My daughter was born in December, right smack dab in the middle of cold and flu season. When she was only 10 days old, she caught a cold and it was the most heartbreaking thing I'd ever experienced. In the midst of already feeling exhausted because she wasn't sleeping and uncertain about my abilities to take care of a newborn, I now felt like a failure at keeping my little baby safe and healthy. The truth of the matter is that germs are out there and there was always a chance that she would catch something. It was however then that I vowed to be more proactive about my germ warfare tactics and every year, I make sure to follow these 6 guidelines.
1. Ask people if they're sick before they come over - This will be especially hard if you're someone who doesn't like to ruffle feathers or if you're afraid of what other people will think about you but it's necessary. People aren't always considerate enough to tell you in advance and in most cases, it's not malicious, they just aren't thinking about it. If someone tells you that they are sick, have been sick recently or are starting to feel stick, politely ask them to postpone their visit. Your baby isn't going anywhere and most, if not all people should understand why you're making your request.
2. Wash your hands often and properly - If your hands aren't constantly dry, you may not be washing your hands enough. Any time you touch your mouth, nose, or anything else that may be carrying hidden germs, soap up. Properly washing your hands should take at least 20 seconds to get get all of those nasty germs! Keep bottles of hand sanitizer conveniently accessible for when you aren't able to wash. Insist that anyone who touches your baby washes their hands as well.
3. Make sure your baby doesn't get too cold - The rule of thumb is that your baby should be wearing the same amount of layers as you, plus one. Especially when they are just out of the womb, they have a hard time regulating their body temperature and need a little extra help. If you're feeling cold, check your baby's skin to see if they are as well. Ditch those cute outfits for warm ones and be sure to make sure your baby is comfortable often.
4. Take care of yourself - You are pretty much inseparable from your baby in those early days and chances are that if you get sick, you'll pass it on to your baby. The best thing that you can do to make sure your baby stays well is to stay well yourself. Drink plenty of water, get as much rest as possible and if you're able to do any preventative care like getting a flu shot, do it!
5. Be mindful where you take them - You don't have to be a hermit but think about where you take your baby and think about how exposed they are to germs. If you have an older child, avoid taking your baby into the daycare where germs are everywhere or to the hospital to visit your sick Aunt! If you do have to take them and can't avoid it, keep your baby as close to you as possible and shield them when possible.
6. Be prepared - If you've followed all of this advice and your baby still gets sick... don't blame yourself. There's always a chance that a baby born in the winter months will get sick and the only thing you can really do is reduce the odds. Further more, blaming yourself won't make the situation any better, it will just make you more miserable. In the event that your baby does get sick, do everything you can to help them get better faster. If you're breastfeeding, keep doing it! Your breast milk is full of antibodies that will help your baby fight their sickness. Make sure your baby gets plenty of sleep so that their little body can recoup and have any medical supplies that you can give to them available. When they're really little you may only be able to make sure their noses are clear with saline drops but as they get older, you can give them meds that will help alleviate symptoms and pain.
Good luck this cold and flu season and remember that winter only lasts so long and every illness is temporary!