Babies love to stare at things; it's one of their favorite activities. Ceiling fans, mobiles, cats sitting in windows, and this time of year? The Christmas tree. But that staring might have you wondering if Christmas lights are safe for babies, or if they're damaging their precious peepers.
Babies' eyes are developing rapidly over their first few months, and it seems plausible that the bright lights of the tree might be of some concern, especially if they're transfixed for long stretches of time. Ophthalmologist Rishi Singh, MD wrote for The Cleveland Clinic that the blue light of LED lights — the most popular Christmas tree lights — are "associated with blue light hazard — when an intense light source causes damage to the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that changes light into impulses that become the images we see." But what does this mean for babies, whose eyes are just beginning to see and recognize light?
Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Lewis tells Romper that even though their eyes are developing, "the newer LED lights can be harmful to the retina. For this reason I would advise parents to distract babies from Christmas lights after prolonged staring. In other words, take breaks from looking at the Christmas lights."
Time to turn on the ceiling fan, parents. Or maybe find a cat sitting in the window with an especially agitated tail. That always worked for my kids. See also: dogs with squeaky toys. All are entertaining to the little ones, and not a one of them emits a blue light, unless your pets are aliens or robots, in which case you have bigger fish to fry.
As for your baby's eyes, Lewis says, "In the first six months, when babies look at Christmas lights, there’s typically interest, but not a lot of excitement." Babies are really only truly excited for their parents' faces, and like, boobs or bottles. Not much else thrills them at this point. That being said, Lewis notes that "after six months, babies become much more thrilled with Christmas lights. At that time, if they are moving around and enjoying the lights, I wouldn’t worry about moving them away from the activity. However, with prolonged staring and especially reduced eye muscle movement — such as a “trance like” state we typically see with a younger or tired baby — I would advise the parents to redirect the eyes to another activity." You know, unless that activity is your alien dog, in which case, maybe not.
But in general, if your kiddo is looking at lights through the car window or going on a sweet stroller walk to see all the lit-up decorations in town, they're just fine.
Dr. Lisa Lewis, pediatrician