Ah, babies, life's greatest treasure and most precious gift. They're portable, chubby and oh so adorable. And they do the cutest things like yawn, sneeze, snuggle up close and blink at us curiously. As they get older their repertoire for cute things to do expands like crazy until they start throwing in some weird things, a few random things and then the occasional dangerous thing. They can't really help it; they're young and learning about themselves and the world around them.
Most of what babies do is innocent and harmless enough, like whacking themselves in the face or smushing that banana chunk to slime before smearing it across every available surface and then some. It's when they get into the pet food or cleaning supplies or out into public that their curiosity gets them into trouble. This is usually when a wise observant parent will step in and guide the baby to do something a little less dangerous.
It's also the parent's job to watch and warn visitors who might unintentionally put the baby in danger or expose the baby to interesting little, forbidden delights, like Tic-Tacs. And then there's the whole range of decisions that every parent must wade through which involve what to feed the baby and when, how long and often the baby should nap, which type of cold medicine the baby should take, what to do if the baby sneezes seven times in a row and then burps, and lots more. To help streamline the process, here are 20 things that can turn dangerous for a baby.
20 Weaned Too Soon
Little brand new babies have brand new undeveloped digestive tracts (along with everything else). These tiny tracts are perfect for homemade breast milk and formula, if breast milk is unavailable. But some curious babies decide to try sampling adult foods before they can actually digest them and some parents—for reasons of their own that can include the price of formula, having to go back to work or the discomfort of nursing—decide to start the weaning process early.
Trying to wean a baby off of breast milk or formula before four to six months is never a good idea. They just aren't capable of handling anything other than specially formulated mother's milk or formula. Even four months old is a bit young for introducing solids. At least at six months old, the baby can sit up properly and actively take part in the new experiment.
19 Snoozing Away
The sleeping arrangements with a new baby vary from family to family. Some of us just pile into the parental bed and the baby snuggles up next to mama who is soft, warm and has food dispensers built right in.
Others stick their baby in a tiny bed attached to the parental bed so they're there but separate just enough for the baby to not get squished by sleeping parents or buried under blankets. And some stick the baby in a crib—either in the parent's room or in their very own nursery.
And then there's naptime, which can happen in any room of the house. At any rate, it's very important to not let the baby fall asleep on their side or tummy as this can increase their risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Just place the baby flat on their back on a firm mattress and let them sleep.
18 Danger, Honey
Honey is golden deliciousness and tastes oh so good, but it's not for a baby. Infants under a year old shouldn't be given honey or homemade foods that contain honey. Commercial foods with honey are safe because they've been heated to a high enough temperature to kill off any harmful spores. Honey can contain the spores of a bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum which can germinate in a baby's developing digestive tract and cause botulism.
Grown-ups have developed microorganisms that kill these spores so it's not usually harmful to anyone over a year old. But babies are born with a completely clean tract—there aren't even any good bacteria in there until they've grown and eaten plenty of mother's milk to begin their own culture. So when making the baby a snack, just leave out the added treat of honey for a while.
17 Scandalous Screentime
Screens are firmly in right now and are part of our culture, whether we like it or not. And even if we are not actively watching the TV, it's always playing in the background and the smallest residents of our houses are watching it. Babies are drawn to the sights and sounds of the bright blurbs of color moving across the magic picture window, and they can easily spend hours watching TV without really comprehending what's actually playing until they’re closer to age two.
After age two, studies have shown that two hours a day of educational television (such as Sesame Street) can actually benefit children and help their language skills. But TV before two for any period of time can actually slow down those language skills, creating delayed speech problems later on.
16 Raiders Of The Purse
It's the holidays and family members are flocking to the house to visit us and the brand new baby (whose been new for like six months already, get over it Aunt Gertrude) and with them come bags, coats, and packages. For babies, if it's on the floor and easily accessible, it's up for grabs.
