Bringing your newborn home for the first time is an exciting experience for parents. However, if family members develop an illness shortly after your baby comes home, you may have a constant fear of your newborn coming down with an illness. A minor cold can be a severe, even life-threatening illness for newborns. You can’t protect your baby from all illnesses, but you can reduce his risk of getting sick with a few precautions.
Wash your hands before touching your baby and make sure everyone else does the same. There are no exceptions to this rule when caring for a newborn. Ensure that everyone in your household, including yourself, washes their hands before and after eating, after diaper changes, after using the restroom, after blowing their noses and as soon as they come into the house.
Keep sick family members in a separate room away from your newborn baby. If a sick person sneezes or coughs, tiny droplets containing the infection become airborne for your newborn baby to inhale and become infected. Encourage everyone to use tissues.
Disinfect your house with diluted bleach or disinfectant spray, focusing mainly on frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, phones, computers, television remotes, toilets and sinks. Wipe the surfaces with a clean paper towel. Clean the baby’s pacifiers, bottles and toys in hot, soapy water frequently.
Breastfeed your baby for a minimum of six months. Your breast milk provides antibodies and enzymes that help your newborn fight infections. Babies who are not breastfed get sick more often and to a more serious degree than breastfed babies.
Avoid kissing your baby on the mouth or near the mouth. Even if you’re not outwardly showing symptoms of an illness yet, you can still be carrying that illness, especially if other family members are sick in your household.
Forbid smoking around your baby. Secondhand smoke makes your newborn prone to upper respiratory infections because it weakens her already weak immune system.
Tips and Warnings
• Read the back of your cleaning products. Many instructions say to let the cleaner sit for 30 to 60 seconds before wiping the surface. If you wipe the surface earlier than this amount of time, the chemicals cannot effectively kill microorganisms. If you have other children, see if they can spend a few nights with a grandparent or other relatives. If you are sick, pump breast milk and have someone who is not sick feed your newborn. Friends and family often enjoy helping out with new babies.
• Seek medical assistance if your newborn is sick — especially if he has a fever of over 100.4, he is rejecting the breast or bottle, is unresponsive, is breathing rapidly or is having difficulties breathing. In these cases, hospitalization is likely needed so that your baby can be assisted with breathing and to receive fluids intravenously.