We’re deep in the throes of cold and flu season - a precarious time to be a newborn. My daughter was born last December and I was extremely worried she would catch a bug. If we caught something from an innocuous-seeming grocery cart, I would feel awful! But you know when I’d feel worse? If I let a sick family member or friend infect her. I’m not paranoid, you know. Babies have weak immune systems and can actually die from a simple cold. In newborns, the “cold” can become full-blown RSV - respiratory syncytial virus. In adults, RSV seems like a mild cold and nothing to fret over. But in babies? It’s cause for hospitalization and creates long-term issues like chronic bronchitis or asthma. That’s why NO ONE should be touching or kissing newborns during flu season.
What You Shouldn’t Do
There is no worse feeling than making a little kid sick or accidentally hurting them. Even if it’s not your kid, you feel like the worst person in the whole world. So if you want to protect those precious newborns in your life from your own germs, here’s what you should avoid.
As a starting point, NEVER visit a baby when you’re sick. Even if you think it’s just “a little sniffle”, it’s just not worth it. The consequences could be extremely dire for the newborn.
Absolutely do not smoke around a baby. This should go without saying, but smoking is bad for you and it’s awful for tiny new lungs.
RELATED: 15 Smoking And Pregnancy Myths
This is a hard rule. Never kiss a baby. Ever. Period. If you are not breastfeeding that baby, you absolutely have no place spreading your germs to them through saliva/kisses. Yes, they’re cute! It’s hard to resist! But if you wait until they’re a little older, you won’t endanger their lives with your affection.
What You Can Do
If you’ve recently been sick, check the contagious period for your illness. While you might feel well, you could be shedding a virus days after you recover.
If you are a smoker, wash your hands and ideally change your clothes before you hold or touch the baby. Even if you’re their parent - in which case, keep your smoke outside and never in the car or home with your baby.
If you MUST show love to a baby, and you want to do it through kisses, there are exactly TWO places that are safe to kiss a newborn. The first is the top of their head. Babies cannot reach this spot to get your saliva on their hands. The second is the soles of their feet. This one is no longer a safe spot once the baby can start sucking on their own feet - which happens pretty soon after birth!
RELATED: 15 Ways To Care For A Sick Baby
When Is It Okay To Touch Babies?
Babies have bodily autonomy, too - so unless their parent says otherwise, assume that you should not touch them and should give them a hula hoop of personal space. Because babies are people, there’s no hard line on when it’s suddenly “okay” to touch a baby. If you don’t know the baby, please don’t assume familiarity and approach them. In today’s day and age, it’s terrifying to see a stranger approach your child. You think the worst is going to happen. But even if it’s not “the worst”, those strangers could unwittingly put your kid in the hospital - or worse. If the baby is the child of people you know, ask if you can hold them or touch them. It’s simple but makes things much less awkward for parents who otherwise get forced into a confrontation to protect their child. In sum: When is it okay to touch babies? When their parents say so.
Please don’t take these firm guidelines personally. This isn’t a matter of wanting to keep children isolated from people who care for them! It’s a matter of protecting those kids from the germs of those who love them most. When in doubt - don’t touch the baby.
How do you tell people not to kiss your baby? Share your best approaches with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #DontKissTheBaby.