Purses can contain some very dangerous items, however, and a baby shouldn't be allowed the opportunity to explore. People carry medication and vitamins, makeup, lotion, hand sanitizer and other tasty irritants in their purses. They also have choking hazards like coins, batteries, flash-drives and chewing gum, which a baby can easily pop into their mouth and crawl off with. So baby-proof the purse or keep it out of baby's reach until they're at least 27.
15 Dairy Is Scary
Babies under a year old shouldn't be given soy or cow's milk. Sometimes small amounts can be tolerated after six months, but cow's milk can interfere with iron absorption and cause the baby to become anemic.
The proteins in cow's milk are bigger than a human's breast milk and are therefore considerably harder for a baby to properly break down and digest. And if the baby has a genetic intolerance for cow's milk, the risks of further health problems besides anemia can be greater than for a regular baby.
Formulas made from cow's milk are specially engineered to get the proteins closer to breast milk proteins. It's not perfect, but it's better than straight up whole cow's milk for the baby. Ideally, just wait for the milk and milk products until the baby is a year or older.
14 Traveling Safely
Remember how we said earlier that babies do weird things? Well, one of the weird things they do is lick stuff. They put small objects in their mouths to explore taste and texture, and they lick anything too big to fully insert.
Most of the time this isn't such a bad thing, but every now and then they lick something truly gross. Like a shopping cart. In a study from 2013 of random shopping carts, 50% carried E. coli and 72% carried coliform bacteria. This means that shopping carts have traces of fecal matter on them and are dirtier than public restrooms.
While the disinfectant wipes provided at market entrances can help if they have alcohol in them and the surface is thoroughly rubbed down and wet for four minutes, shopping carts are still dirty and a baby should be trained immediately not to lick them.
13 Unpasteurized Foodies
Once the baby starts the weaning process and discovers the huge world of tastes, textures and mess potential that's just been introduced to them, the selection of foods available to explore broadens significantly. But parents need to make sure that their baby doesn't sample anything that's not pasteurized until they're at least a year old.
Pasteurization is the process where heat is used to kill off potentially harmful bacteria without touching any of the food's natural nutrients. While drinking raw milk is arguably healthier than pasteurized milk, it shouldn't be a part of baby's diet. Neither should raw juices or ciders, cheeses or honey. The risk of baby ingesting bacteria into their immature digestive tracts is greater with unpasteurized foods and thus they should be avoided until the baby is an older pickier eater.
12 A Bed That Hugs Back
Let's say that the baby likes their crib and doesn't mind actually sleeping in it (some just want to hang out in style), and they decide to take their trusty soft fluffy blanket to bed with them. For an older baby who can kick the blanket off and away from their face, this isn't too much of a problem.
But for a tiny newborn, those soft blankets can weigh more than they're used to and they don't have the strength, skill or coordination to kick the blanket off and away. This can result in suffocation. Beds made with certain industrial glues and those containing polyurethane "memory" foams are also linked to off-gassing that causes SIDS.
Among the other comfy culprits are crib bumpers, pillows, and stuffed animals. To safely put the baby to sleep in a crib, place him on his back in the center of a firm mattress covered with a tight sheet and leave. If it's a cold room, add an extra layer or a specially designed baby sleeping jacket that is form-fitting and won't get into baby's face.
11 Pucker Up
This isn't something that the baby will do themselves until they're much older and even then it'll be a wet kiss reserved for the parents or grandma but it bears mentioning here all the same. It's extremely important not to let anyone kiss our precious babies on the mouth. This can cause the herpes virus to pass from the well-intended kisser to the innocent little baby. A baby's immune system is nowhere near able to process this kind of vicious invader.
The results are a traumatic hospital trip and the death of the baby. Instruct visitors to thoroughly wash their hands before holding the baby and never let anyone kiss the baby except for very trusted family members. And if mother's instinct says don't let someone hold that baby, follow that little voice and keep baby close and safe. Nowadays, we can't be too careful.
