With winter on its way, I have been bracing myself for the onslaught of infection that inevitably shows up at my house. I am due to have my fifth child this November, and it stresses me out when I think about trying to keep my newborn healthy during the winter months. The neighborhood cluster of friends that happily played in my yard all summer will soon be bringing their snow-covered, slimy-nosed, yet adorable selves inside my house, along with all the germs they picked up at school that day. I know from past experience, I will cringe and my heart will beat faster with every cough and sniff as I stare at my newborn and pray she won’t get what ever it is they are packing. My mama bear instincts will come out, and I will start viewing these otherwise sweet, innocent children as enemy number one.
I decided it was time to do some research and see if there are some ways I can fight back. I realize, short of putting a DO NOT ENTER sign on the door and opting out of every holiday gathering, there really is no way to avoid all contact with the motley crew of viruses and bacteria that prey on us each winter. But there are some precautions we can take to reduce how many of them end up making themselves comfortable in our home. Here are 10 tips to keep your newborn healthy this winter from my own experience and research. Read on.
1- Teach your kids how to protect themselves from their classmates germs and how keep their germs to themselves. Make it fun. Tell them you have secret mission for them and give them a list of things to do to accomplish this mission, including, but not limited to:
- Never share snacks with friends
- Never share chapstick with friends
- Never put your mouth on the water fountain spicket
- Use the hand sanitizer on your teacher’s desk often- especially after opening doors or using the water fountain
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the restroom
- Cough or sneeze into your shirt or elbow
- Open doors with your back or elbows whenever possible
I know these things seem like common sense, but as a parent of children, surely you realize they don’t have much common sense until later in life, and unless you specifically outline these habits for them, they may never even occur to them.
2- Make your school children change their clothes the minute they walk in the door from school and then have them wash their hands. Easier said than done, I know, but this is the best way to get the school germs off of them and away from your newborn baby.
3- Avoid taking your children with you to public places unless it is absolutely necessary that you bring them along. I will often go shopping at 10 at night when the kids are in bed and my husband is home, A- because shopping with all my children is usually a miserable experience and B- because I can drastically reduce the number of germs that follow us home from the store if my hands are the only ones that touched anything. I realize there are times when you just have to take them. Bring along your hand sanitizer and for your little one riding in the cart, invest in one of these. You can also use it at restaurants to cover high chairs which is an added bonus.
4- Put your baby’s health before your desire to make other people feel comfortable. This is the hardest one to do, but if a neighborhood kid comes over with a hacking cough, as kindly as you can, send them home. When you go to family or friend gatherings, don’t be afraid to ask people to wash their hands before holding your baby. Bring along your hand sanitizer and offer it to them before they hold the baby. Be selective about what gatherings you go to. If the setting might expose your newborn to an onslaught of germs, just don’t go.
5- The best way to keep your newborn healthy is to keep yourself healthy as there is really no way to avoid close contact when you are the primary care giver. Getting plenty of rest really helps your immune system, but that’s not going to happen with a newborn, so you’ll have to beef up your efforts in other areas, including:
- Keeping your stress level down. Many studies have shown a link between stress and weakened immune systems. http://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eating a healthy diet high in vitamins (particularly Vitamin C) and low in sugar which breeds infection. You can read more about the importance of that here.
- Engaging in some form of moderate exercise if possible. Studies have shown this also boosts your immune response. You can read more about that here.
6- Get out into the sunlight, even if it is cold. Bundle up your kids and spend time outside on sunny winter days. Vitamin D has been shown to be a very important part of the body’s immune response and the best way to get it is directly from the sun. You can use Vitamin D supplements if you just can’t seem to find your way into the sunlight, but they are not as effective. Getting out of the house into the fresh air is good for everyone. When your family is cooped up in the house all day for weeks on end, the germs tend to pile up. Get some fresh air and sunlight as often as you can- your newborn included.
7- Carry a pen with you. This way you can avoid having to use the pen everyone else has been touching at the bank and the store to sign credit card receipts, thereby avoiding getting the germs of a hundred different strangers on your fingers that are about to rub your eyes or put food in your mouth.
8- Consider putting a kind sign on your front door that says something like- “Help us keep our newborn healthy by only visiting if you are healthy.” This allows people to think twice before knocking and will hopefully help you avoid having to awkwardly ask them to leave or not hold your baby once they are in your house sporting some kind of illness.
9- Replace everyone’s toothbrushes every couple of months or right after a sickness has gone through your family. Sometimes germs will linger on your toothbrush and you will end up getting sick again.
10- Wash your sheets and pillowcases more often and wipe down all your door knobs with Clorox wipes every day or so if you can. This will keep the germs that linger and grow there to a minimum.
There is a good chance your baby will still pick up a few bugs despite your best efforts- that is just a part of growing up. They have to build their immune system somehow. But, hopefully these tips will help you avoid the big bugs until their little bodies grow stronger and are better able to handle them.
Other posts by Trish that you might enjoy: http://www.doublethebatch.com/one-piece-advice-every-new-mom-listen/
And check out this post by Katie: http://www.doublethebatch.com/prepare-for-new-baby-small-budget/