While it is true that exposing an immune system to germs makes fighting illness easier, your baby’s body isn’t fully developed, and the exposure that adults can handle may cause problems in newborns.
How to help keep your newborn safe from germs
Your child will get all the germ exposure she needs naturally, so the best way to keep her healthy is by limiting germs in the first 3 to 6 months. There are many ways you can keep her safe from germs — check out a few tried and true tricks to avoid becoming overly-anxious while keeping her in fighting form.
Hand washing and hand sanitizing:
The easiest way to avoid infant illness is by hand washing, and that goes for you as well as other members of the family. Always wash your hands before handling Baby and insist others do as well. It may also be a good idea to carry around hand sanitizer for outings when others often feel the urge to touch Baby’s little cheeks (and let’s face it – who won’t?).
Managing clean feeding:
Throw away any leftovers, whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding, as bottles are breeding grounds for bacteria. Sterilize anything that goes into Baby’s mouth, such as pacifiers or bottles, before first-time use and clean thoroughly after subsequent uses. Refrigerate formula as soon as possible to keep it from spoiling.
While exposure to pets early in life is shown to actually benefit Baby and prevent allergies and asthma, animals’ mouths are filled with bacteria that can be harmful to her. Avoid direct contact with pets’ tongues or mouths, keep litter boxes in places that Baby can’t access, and wash her hands after playtime.
Take control in crowds:
On an outing with Baby, it can be hard to prevent friends, family, and even strangers from wanting to reach out and grab. Try to avoid large crowds as people are more likely to be ill, remind visitors to stay away if they are sick, and if you just don’t want Baby to be touched, don’t be afraid to just say, “My doctor says she shouldn&;t be touched.” On the other hand, in the crowd that is your pediatrician’s waiting room, it can be a good idea to check in and see if your doctor accepts unvaccinated children as patients, since Baby‘s immune system is still so young and untested.
Relax and keep it in perspective:
With a newborn it can seem like any germ may cause illness, but try to relax and remember that germs are natural — despite Baby’s tiny size, her body is built to fight off infection. In fact, it’s a bit of exposure in the first place that helps Baby build a strong immune system that she will have for the rest of her life.
- Judith Labiner-Wolfe, Sara B. Fein, Katherine R. Shealy. “Infant Formula–Handling Education and Safety.” Pediatrics. 122 Suppl 2:S85-90. Web. October 2008.
- James T.C. Li. “Does childhood exposure to germs help prevent asthma?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, April 9 2013. Web.
- “Germs.” Canadian Public Health Association. Canadian Public Health Association, Web.
- “Heading Out With Baby.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 1 2010. Web.