10 Orange You My Baby
Introducing solid foods to a baby can be a fun messy adventure for both the parent and baby. For the baby, it's an explosion of sights, smells, tastes and textures that they've never known before. They'll quickly find favorites and least favorites, sometimes going back months later and liking a taste or texture that they'd previously rejected. That happens because their tongue and taste buds have developed since first trying that particular food item.
Particular tasty fruits that should be saved until the baby is a year old are oranges and other citrus fruits. While sweet, juicy and a favorite among adults, the citrus family have two hazards for young eaters. Firstly, the membrane of the fruit holding each section together can be tough to gnaw through and can pose a choking hazard. And secondly, citrus fruits are very acidic. Babies’ stomachs are sensitive and can't handle the acid level of an orange until they're older. If introduced too young, oranges can cause mouth or diaper rashes, upset stomachs, and acid reflux issues.
9 Sofa Death Trap
All new moms simply adore the photo of dad sleeping (or pretending to sleep) on the sofa or his favorite cushy chair with the brand new baby sprawled asleep on dad's chest. Admittedly, this is incredibly adorable and can make a cute picture if done well and only once. But babies sleeping on sofas and other cushy chairs is actually a very dangerous situation to be in.
Firstly, the baby can fall right off—especially if they're on the sofa alone and mom turns away for a minute. Propping the baby up in the corner sounds safe, but the noodle-like newborn can slip down and plop over headfirst in a matter of seconds. Secondly, the baby can become wedged between the cushions and suffocate. The risk of SIDS is 18 times higher for a baby one month to one year when left sleeping on a sofa or chair.
8 Water Baby
Bath time for a water baby can be the highlight of the day and be great fun! All that water and the splashing and the toys—it's almost enough to make us want to take a bath. Other babies hate water and make bath time a dreaded chore. Still, whichever baby we happen to have, one thing we must never do is leave a baby alone in the tub for even a few seconds until they are at least five or six years old, and even then we simply switch to a more supervisory role than an active one.
In all their enthusiastic water play, babies and young children can easily slip and hit their head. If they lose consciousness, they can slide into the water and drown—even in a few inches. A safer alternative is to buy a non-slip mat and teach baby to shower alone where there is no danger of drowning.
Eggs are inexpensive and a complete protein all wrapped in one smooth protective shell. Plus, they're tasty and can be prepared in several different ways to suit individual preferences. But should a baby be allowed to eat eggs? If the parents have an egg allergy, there's the very strong possibility that their baby will develop one as well. In which case, waiting longer to introduce eggs to babies might be the safer option.
If there are no egg allergy concerns that are serious enough to warrant a delay, parents can introduce solid hardboiled egg yolks to a baby at eight months old but only one at a time. Egg whites should be delayed until a year old for increased risk of allergies developing. Sometimes the baby will have a reaction to an egg at this early stage but should grow out of it by age five if there is no family history of an egg allergy.
6 Swing Low Sweet Baby
Swings are often a godsend for the sleep-deprived exhausted parent and the ever-crying colicky baby. The gentle rocking motion reminds them of being in the womb and calms them down to the point of sleeping. Ah, blissful silence. But should a baby be allowed to sleep in the swing? Experts say to minimize swing time to an hour or two every day because it's important to hold and interact with baby—encouraging the baby to develop the motor skills needed to hold up their own head.
But for the crying fussy baby, the swing is fine and a short closely supervised nap is approved, so long as there are no pillows in the swing and the baby is securely strapped in and the swing is in a reclined position. Car seats are also a no-no for long naps. A nap during the car ride is fine but once we get home, parents should always take the baby out of the car seat and let them finish their nap in the safe crib.
5 Pet Problems
Sometimes the first baby a couple has is a furry four-legged kind, whether a cat or a dog. This pet is quite literally the baby of the family and is doted on by the childless couple for months or years until something drastically changes in the pet's life.
