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Safety-wise, holidays with a baby can be unnerving. Small toy parts, breakable ornaments, candles, poisonous plants – is there anything you don't need to worry about?
You'll want to ramp up your childproofing efforts during the holidays. While there's more hustle and bustle than usual, it takes extra diligence to make sure your baby doesn't get hurt.
If your child is crawling or walking, you'll have to be particularly vigilant, especially if you're spending the holidays with friends or family who aren't up on the latest childproofing techniques. Once babies discover their new mobility, they're ready to test the limits of their power.
Here are some holiday hazards to avoid:
- Fire infatuation. Make sure that the lighted menorahs – and all lighted candles – are out of reach. If you're planning to spend time in front of a roaring fireplace, use a fireplace screen and keep matches and hot pokers out of reach, too.
- Tree trouble. To some active babies, the branches of a Christmas tree are the equivalent of Mount Everest, and your baby – as soon as she can roll over or take a swipe – might try to reach them just because they're there. Some parents put a baby-proofing gate around the base of the tree, while others opt for a small tree that they can put up and out of reach. Another option is to put your tree in a playpen, along with the presents – a playpen that's off-limits to babies!
- Extended reach. By around 5 or 6 months, your baby may be able to roll over from her back to her tummy and grasp a toy – or cord, or decoration – within her reach. (She may have been able to kick herself over, from her tummy to her back, as early as 2 or 3 months.)
Be sure to hide electrical cords behind furniture or buy a hide-a-cord device. Keep your floors clear of decorations that your baby could choke on. And keep everything potentially breakable or dangerous out of her grasp. Don't let draped tablecloths or table runners hang too far over a table's edge; they're tempting for your baby to pull on.
If you have poinsettias or other holiday plants wrapped in foil and decorative ribbons, display them on a high shelf – these are potential choking hazards. Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia plant itself isn't poisonous (though the sap can cause skin irritation); mistletoe and some varieties of holly, on the other hand, are toxic, so either opt for other kinds of decorations or keep them well out of reach.
Remember that visitors' handbags and shopping bags have not been childproofed. Once your baby is mobile and coordinated enough to reach into a visitor's purse, stow purses and bags in a safe place to keep her away from medicines, lipstick, ribbons, and other forbidden items commonly found in them.
Finally, resist the temptation to hang a new toy or colorful ornament (or anything else on a string) on your baby's crib; a child can become entangled in a cord and strangle in a matter of minutes.
- Potentially unsafe accommodations. If you're spending the holidays at a relative's home and they're loaning you a crib, make sure it meets current safety standards. Don't let a well-meaning relative put your newborn to sleep on a heavy quilt, a pillow, or a waterbed, or leave her unattended on top of a bureau during a changing.
Read more childproofing tips.