After your newborn comes home from the hospital, it’s normal to want to introduce your new little one to your family and friends. At the same time, you want to protect him from getting an infection from a visitor. A newborn can also get sick from being exposed to people by going out in the community. Many new parents wonder when is it “safe” to take the baby out in public. Trying to decide what is best for the baby in these situations can be difficult. And unfortunately, the answer is not always simple.
Infections in Newborns
Fighting infectious diseases today is much easier than in the past. Proper hygiene and proper precautions, along with numerous vaccines, antibiotics and rapidly advancing medical technology, help prevent many infections. However, some infections may be transmitted to a baby before birth. A fetus and a newborn baby have limited ability to prevent and fight infectious diseases. Special care may be needed for babies who develop an infection before, during, or after birth.
Some of the diseases which can affect babies after exposure before or during birth include:
- Viral infections: Cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, chickenpox (varicella virus), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Rubella virus, hepatitis viruses, parvovirus
- Bacterial infections:Group B Streptococcus, syphilis, Listeria, Pertussis
- Parasite infections such as toxoplasmosis
How to prevent infection in your baby
- Wash your hands with soap and water after changing nappies, preparing food or going to the toilet. You should also wash your hands often if you have a cold.
- Try to restrict the number of other people who hold your baby in the early months, as far as possible.
- In the early weeks, keep your baby away from overcrowded areas, such as shops and restaurants.
- If you have pets, try to keep them away from your baby during the first few weeks.
Keeping Baby Healthy: Do I Need to Worry About Germs?
It is true that getting exposed to germs makes the immune system savvier. When the body is infected by a virus, the immune system usually figures out how to defend itself. Then, the next time you come in contact with that specific microorganism, the immune cells are ready. They can often fight it off without your getting sick.However, that doesn’t mean that deliberately exposing your child to germs is smart. Your baby will get all the germ exposure he or she needs naturally. You don’t need to help along the process by having your uncle sneeze on your baby.Keep in mind that germs like cold and flu viruses that are pretty benign in adults can cause problems in young babies. For that reason, parents should be very careful to protect their babies from germs in the first three months — and if possible, the first six.
At times you will have to balance practicality with the ideal situation. These tips sound straightforward, but everyone’s situation is different. For example, if you have older children, it is harder to avoid playgroups or schools. If you have lots of pets, it may be difficult to prevent them from having any contact at all with your baby. Talk to the healthcare team about how far you need to go to protect your baby from infection.As your baby gets stronger, you will need to worry about infection less.