Congratulations on your new addition to the family! You’ve now brought home your precious newborn baby, and you may be worrying about how to keep them healthy. What should you be doing to protect them, given all the germs, bacteria, and other nasties your newborn might be exposed to?
Here are some ways to keep your baby as healthy as possible.
Why it’s so important to keep your newborn healthy
Your newborn’s immune system is still developing, so he or she is at a higher risk for developing serious complications from illnesses. Germs and bacteria that are harmless to adults can be very serious for infants, and newborns can become ill very quickly.
In addition, newborns attract the attention of family members, friends, and even strangers who want to hold and touch your baby. This could expose them to more germs and viruses than they would normally experience with just you and your partner.
12 strategies for keeping your newborn healthy
These strategies to keep your newborn baby healthy likely includes some tips you already may have already known, but read all the way through to ensure you don’t miss any potential new ones that you may not have heard of before.
This refers to two areas: vaccinations for your child, and vaccinations for the people around them.
Newborns will only receive their Hepatitis B vaccination at birth, and then the rest at later intervals for their first 4 years.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to ensure all adults – including caretakers, family, and friends – and every child over six months of age are up to date with their vaccination schedule, as recommended by your doctor.
2. Dress your newborn appropriately
Make sure your baby is dressed warmly, which might be a little warmer than you are dressed. However, be careful that you don’t put too many layers on them as being too hot and sweaty can lead to dehydration and in turn to a greater risk of getting sick.
It’s a fine line to balance, and so it is recommended that you speak with your paediatrician or medical health professional to discuss how many layers for different temperatures you should be using.
3. Encourage hand-washing
Family members, friends, and visitors should be encouraged to wash their hands with a suitable antibacterial hand wash before they hold your baby. They could be contagious or spread harmful germs even if they’re showing no symptoms.
4. Breastfeeding is encouraged, but isn’t your only option
The World Health Organisation recommends that breastfeeding be the primary food for infants up to 6 months of age when possible. Breast milk can support your baby’s health, giving your newborn the mother’s antibodies and a greater level of immunity.
However, breastfeeding isn’t the right choice, or even an option, for many mothers. Anywhere up to 86% of Australian babies up to the age of six months may not be exclusively breastfed, instead either supplementing or substituting using baby milk formulas. While there is no shortage of debate concerning the best approach to formula, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor about what’s right for you and your child, as well as ensuring that you maintain regular skin-to-skin contact during infancy.
5. Guide older children to have healthy hygiene practices
Teach your older kids and any visiting children appropriate hygiene practices for the new child. Hand washing before holding the baby, covering coughs and sneezes, and discarding the tissue after blowing one’s nose are all basic hygiene practices to reinforce with the bigger kids.
6. Ensure your child is hydrated
Be conscious of your baby’s hydration levels. Hydration supports the working of mucus membranes and the respiratory tract, which are important for good health. Whether it’s with breast milk, infant formula or water, keep your baby well hydrated. They should be wetting at least four to six nappies a day as a general rule of thumb.
7. Remove footwear in the house
Have everyone in the household take off their shoes before entering. Shoes track dirt, toxins and pollution from outside, and crawling babies can end up exposed to the toxins on the floor. Even before they are crawling, when you lay them down for tummy time and to play then they are exposed to these germs, so it’s important to keep your floors clean.
8. Manage other areas of germ exposure
Consider where your baby goes. From childcare centres to friend’s houses, think about the way you can limit your newborn’s exposure to germs. For example, you could avoid taking toys to the childcare centre, where the toys could pick up more germs. It might be a good idea to also avoid crowds in the first two months of your newborn’s life.
However, keep in mind a newborn can get as many as 10 colds in his/her first two years of life. Keeping your baby back from socialising and play because you’re overly concerned about germ exposure could thus backfire, as some germ exposure helps them build a strong immune system. So it’s important you take a balanced approach.
9. Check your hand sanitiser
Using hand sanitiser and then touching your baby could mean exposing your newborn to alcohol. For example, if you have touched their hands or arms after applying hand sanitiser, and they then put their hands into their mouth, they will be ingesting the alcohol. So rethink using hand sanitising wipes or gels unless you’re sure about the ingredients and how safe they are.
10. Check spaces for hazards
Of course, colds, flu, and germs aren’t the only ways your newborn’s health could be affected. As soon as your baby starts crawling and moving around, check for potential hazards around the house. Look for things like areas they could fall (like stairs), dangerous water zones such as pet bowls, items they might choke on, toxic household cleaners , etc.
11. Avoid overusing the humidifier
A humidifier can reduce the effects of harsh, dry air, but overdoing it could be harmful for your baby. Make sure your humidifier is cleaned and sterilised regularly. Be aware running it too much may encourage mould growth in your child’s room, which could cause respiratory issues.
12. Brush their teeth
Good dental hygiene supports good health even in babies.You should begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they start appearing.
Newborn babies need a lot of care and attention in the first years of life. By taking these measures to reduce the risk of illness, you can help your baby avoid getting seriously sick at a time when their immune systems are still developing.
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