What Should I Do to Protect My Newborn When I Am Sick?

Without a fully developed immune system, you newborn runs the risk of catching whatever bug is currently ailing you. Although spreading an illness to your infant is likely during close encounters such as feeding, bathing changing or simply rocking your little one, you can reduce the risk by taking a few basic steps.

Solicit Assistance

Many common communicable diseases, such as influenza and the common cold, are airborne and easily transmitted to others who come into close proximity with anyone infected. Of course, few relationships are as close or intimate as that between parent and newborn child. The best single way to prevent your baby from becoming ill is to minimize contact. Ask a friend or family member to care for the child for a couple of days. If you are breastfeeding, you can pump your breast milk and ask your friend or family member to feed your newborn.

Continue Breastfeeding

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If you are breastfeeding your newborn, continue to provide your newborn with breast milk even if you are ill. The government website Women's Health reports that most common illnesses cannot be transmitted via breast milk, and that breast milk contains antibodies that might actually help prevent your newborn from contracting your illness. Breastfeeding is discouraged only if you have untreated tuberculosis, human T-cell lymphotropic virus, HIV/AIDS, are undergoing chemotherapy or are taking antiretroviral medications.

Prevent Airborne Transmission

If you cannot find someone to help you care for your newborn, do your best to prevent airborne transmission of your illness. Try not to breathe directly into your baby's face and, if possible, leave the room if you need to cough or sneeze. According to the Centers for Disease Control, another prevention option is to wear a face mask while you are ill. Placing a blanket between you and your newborn while you are breastfeeding might also help to minimize the risk of airborne transmission.

Practice Healthy Habits

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Practicing general healthy habits around your newborn will minimize the risk of infection. Be sure to get as much rest as possible and drink plenty of fluids; taking care of yourself will shorten the duration of your illness, limiting the amount of time that your baby is exposed. In addition, be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently, especially before handling your baby. Wash your hands after touching your eyes, nose or mouth.