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Childproofing the holidays: How to keep your kids—and your ornaments—safe

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Christmas is a busy time of year. Add to that the need to keep your tiny elves from destroying your decorations and risking their own health, and it can get pretty stressful. “There are a lot of household accidents at Christmas—people’s homes are filled with all sorts of decor that isn’t normally there,” says Sage Singleton, a safety expert with Safewise.


Dr. LeAnn Kridelbaugh, president and Chief Medical Officer of Children's Health Pediatric Group in Dallas, Texas, adds “A recent study from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 15,000 injuries occur during November and December because of unsafe holiday decorations.  That’s more than 250 injuries a day that require an emergency room visit.”

So how do you protect your precious children while simultaneously protecting your heirloom Christmas decor handed down over the generations? Luckily we have some tips.

Ornaments, tinsel + decorations

Depending on the location and material, ornaments can appear to be great toys to curious little minds. Just make sure that the ones toward the bottom of the tree (if you choose to decorate it) clearly say “shatterproof” on the label. Glass, metal with sharp objects, or ornaments with tiny parts should be placed at the top of the tree.

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“Small ornaments, light bulbs, and other tiny decorations pose a choking hazard if swallowed by small children. Keep small, breakable decorations out of reach.” Kridelbaugh recommends, “The best option is to store delicate ornaments and decorations until your children are older.”

Kridelbaugh also points out that, “Another area to look out for is decorations that can irritate skin, eyes and lungs. Artificial snow can have chemicals that can be harmful when sprayed and inhaled, so follow instructions on the can carefully.”

If you use tinsel, make sure your child can’t get tangled up in it. In fact, it may be wise to skip tinsel and garlands for a year or two until your kids are older, or restrict them to the top of the tree.

If you’re going to place ornaments low, opt for ribbon hangers rather than metal hooks, which can injure children and pets who put things in their mouths.

Be especially cautious of any length of string on your tree that is 12” or longer.

Toys

And of course, be sure that the gifts you’re giving meet safety standards as well, given the age of your children.

"When choosing a toy, always check the intended age range listed on the packaging and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Keep toys meant for older kids away from infants and younger kids. Buy dolls or stuffed animals with eyes that are sewn on, rather than plastic. Plastic eyes tend to fall off and are a choking hazard for younger children,” says Kridelbaugh. Additionally, “Batteries are made with chemicals that can be deadly,” so Kridelbaugh recommends checking that toys and watches have batteries that are locked in place.

And always, if you have any doubt about the safety of a toy you purchased, it can be checked for recalls at www.recalls.gov.

Candles

If you’re going to use candles, place them up high. Never put any candle near a Christmas tree, stockings, or decorations, or leave them unattended. Wax burners will reduce the fire risk, and many manufacturers make faux candles if you are interested in the look without the actual flame.

Wrapping paper, ribbons and snow

"All the trimmings for gifts are beautiful, but they are a triple threat for small children. Prevent possible suffocation, choking and fire hazards by gathering all wrappings and packaging material as gifts are unwrapped,” recommends Kridelbaugh.

Stockings

Weighted stocking holders for mantle pieces are dangerous during the holidays. “Every year, without fail, children are seriously injured by tugging on a Christmas stocking and bringing the entire heavy stocking holder down on top of their heads,” says Singleton.

She suggests that until your children are older, hanging stockings on hooks that are securely nailed in place to the mantel or even a wall is a safer alternative to weighted stocking holders.

Lights

Make sure your Christmas lights are shatterproof and the all plugs are out of a child’s reach. Putting a fake weighted present box in front of the outlet is a great way to shield your child from playing with a plug.

Alternatively, you could follow the lead of Dustin Christensen, co-founder of The Toddle and father of twin girls. He switches his electrical socket safety plugs out for a box-style cover that lets him use the outlet while still keeping them away from his twins.

"Make sure that no child under 4 can pull the string and potentially topple your tree,” instructs Kridelbaugh. She adds that, “Few people are aware that strings of lights may be coated in a plastic that contains lead, so be sure to wash your hands after handling lights.”

Poinsettias and other Christmas plants

Mistletoe can be extremely poisonous to humans, and although it’s usually placed high up, it’s not advisable to have it in a house with small children. “I’d refrain from using mistletoe in any home with a child under the age of 4,” says Singleton.

For the same reason, Singleton also cautions against the use of holly berries as they are also poisonous to humans, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Kridelbaugh adds amaryllis to this list.

Poinsettias can make some pets sick but are rarely poisonous to humans if ingested. If your child ate quite a few leaves however, it might upset their stomach.

Medication

This is an area that is all too often forgotten. “If you're hosting guests, remember to put medications well out of the reach of children. Blood pressure medications, blood thinners and prescription opioids are especially dangerous for kids,” states Kridelbaugh.

The Christmas tree

Ah, the Christmas tree—an endless source of fascination for little ones. Those bright, shiny lights and sparkling balls can be irresistible to curious elves.

"If you’ve purchased a natural tree, make sure it's in a sturdy stand that's rated for the tree's size, and place it where foot traffic won't knock it over. Additionally, replenish the water regularly to keep your tree from drying out,” recommends Kridelbaugh. She adds, “When it comes to artificial trees, remember that trees made in China, or trees that are older than nine years, may also contain lead or give off dangerous levels of lead dust as they deteriorate. This is a good time to toss out your old tree and check labels for lead content as you purchase a new one [made of polyethylene (PE) instead].”

There are a few options for safeguarding your tree against damage and (worse yet) tipping over.

