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baby in santa suit under christmas tree

The holidays are a time of wonderful sights, sounds and smells. Trees, menorahs, gifts, treats! So many exciting things for your baby to explore. There are also many hazards. Using these tips can help keep your family safe during the holidays.

 

Decorations

  • Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid decorations that look like candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them. 
  • Turn off all decorative holiday lights, including electric candles and menorahs, before you leave the house or go to bed. These could pose a fire hazard.
  • Keep decorations out of reach of babies or young children. Watch for things that are easily pulled or knocked over, such as tablecloths and runners.
  • Keep potentially poisonous holiday plants, including mistletoe berries, Jerusalem cherry, amaryllis, and holly berry, away from children.

 

Gifts

  • Make sure that all gifts are age-appropriate. Create a list so you can identify specific items that are a good match for your child. Avoid balloons, toys that plug into outlets and those with strings or small parts. Pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length could be a strangulation hazard for babies. Give dreidels to older children, not babies or toddlers.   
  • Children under age three can choke on pieces that are less than 1¼  inches in diameter and  2¼  inches long. An easy rule of thumb is if it fits into a toilet paper roll then it’s too small for a young child.  
  • Button batteries and magnets can cause serious stomach and intestinal problems, even death, if swallowed. They are often found in toys, musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids and other small electronics. Call your health care provider immediately if your child swallows one. 
  • When opening gifts, immediately discard wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, bags and packing material (like Styrofoam peanuts). These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child or can cause a fire if near a flame. Read the instructions for toys and games carefully and inspect them for loose or broken parts and sharp edges.
  • Give older children a baby-free zone where they can open presents and play with toys not safe for little ones.

 

Food

  • Watch for potential choking hazards, especially hard or round treats like candy, nuts and crudités, as well as alcoholic beverages that could be mistaken for milk or fruit juice. 
  • Be sure to keep hot liquids and food away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child’s exploring hands. 
  • If your baby is eating solid foods, it’s ok to let them try a new treat, but let them stick to their regular diet and routine as much as possible. Be careful of holiday foods that are very rich (example eggnog) or have a lot of unusual ingredients. These are best for school-age or older children.
  • Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco. 

 

Trees

  • If using an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled "fire resistant."  
  • If choosing a live tree, find the freshest one possible.  A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin. The tree should not lose many needles when tapped. 
  • Try a tabletop tree. It'll be out of reach of exploring hands, and it's much simpler to put up and take down.
  • If using lights, check to ensure they're in good working order with no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections. Keep live trees well-watered and away from the fireplace, radiator or heater. Never use lighted candles on or near the tree, wreaths or any evergreens. Secure the tree to the wall if possible in case your child pulls on it.
  • For decorations, stick to flame-resistant, nonbreakable ornaments, and if possible, hang them of baby's reach, including garland and wreaths. You may want to avoid tinsel, heirloom ornaments and trimmings resembling candy or food. 
  • Never leave your child unattended near the tree. Sweep the floor regularly to pick up tree needles, ornament hooks or anything else baby shouldn't put in her mouth.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire. 

 

Travel

  • Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like outlets, unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways or hot radiators. 
  • Traveling and visiting can all be stressful to your child. Trying to stick to your child's usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps, can help you and your child enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.
  • At gatherings, play it safe by putting baby in a play yard, buckling them into a bouncy seat on the floor or toting them around in a carrier to help her avoid temptations.

 

Mommy Holiday Mental Health

  • Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Your well-being affects your child. 
  • Don't feel pressured to over-spend on gifts. If your child is older then help them make a gift for another parent, grandparents or other important adults and friends. Chances are, those gifts will be the most treasured ones and will teach your child many important lessons. 
  • Most importantly, enjoy the holidays for what they are—a time to be with your family. So be a family, do things together like sledding or playing board games, and spend time visiting with relatives, neighbors and friends.

Get a complete list of family holiday safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
 

Call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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