The holiday un-gift guide: What not to buy this season

The Pediatric Insider

© 2019 Roy Benaroch, MD

Ho ho ho! It’s time for my nearly-every-yearly, not-too-clickbaity, almost-useful holiday gift guide with a twist! Plenty of guides tell you stuff you should buy. We’re here to save you money, and maybe even save your child’s life. Here’s a bunch of things you really shouldn’t buy this holiday season.


Baby walkers

Gizmos like this are a terrible thing to buy for a baby or family. Walkers slow infant development by making it more difficult for your baby to learn to walk. And, bonus, they injure about 9,000 babies a year in the USA. The AAP has called for banning them. Please, just don’t buy one of these things, m’kay?

Instead, consider a push-behind device or something like a standing activity center. They’re fun, provide genuine help with motor skills, and won’t maim or kill your baby!


Tiny magnet toys

Even the manufacturers of these toys, consisting of dozens or hundreds of little magnets, know they’re unsafe. But they still send mixed messages on their product listings. This one says it’s for ages 14 and up – “Use under adult supervision only” – right underneath where it says “GREAT GIFT FOR YOUNG AND OLD.”

What’s the problem? Little kids love to swallow these. And clumps stick together in the gut, causing necrosis (dead gut tissue.) Kids who swallow these are rushed to the OR, pronto. Before and after photos, courtesy of my friend and pediatric GI specialist, Dr. Tejas Mehta:


Baby sleep positioners

These are completely unnecessary, and can kill your baby. Other than that, sure, they’re fine. No, seriously, do not use a gizmo to position your baby in sleep. Seriously. Death. Bad. Ok?


Toy Vacuum Cleaners

Everyone likes to vacuum, right? And it’s not that toy vacuums like this one ($43) are dangerous. But you can buy a REAL ONE for $35. You have a kid wants to vacuum? Get him a real vacuum and put him to work!


Baby Bum Brush

You can use this to spread diaper cream on your baby’s bottom. Or this. Or this. Or your fingers, like God intended.


Amber Teething Necklaces

These are both a choking hazard and a strangulation hazard – especially ones that proclaim “The screw clasp prevents your baby from taking the teething necklace off.” That also means if the necklace gets caught on something, rather than breaking at the clasp it can strangle your baby. Or, if they do break apart, each individual bead becomes a choking hazard. And, besides, there’s no evidence whatsoever that these things relieve any symptoms of teething at all.


Crib Bumpers and Pillows

Babies should sleep on a firm, flat surface, NOT near soft squishy things that can interfere with their safe sleep. Squashy soft pillowy things are not only unnecessary, they kill babies. The AAP has been calling for them to be banned for years. I can’t even look at that photo without cringing.


Food Sensitivity Tests

Give the gift of paranoia! IgG-based food sensitivity tests, widely advertised on platforms like Facebook, are absolutely worthless. They measure an antibody response that shows you’ve eaten the food, not that you’re allergic or sensitive to the food. These tests don’t predict allergy or sensitivity or anything else. They just make people worry and encourage eating disorders and orthorexia.



Just don’t. There’s a very safe and very effective vaccine that had stopped measles transmission almost entirely in the US, Europe, and many other areas of the world. Now, thanks to the lies and distortions from antivaccine groups and Russian trolls, it’s surging back. That so many wealthy and privileged people are “helping” bring measles back to both the US and to developing countries is despicable. Be safe. Protect your children, your family, and your neighborhoods – even those too ill or young to be vaccinated. Make sure you and your children are protected, safe, and immunized.

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