  • Decorate the top half. If you have a big tree, this works well. Just decorate the top half, lights and all, and keep all ornaments out of your child’s’ reach. Or, place the bigger, unbreakable ornaments on the bottom half of the tree where, if taken, they won’t harm your child or break your heart.
  • Fence it in. Many parents buy a 360 degree circular fence to put around their entire tree. This is great if you have a lot of space. Another option is to put the tree in the corner and put a fence from wall to wall.
  • Faux present wall. Christi with Love from the Oven offers a how-to for making your own wall out of large boxes. Just fill the boxes with something heavy like books, and wrap them like pretty Christmas presents. Your baby will be blocked from the tree and presents without compromising your decor.
  • Go tiny. You may decide that a standard-sized Christmas tree is too much bother this year. A great alternative is a tiny tree on top of a table. Still festive, but out of reach of little hands.
  • Add weight or anchor it. Be sure to add weight to the base of your tree. “Every year children get hurt by pulling the Christmas tree down on themselves,” says Singleton. She suggests using sandbags or rice bags to weigh down the base of artificial trees. “Real trees are usually heavier, but if you can weight those down too or even anchor them to the wall with a strap, it will help ensure your child’s safety,” she says.

Be safe, have fun.

Having a tour of the house can also go a long way in preventing holiday accidents. “We go around the house and explain to our toddlers what the ‘new’ lights and decorations are so that they understand they're not to be played with, and it's a great chance for them to learn new words and holiday songs too,” says Christensen.

Christmas time is a magical time of year and one that delights babies and children alike. With a few simple tricks and cautious use, your Christmas decorations can provide a lot of enjoyment without endangering your children.

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The phrase "women can have it all" has always left a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, our options for fulfillment extend beyond the home. But between wage gaps, the astronomical cost of childcare, student loans and ever-rising living costs coupled with shrinking wages, can we have it all?

Some women know their calling is at home with their babies and they make it work. They budget like it's an Olympic sport and find resourceful ways to save money. Many women are single mothers and are the sole earners in their homes. Every household has different needs and we absolutely deserve to choose whatever best fits our lifestyle.

Whatever that fit may be, it never encompasses "all."

I knew from a young age that I loved babies and wanted a family of my own, but that vision always included me working. Maybe it was the 90's TV boom of Ally McBeal and Detective Olivia Benson but I knew I wanted a career. I wanted a purpose that contributed to the world outside of my home. I knew I wanted a degree or two, maybe three. The fact that I made up my mind so early and never wavered, made me sure that "mom guilt" was something that other women felt; women who maybe felt the pull to be home but other circumstances were in their way.

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Mom guilt wouldn't hit me, I'd be immune, I thought.

Fast forward to the first month I went back to work from maternity leave. I ugly cried on my way into the office so frequently that I kept makeup in my car so I could fix it before going inside.

I'd dive headfirst into work until I had to pause to pump. Work, pump, work, pump, shove in some lunch at my desk at some point and sprint out the door to get my baby. I was productive but distracted. When I was at work, I wanted to be home. When I was home, I thought about the possible mistakes I had made at work.

I was in a job that was full of stress, last minute late nights, terrible pay and no appreciation. But from the standpoint of working and having a family, I had both. I had it "all."

Some days, I felt as though I was maybe just ungrateful for all the responsibilities I had to juggle. I blamed my attitude.

Facing my unhappiness at work and the baggage I brought home to my daughter and husband weighed on me. Then, six months postpartum, I lost my dad. I packed up that baby and flew home to say goodbye.

At the visitation, his colleagues shared many memorable stories, but the ones that kept coming up were his dedication to his wife and six children. They were memories of my sisters and I hanging out in his office, coloring while our mom worked. In fact, one of my masterpieces, a mosaic Great Dane, still hangs in my dad's old office window on Court Street because the owner of the building watched us grow up and didn't have the heart to take it down when he retired.

Dad was an attorney who nearly always made it home by 5:30, something unheard of in the world of owning your own practice. He didn't live to work; he worked to live.

I realized that when I leave this world, I don't want anyone to tell my children stories about how hard I worked. I wanted them to tell my children stories about how much I loved them and that they always came first. I had to make a change.

The right doors opened in the next month and I eagerly took on an entire career change (not something I necessarily recommend with a 7-month-old, but we made it work). I closed the doors of childhood ambitions that didn't match with the type of mother I wanted to be. It wasn't sad, it was liberating.

My new job included work from home days and a team of women, mostly moms, who value hard work and success but prioritize family and their roles as mothers. That attitude starts at the top of the company and trickles down. It was a breath of fresh air after seven months of feeling like I was suffocating.

Despite these life changes, I still don't have it "all." What I do have is realistic expectations for what I can accomplish in a day.

I have a house that looks like it's been ransacked Monday through Friday. I have a sink full of dishes.

I have a car littered with smashed cheddar frogs and peanut butter smears. I have a bedroom containing endless laundry baskets of clean clothes that get folded and put away maybe once a month.

I have a supportive partner whom I madly love and helps me rage clean all of the above when we can't take it anymore. I have a happy, healthy daughter who couldn't care less about dishes, laundry and dog hairballs.

I have a job that contributes to the betterment of humanity and a team who makes office days a joy.

I have women in my ear sharing their disdain for me working out of the home, but I also have women in my ear championing me as a mother, wife, homemaker, and career woman.

Maybe the answer to finding that peace was leaving a toxic job. Or maybe it was found in losing my dad and having my daughter in the same six months. Perhaps it was the priority shift that followed those changes. It could have been extending the same grace to myself that I so willingly give to those I love. Whatever it was, I'm grateful to have found it so I can enjoy living in our good old days, today. I don't have it all, but I really love everything I have.

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Work + Money

It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

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We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

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Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"

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The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

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