Once Your Baby Is Born
She faces a world of germs, starting with your own. As she passes through your womb, drinks breast milk, and cuddles with you, she's exposed to the bacteria, viruses, and other microbes your body naturally carries. These germs are helpful. Intestinal bacteria help digest food, for example. Skin flora eat dead skin cells and crowd out virulent germs.
To keep her immune system safe as it grows strong:
- Breastfeed, if you're healthy and able. You'll pass along antibodies.
- Make sure your newborn receives scheduled vaccines.
- Ask friends to visit your baby after 4 to 6 weeks, when she's hardier.
- Don't let people hold her. "Eighty percent of infectious illnesses are spread by touch--by coming into contact with contaminated people or objects," says Philip Tierno Jr., Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mount Sinai Medical Center, in Manhattan. If people must touch her, have them wash their hands.
- Don't let people kiss the baby. They may transmit germs that cause colds and flu or gum disease.
- Wait until your child is about 6 weeks old before taking her to busy places.
Items that will be in close contact with your infant need special care.
- Before washing his clothing at a Laundromat, run an empty cycle with hot water and bleach. Many germs, including E. coli bacteria and the hepatitis A virus, can survive in the washer and dryer.
- Always wash his laundry separately, using a mild, gentle detergent.
- Clean your baby's bottles before each use. Put them in the dishwasher, boil them in water for at least five minutes, or use a microwave sterilizer. Nipples should be rinsed with water and a mild soap.
- Buy dishwasher-safe pacifiers, and wash them often, especially after your baby drops them (see "Time-Out for the 3-Second Rule,").
- Seal dirty diapers in a pail, and wash your hands after changes.
- Disinfect the diaper pail regularly with a bleach-based cleaner and a spray disinfectant.
Time out for the 3-second rule
Your child drops a pacifier. Thanks to your Jackie Chan-like reflexes, you retrieve it barely a moment after it hits the floor. Should you give it back to your child?
Look at it another way. If the pacifier had dropped in dog poop for a split second, would you still let your child put it right back in his mouth? A floor that appears pristine can, in fact, have traces of animal droppings made by a pet or tracked in on someone's shoes. Now that you've lost your appetite, wash the pacifier, please.