A strong new smell and a horrific racket arrive with mama after she's been gone for a few days. The source of this new upheaval takes up all of the parents’ time and energy and changes the hierarchy of the family, often resulting in the pet being jealous. This can lead to aggression and unprovoked attacks should the child be left alone with the pet for even a few moments.
There are ways around this. Firstly, we can train our pets not to go into the bedroom or upstairs in the months leading to the birth. We can properly introduce the newcomer to the pet and, most importantly, we should never ever leave our children alone with the pets until both are fully trained in how to behave around each other and even then, supervision is still strongly advised.
4 It's Just A Shot, Right?
Vaccinations are a very hot-button topic right now and for good reason. There is a host of controversial information surrounding vaccines and whether or not they are worth the risks associated with them.
Choosing to administer a vaccine to our children is a personal choice by each individual parent based on their family's needs. Some parents will decide to get the polio shot and other vaccines but skip the flu shot every year. Others go all out getting every shot recommended by the CDC, and still, others have maybe one or two shots. And then there's the growing number of anti-vaxers who refuse all vaccines for numerous reasons of their own, like the CDC being investigated for fraud regarding their vaccine safety studies.
Everyone is different and shouldn't be judged for doing what they feel is best for their children. Some pointers include not vaccinating a baby that's too young to handle the shots, or avoiding too many shots at one doctor appointment. This helps doctors and parents pinpoint which shot was the culprit a lot easier when reaction or injury does occur.
There are also risks involved in vaccinating premature babies or babies with the gene mutation MTHFR—which makes up nearly 60%of the population now, though it is not part of routine testing and there are often no outward signs until it’s too late. Last but not least, no child should ever be vaccinated while sick or fevered as this increases the risk of vaccine injury and decreases the efficacy of the shot, too.
3 Gulp, Gulp
Adults are told to drink eight or more cups of water a day to stay well-hydrated, but this rule doesn't apply to babies. While a baby can love water and make bath time a blast, drinking water is much different. Firstly, babies under six months old shouldn't be given any water to drink. They get all the hydration they need from breast milk or formula, even when it's blazing hot outside.
Once they're sampling solids, they can be given a few sips of water. But don't give baby lots of water at one time because this can fill them up, interfering with eating later in the day and upsetting the internal sodium levels to the point of water intoxication, which is never a good thing. It can happen to adults too but more rarely.
2 Tummy Time Tantrums
Young newborn babies can't hold up their own heads and they wobble like a bowl full of jelly, flopping over in seconds. This can be incredibly cute but it doesn't help them develop the skills they'll need later on to hold up their heads.
That's where tummy time comes in. Ideally, tummy time means placing the baby on the floor on their tummy for three to five minutes at a time for about 20 minutes a day in total and then coaxing the baby to lift up their head. As they get better at this, they'll soon easily lift up their heads and then their torsos, building up their neck and core muscles.
But some babies struggle with this training program and scream the instant they're placed on the floor. This simply shortens their tummy time sessions as every wise parent knows that the baby needs to be on their tummy. Once the baby learns to roll over, tummy time becomes a game with an escape route and requires mom to flip the baby back over amid loud protests.
1 The Visitation
New parents are eager to return to their former social life and tote their tiny new bundle around to all their friend's houses. But once that tiny bundle becomes mobile and starts to explore other people's houses, the social life takes a dramatic plunge.
On one hand, it really is a hassle for the parents to load all of baby's gear up and head to a new house with the hope of relaxing and enjoying their friends and relatives with maybe a delicious glass of wine and some tasty food that isn't a rejected chicken nugget or some other tasty item.
But instead, the parents (usually the mom because let's face it, dads can be so oblivious sometimes) spend the whole visit madly tearing after the wandering toddler. And with good reason: in a stranger's home that isn't child-proofed, a baby can get into all kinds of dangerous situations involving household cleaners, the medicine cabinet and who know what else. Sometimes it's just easier to stay home until the baby is a social teenager.