It should be common sense, right? But sure enough, whether you’re in Boca Raton or beyond, every time you take your baby to the mall, a restaurant, or even for a walk at an outdoor park there is someone who wants to pinch your baby’s cheeks, poke their chunky legs, or (and yes, this happened to our daughter), put their finger inside your baby’s mouth. We know you see an adorable bouncing baby and possibly win a smile, but please, directly from a pediatrician: do not touch a stranger’s baby.
Let’s talk about the severity of a newborn getting sick. The newborn immune system is not developed enough to fight common viruses or bacteria that so many of us can brush off with some fluids, TLC, and tissues. Infants under 3 months of age (and especially those under 2 months of age), are at increased risk for a serious bacterial infection.
In fact, all babies less than 60 days old who develop a fever need to be seen in an emergency room for evaluation. These evaluations include a blood test, urine test, and may include a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to rule out potentially serious causes of the fever. Additionally, most babies less than 60 days old with a fever will also be admitted to the hospital for at least 2 days for IV antibiotics and further testing.
That’s why strangers touching your baby is a big deal.
Be Your Baby’s Advocate
Keeping your baby safe and protected is your most important role as new parents. Therefore, you should never have to feel shy about speaking up to make sure everyone who is touching or holding your baby has clean hands. Accordingly, any person who has a cough, sniffle, snuffle, sneeze, fever, or any symptom of being sick should not be allowed to hold (or be very close) to a newborn. When you’re amongst family and friends, keep hand sanitizer nearby at all times. Ask all visitors to your house to wash their hands with soap and water when they first come over. Then, if they are not holding the baby immediately after, using hand sanitizer or re-washing with soap and water should be done prior to holding the baby. When you’re out in public, keeping baby covered with a mosquito net or breathable blanket over the stroller is a great way to help keep unwanted hands away.
Wash your hands, then wash again!
As your baby gets older, fevers become much less concerning. Very little, if anything needs to be done other than TLC and perhaps a weight appropriate fever reducer for older infants and toddlers with a simple fever. That doesn’t mean that it’s convenient dealing with a sick baby. Because babies cannot blow their nose on their own, stuffy noses affect their sleeping and eating habits. Often times, when babies are sick, the entire household loses sleep. Your usual “amazing sleeper” or “fantastic eater” has no appetite and wakes up crying every hour at night.
So, unless you’re prepared to babysit and wake up every hour on the hour with my sick baby, you can look, but you can’t touch. And if we don’t know you at all, just a smile and an “Awww!” will suffice.