Celebrate the Holidays  — Safely

by Eileen M. Ouellette, M.D., J.D.

Celebrate the Holidays  — Safely

There’s nothing like a new baby to make the holidays extra special. But with a curious tot in the house, you also have to make sure everything is extra safe. No need to lock up all the trimmings, but do follow these important safety precautions when decking your halls and buying gifts. For more information, talk to your doctor or visit the Academy’s website at

Decorate wisely
Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable or that have small, removable parts that could be choking hazards (or at least keep them well out of your baby’s reach).

Skip ornaments that look like candy or food  — your little one may be tempted to eat them.

Keep your lit menorah or holiday candles out of your baby’s reach, and don’t place candles on a tablecloth that your child could pull on.

Watch out for some holiday plants. Poinsettias, holly berries, amaryllis, and mistletoe are toxic if eaten.

Trim the tree, stress-free

Choose the freshest live tree possible. Give the tree a light shake. If a lot of needles fall off, it may be overly dry.

Look for the words fire resistant on the labels of artificial trees.

Check all tree lights  — even if they’re brand-new  — before stringing them. Make sure there are no frayed wires, broken sockets, or loose connections. Then block your baby’s access to the electrical cord so he can’t pull the tree down with it.

Pay close attention to your baby whenever he’s near the tree.

Watch what you wrap

Read labels before buying toys for your baby or any other kids on your holiday shopping list. The age recommendations printed on toy packages are important; they reflect the safety aspects of the toy, as well as any possible choking hazards, based on the developmental levels for each age group.

Never give infants toys with parts that could be pulled off and/or fit into their mouth, nose, or ear.

Check gifts given to your baby by relatives and friends for all the above precautions.

Supervise your baby when she opens gifts. Wrapping paper, bags, ribbons, and bows can be suffocation and choking hazards themselves.

Party on

Monitor your baby around holiday buffets and dinner tables. Many popular appetizers  — nuts, chunks of cheese, popcorn, raw fruits and veggies  — are choking hazards.

Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of tables where your baby might be able to reach them.

Be sure to empty any unfinished drinks immediately,
particularly cocktails  — alcohol can be toxic to a baby.

Travel right

Be extra vigilant about safety if you’re visiting friends or relatives for the holidays; their homes may not be childproofed. If any decorations or ornaments are precariously placed, politely suggest that they be moved, “so they don’t get broken.”

In a pinch, block off a dangerous area with your baby’s portable playpen (since you’ll probably have it with you anyway). Check with your host first, of course.