How to Protect Baby from Germs

Easy Strategies for Keeping Your Little One Healthy

In their first year, babies may catch as many as six or seven colds—and that number can increase if they're in daycare. Cases of the sniffles are just a fact of life. The goal, then, is not to prevent each and every cold but to boost baby's immune system so she can fight them off faster and more effectively. Here's your plan:

  • Steer clear of kids and adults that are sick. Simply put, if you're not around the germs, the germs can't get to your baby.
  • Make it a rule: No touching the baby's hands. Newborns are irresistible, so it's really hard for people to fight off the urge to touch and squeeze and nuzzle them. However, a baby's hands really should be off-limits to the masses. After all, it doesn't take long for those little fingers (and any germs on them) to find baby's mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Stay up to date on vaccinations—hers and yours. Immunizations save thousands of lives every year, and even though they're not 100 percent foolproof, the germs that do manage to break through tend to cause illnesses that are shorter and less severe. Besides making sure your child gets her shots on time, ask your doctor if you're due for any boosters yourself. Certain vaccine-preventable illnesses—such as whooping cough—aren't big deals for adults but can be very serious in young infants who haven't been immunized yet. When the people around a baby most are protected, it creates a cocoon effect for the child. Mom, Dad, grandparents, and caregivers all need to be covered.
  • Wash your hands when you come in the house. Truth is, we don't realize how many different germ-covered surfaces we touch when we're out—your car's steering wheel, a shopping cart handle, store doorknobs, etc. That's why it's a good idea to take 15 seconds and scrub away any germs that may have hitched a ride on your hands. Another good idea: Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your diaper bag.
  • Avoid smokers. Cigarette smoke weakens babies' lungs, which makes them more susceptible to respiratory infections and more severe complications like pneumonia. If you or your partner need help quitting, you can seek support from your doctor or check out online get-quit sites such as BecomeAnEx.org or Quitnet.org.
  • Feed a cold. If you're breastfeeding, your baby is getting regular doses of immune-boosting antibodies (the cells that help the body fight infection). If you're bottle-feeding, rest assured that many store brands offer formula that's fortified with prebiotics and/or probiotics. These are special substances that can also help support your little one's germ-fighting power. Once your baby is old enough for solids, offering her a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will pack her diet with the vitamins and minerals she needs to ward off future illnesses.

This article was written by the publishers of Parents and American Baby magazines.

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