You are trying to keep your new baby isolated from the world’s viruses and bacteria – but need to run to the grocery store… What is a new parent to do???
This is a topic on which doctors and nurses, though we don’t mean to, often give confusing advice. With cold and flu season in full swing, it seems an appropriate time to address this common question.
Why try to isolate newborn babies at all?
When babies are first born, they do not have well-developed immune systems. As newborns, not having been exposed to the viruses and bacteria that make people sick, they do not have previously built-up illness fighting antibodies (immune responders), and they actually are not yet able to make antibodies to new exposures in the way that older infants and children can. (*Of note, breastfed infants receive antibodies from their mothers through breast milk – another added benefit of breastfeeding!)
Therefore, newborns are more likely to get sick if they come in contact with the same thing that an older child or adult does. Because their immune systems are not as well-developed, they are also not as good at controlling infections, and we must take fever in newborn infants more seriously. Under 2 months of age, a fever greater that 100.4 is usually evaluated in the emergency room. You should always contact your doctor if your infant under 2 months has a rectal temperature greater than 100.4.
How do you shelter your newborn without going crazy from cabin fever?
- Make sure you are smart in your own home about keeping germs away from your sweet little one. If visiting friends or family members are sick, let them know you would rather have them visit after they recover. Ask all visitors to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer prior to holding your newborn.
- Avoid crowded places. A packed stadium or theater where people are coughing or sneezing is not a great place for a new baby to be.
- Do get out of the house! Being home with a newborn all day will cause many people to go stir crazy. You need to get out of the house for your sanity, to run errands, etc, just be smart about how you do it.
- Daily walks in the neighborhood are a great way to get out and be active without exposing your little one to anyone who is sick.
- Be smart when you are at the grocery store or running other errands by keeping your baby in a carrier or on your chest (in a sling or wrap) so that strangers are less likely to touch. Newborns, like pregnant bellies, often act as magnets for strangers. It is ok to be a bit protective about your new little baby.
Why is 2 months the magic age?
By the age of 2 months, your baby’s immune system will be better developed and fevers can be evaluated at your pediatrician’s office rather than taking a trip to the ER. That first set of vaccines is received at 2 months, as well, giving additional protection.