Christmas time means party after party and event after event. You’re probably running around from place to place with a pregnant belly or new baby in tow. It can be hard enough keeping track of all your holiday plans, let alone the dos and don’ts of pregnancy and newborn safety during this crazy time.
Yet, it’s important not to let yourself get distracted or careless when it comes to the safety of your child. These are the things you need to remember this holiday season to make it a safe one for you and your baby.
8 Turn Down the Alcoholic Eggnog and Hard Cider
There has been much debate in the prenatal world about the guidelines concerning drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy. Everyone agrees pregnant women shouldn’t drink excessively because of the severe birth defects it can cause to the baby, and that the best way to ensure no harm is done is not to touch alcohol at all.
However, there is less clarity when it comes to occasional drinking. The reason why there is no definitive answer for how much alcohol is okay is that it depends on a number of factors:
- Gestational stage: The riskiest time to drink is during the first trimester, when the baby is underdeveloped. The later in your pregnancy you have a drink, the less risky it is because your baby’s organs are more fully formed.
- Dose: The effect alcohol has on your baby depends on the amount you consume. What you may consider a light drink based on your regular drinking habits still may be more than is what is considered safe.
- Your body: How your body regulates alcohol can play a part in whether or not it’s safe to have a drink now and then.
- Medical conditions/risk factors: If you have certain medical conditions or a high-risk pregnancy, one drink can have a more significant effect on your baby than it might for someone else.
As you can see, the matter is very subjective, which is why no research studies have been able to give a clear-cut measurement of how much alcohol is safe to drink. The best bet is to abstain altogether so you don’t have to wonder or worry.
If you do decide to drink, wait until the third trimester and only have one drink very infrequently. One drink is defined as an ounce of hard alcohol, an 8-ounce glass of wine, or a 12-ounce glass of beer.
For breastfeeding moms, drinking guidelines are different. The alcohol level in your milk supply is determined by the alcohol level in your blood. As your body metabolizes the alcohol in your bloodstream, the amount will decrease in your milk as well.
Once the effects of your drinking have worn off (dependent upon how much you consume, of course), it is safe to breastfeed your baby again. This may mean pumping and dumping if your baby is young and eats frequently or if you want to avoid being engorged. All the trouble may not even be worth the momentary pleasure, so consider drinking virgin-only beverages.
7 Be a More Careful Driver
It’s no news that car accidents increase during bad winter weather, but did you know you’re at an even higher risk for serious accidents when you’re pregnant? A Canadian study found that the risk is highest during the second trimester.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t drive, but that you should be extra vigilant following traffic laws and eliminating distractions. This may sound obvious, yet the study found that every crash they reviewed could have been prevented by small changes in the driver’s behaviors.
It’s also important to protect yourself in case of an accident. Sit as far away from the airbag as possible, don’t recline your seat, and tilt the steering wheel upward. Place your seat belt under your belly and flat on your thighs. The shoulder strap should lie between your breasts.
If you are tired or sick and feel uncomfortable driving in the current weather conditions, or can’t sit safely in the driver’s seat, find someone else to drive you, if possible.
6 Eliminate Stress Where You Can
Being pregnant or carrying around a newborn during Christmastime can make the season more stressful. It’s more than just okay to put yourself first; it’s also better for your overall health and happiness.
You don’t have to do every tradition this year or go to every party. Choose the most important ones and let the rest go. By keeping things simple and few, you can better enjoy the holidays and feel more rested and less stressed. Other tips include:
- Shop online to avoid the frustration of parking, crowds, and long lines.
- Have a short to-do list that will help you feel productive but not overwhelmed.
- Let others contribute to the holiday meal so you don’t have to cook everything.
- If you’re religious, put more focus on the spiritual aspects than the commercial ones.
Don’t worry about what other people think of the way you choose to celebrate this year. It’s your life and family, and you know what will work best for your circumstances to make it a pleasant experience for everyone.
5 Discuss the Flu Shot with Your Provider
It’s not only the holiday season, but also the flu season. This probably isn’t normally an issue for you, but when you’re pregnant, the virus can have a more severe effect on your body and can lead to complications.
Talk to your provider about getting the flu shot. The shot is safe to get during any trimester, but the nasal spray should NOT be used. The antibodies your body creates can be passed onto your baby and offer protection for up to six months after birth.
