking the law for doing so and can get arrested. Let’s take a look at two common scenarios.
1. Can you leave your baby alone in the car just for a while?
This is a popular one. You want to buy something, but it only takes a minute to run into the store and get back. But if you bring your baby along, the whole thing can take 15-20 minutes long.
Or maybe you want to drop your toddler at school which takes only a minute, but to bring your baby along you need to take out your baby’s car seat, risk him waking up and more. It’s no wonder that we are always tempted to leave our baby in the car unattended while we make a quick dash.
There’s a mixed reaction among parents on whether this is ok or not. Some parents will be adamant that you should never leave your baby in the car alone, while others will say that if it’s ok to leave your baby unattended for hours at home, then leaving him for a few minutes is fine.
But what does the law says about this? Well, it is illegal to leave your child alone in the car and you can be arrested for doing so in the following states.
Many other countries in the world have laws against child neglect in general, and you can also get into trouble if you get caught. Be prepared to face social criticism too as leaving your baby alone in the car is generally not accepted well.
Personally, I won’t leave my child alone in the car. I may walk away with it a hundred times, but all it takes is one incident to leave a permanent scar in my heart.
2. Can you leave your baby in a hotel while you dine nearby?
I have seen this question popped up a few times. After a long day and the baby sleeps, it can be very tempting to just leave the room and enjoy a meal or some leisure time. But before you do that, check and see how your hotel can help you.
Some hotels provide babysitting services, some will allow you to leave your room phone on and the staff will be listening in for you. Some parents feel that it is safe if they dine within the range of the baby monitor. While these are legit ways, I just won’t do it.
Again, all it takes is one incident. I was searching online to see how other parents think about this matter and bumped into a piece of news. A three-year-old girl disappeared in a hotel and was never found. [source]
Remember moms and dads, all it takes is one incident to leave regret in our lives, so let’s keep our babies safe. If you have taken measures to keep your home safe, then leaving them at home unattended is fine, as long as you’re in the house too. But leaving your baby alone when both of you are not at home is not a good idea.