Holiday Season & Baby Safety
by Susan Miller, BScN
The holiday season is a busy and joyous time for most people. However, the hustle and bustle of holiday celebrating and visiting can present unanticipated dangers for babies and toddlers. As holiday activities get underway, different routines and environments can set the scene for accidents and injuries involving babies and young children. During the holiday season adults are often rushed, stressed or distracted, and babies can be overtired and unpredictable. Know where your baby is at all times, and who is responsible for supervising him. Here are some tips and reminders about ensuring a safer holiday season with your baby.
On the Road
For many families, the holidays involve travelling by car in winter conditions. Make sure that your young one is correctly secured in an approved child restraint system. There should not be any extra layers of clothing or blankets between the baby and the car seat. If the baby must be dressed more heavily for very cold weather, use a snowsuit with full legs so that the straps of the seat harness can pass between the legs. Do not use bunting bags or wraps of blanket when putting the baby into the car seat. If extra layers are needed, put them over the baby after he is securely buckled into the seat. Always check that the straps of the car seat are at the right level for your baby’s size, and that they fit snugly over the baby when fastened. Before starting out on any trip ensure that there are no heavy objects in the car that could fly around and hit your child if you had to stop suddenly. There have been some tragic cases of a baby being killed in a car because an item like a camera or tin of food hit them where they sat safely secured in their infant seat.
Visiting Other Homes
When visiting in someone else’s home do not assume that the environment is child safe, even if the host or hostess says it is. There are all kinds of fascinating things your infant can discover while adults are busy visiting. Watch out for other people’s purses that can contain deadly medications or items to choke on. A very young child can easily pull unsecured furniture over on top of her, or become entrapped in furniture such as a recliner chair with movable parts. Do not leave your child alone with any animal, especially one that you do not know. Animals can be more tense and unpredictable when their routines are interrupted at this time of year. Always supervise other children who are around your baby. Children are understandably excited during the holiday season and may be less careful than they usually are.
Young children will put anything in their mouths. Something new or different is bound to catch the attention of your little one. Various types of decorations and holiday snack foods such as nuts and candies left within reach pose a real choking risk for babies and toddlers. Make sure that your Christmas tree is out of reach of small hands, and that extra electrical cords are well secured. During the “baby years,” your holiday decorations will probably be a little less ambitious, so make your life easier by simplifying, and keeping the environment more “baby friendly.”
After the Party
While tired parents are still in bed, children may get up to play and find glasses and bottles left around after the party the night before. These glasses and bottles are intriguing to small children, and they just can’t resist sampling whatever is left in them. The small amount of alcohol left in each glass can add up to a significant amount to a small child. Alcohol poisoning in children can happen much more easily than many people realize. Cigarette butts left in partly full glasses will have the nicotine leached out of them into the fluid. Nicotine poisoning can happen if a child drinks this fluid.
During the holiday season adults typically consume more alcohol than at other times of the year. Holiday season also tends to be flu and cold season. Alcohol and some cold medications can greatly affect an adult’s alertness especially when they lie down to sleep. It is common practice today for young babies and toddlers to sleep in the same bed as their parents at least some of the time. Remember that if an adult in the bed has had alcohol or a medication that can suppress their awareness, it is not a safe practice to have a baby in the same bed.
Prevent Burns and Scalds
Scalds to young children and babies usually happen when they grab a hot mug of liquid or pull these on top of themselves by pulling a tablecloth or place mat. People who are not used to babies will usually underestimate the young child’s ability to reach, grab and pull. Make it a rule that no one holds your baby if they have a hot drink in their hand. Keep children away from candles, working fireplaces, wood stoves, and hot oven doors. It is always a good practice to keep young children out of the kitchen during busy meal preparation.
Too Much Excitement
Falls are the leading cause of injury and hospitalization in children under the age of one year. This is not surprising when you consider how active babies are. Children and babies tend to fall more often when they are tired or excited. During the holiday season everyone gets overtired and overexcited. For this reason, parents must plan activities with their young child’s needs in mind, as well as their own. Parents who are rushed, stressed, tired or distracted have difficulty supervising their active young ones. Do yourself and your baby a favour this holiday season—slow down and see the world through a child’s eyes, and let someone else make the canapés!
Susan Miller, R.N. BScN, is a Perinatal Educator and Certified Breastfeeding Counsellor. She works with prenatal and post-natal families in the Greater Victoria area and is now the proud grandmother of Meredith born July 2008.