Please Don't Touch The Baby!
The dreaded Flu season becomes even more dreaded when you have a newborn. Everyone wants to hold or even just look at your sweet bundle of joy but it's okay to say no!
During the first few days, weeks and months of your baby's life, their immune system just isn't as capable as yours. You've had a lifetime of exposure to germs and illnesses that your body has become a pro at fighting off. But let's face it, we still get sick from time to time. A Flu diagnosis for your newborn, though rare, can be life threatening so it's important to take precautions to keep that precious little one as protected as possible.
What's the plan of action?
Let's start with the obvious. Keeping your baby from the general public can be the greatest defense in your baby's health journey. Staying home and limiting trips to crowded, public places is a good place to start. In our busy society, people keep going even when they feel sick and have contagious symptoms. They take medication and go on about their day and in doing so, they are laying a quilt of nastiness in their path. Door handles, elevator buttons, stair railings, tables, chairs...ahhhh the list goes on and on. You become exposed, as does your newborn.
If not going out in public isn't an option, try to keep the baby as unavailable to the general population as possible. Baby-wearing is a great option here. If baby is wrapped up and next to your body, people are less likely to want to touch or even peek. You can also keep baby in a stroller and keep a blanket handy to throw over the opening. For the most part, people respect this boundary. If not, feel free to say "I just got the baby to sleep" as they approach the border. Even if the baby is full blown crying. It's also okay to simply say "Step away from the baby". Some people don't understand social cues so being direct can be effective. Hand sanitizers and cleaning wipes can be super helpful when it's necessary to come in contact with tables at a restaurant or public restrooms. Change clothes as soon as you reach home so you're not holding baby close to clothes that may be carrying germs.
Limiting guests, especially children, during the first few months is ideal when you have a little one who can't fend off whatever illness they might carry. Even the hospitals carry a flu policy during the season of "Under the age of 14 not allowed". It's a good policy to have in your home too! Thankfully, with the technology we have today, FaceTime or Skype provide you with an alternative to those who want to see your newest addition without actually holding the baby. It's a good idea to screen your guests before they arrive. Make sure everyone has been fever free for 24 hours (without the aid of a fever reducer). Any additional contagious symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea are an automatic "Let's reschedule". Sorry, not sorry. Kissing is also not necessary. As difficult as it is to not smooch a sweet newborn, it is just literally a recipe for disaster. Especially on the mouth. Sometimes their little baby hands get kissed too. Those usually end up in the baby's mouth. It's just okay to say "Please don't kiss the baby". Hand sanitizer and hand washing go a long way here too. Always request this from your visitors.
Breastfeeding is one of the greatest ways to make sure your baby's immunity is in top notch form. Especially the first few days when baby is receiving Colostrum full of antibodies. It's a proactive way to try to keep your baby healthy.Even if you have the flu yourself, you should continue to breastfeed your baby. It's also possible to pump and have someone else feed the baby. Just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before pumping and make sure everything is sterilized after. If you're unable to breastfeed, check with your pediatrician to see what formula they recommend to help boost baby's immunity.
Ultimately, if your baby does develop symptoms that are flu-like, the workup for them to be diagnosed is pretty extensive. Pair that with how difficult it is for them to fight it off and it just seems incredibly important to do whatever you can to protect them. Don't hesitate to call your pediatrician if you are concerned that your baby is showing symptoms of the flu.