If you don’t feel comfortable getting vaccinated, weigh the pros and cons. If you are a stay-at-home mom with kids not yet in school, you may be fine without the flu shot. If you work and interact with many people daily and your other children go to daycare and/or school, it may be best to get the flu shot.
If you still have concerns, you can find more information here about the safety and risks of the shot and the studies done to come to these conclusions. In the end, all that matters is that you make an informed decision based on your own health and personal situation.
4 Keep Germs Away from Your Baby
Now is the time of year when germs are passed around like Christmas gifts. Be smart in your physical interactions with others to limit the spread of diseases than can harm your child.
Avoid handshaking and high fives and opt for a fist bump or a wave hello instead. Even a quick, gentle hug or kiss on the cheek is a safer choice, unless the person is coughing or sneezing. If someone grabs your hand before you can stop it, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer right after. You should do those regularly anyway throughout the season for the best prevention.
Ask those who want to hold your baby to wash their hands first or not to do it at all if they’re sick. Clean toys shared with other children, wipe down surfaces where your baby will be eating, and sterilize pacifiers regularly. Remember to wash or wipe your baby’s hands, too.
3 Watch Out for Choking Hazards and Other Dangers
If you or your holiday host has decked the halls with all sorts of holiday décor, you need to be extra careful watching your baby. All the decorations may make your home festive and inviting, but they present a diaper-full of choking hazards and other dangers to your baby. Some of the things to beware of include:
- Christmas trees (they can fall on your baby)
- Fir tree needles, real or fake
- Tree stand water (it contains chemicals from the tree)
- Poinsettias (they’re only mildly toxic, but can cause vomiting)
- Mistletoe and holly (these are very poisonous)
- Tinsel garlands and strands
- Christmas lights and cords
- Broken ornaments and figurines
- Stray ornament hooks
- Spray-on snow
- Strings and bows tied around presents
- Wrapping paper
- Gift bags
- Shipping materials, such as peanuts
- Tags, ties, and packaging from toys
- Foods unsafe for your baby’s age (dried fruit, nuts, candy, honey, etc.)
Make sure your baby is in a safe place when you’re around these items and that someone is always keeping an eye on your baby if you’re unable to. Review how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and CPR on babies just in case.
2 Be Smart with Your Christmas Photos
Taking newborn or family Christmas photos with extravagant scenes and adorable props is the thing to do these days. While this can make a beautiful memory, ensure it is a safe one as well.
Don’t wrap up your baby in lights. This can strangle your baby or cut off circulation in other body parts. The light bulbs can get hot and hurt your baby’s sensitive skin, and there is lead found in the coating of the wires. Lead can also be found in fake trees, some candles, and older ornaments. Glittery objects are best left out as well, because the small particles of glitter can easily get inside the nose, mouth, and eyes. Check that any other props used are not on the danger list from point 6.
If you take photos outside in the snow, make sure your baby is dressed warmly. If you want him or her to be in the buff or in a special outfit, reserve that for an indoor shoot.
1 Practice Safe Heating Methods
If you live in a cold area, warmth is a must. There are many ways to stay cozy. Perhaps you prefer burning a yuletide log. Keep your fireplace blocked off so your baby can’t get near the heat and flying sparks or get into the ashes once the fire has burned out. Your baby may be fascinated by watching the flames. Just keep him or her far enough away to prevent overheating.
Maybe you like to place space heaters in rooms for extra warmth at night. This easily can be a fire hazard if you’re not careful. Place the heater far away from drapes, keep the vents clean, and check that the cord is intact. Use a heater that has a timer you can set and an automatic shutdown system for when it overheats or the airflow is blocked.
Winter can be a tricky time of year
Blankets are usually a safe option, especially if you’re a master at swaddling. However, even these can cause suffocation if your baby wriggles out and the blanket covers his or her face. The best thing to use is a sleep sack. They keep the legs enveloped but the arms out and loose. This gives your baby the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket but without the attached dangers. Sleep sacks also reduce the risk of SIDS.
Christmas should be a time of joy and magic. Avoid preventable tragedies by remembering to keep things safe healthy and this holiday season for you and your baby.