You know the old joke—“For my firstborn, I sterilized the pacifier when it fell on the floor. For my secondborn, I blew on it. My thirdborn just licks the floor directly.” By the time kid two and three roll around, parents find their comfort level in terms of exposure to germs. There’s a lot of conversation nowadays about the microbiome, and we know that exposure to different microflora in general is important. Things like being outside and playing on the ground contribute to it in a healthy way.
There are times, though, that protection from germs is pivotal for the littlest members of our families. RSV, for example, presents as a mild cold for adults, but can be deadly to a newborn. Things like Hand, Foot, and Mouth spread quickly through schools and daycare, so what’s a mom to do?
First, the basics. Have an expectation with your family and every visitor that they must wash or sanitize their hands when they enter the house. We kept a big pump bottle of sanitizer on the counter to make this fast and easy.
Even our school-age kid knows that when he gets in the car after school, the first thing to do is buckle, and the second is to use the hand sanitizer we keep in his car seat. We use the scented kind so that we can sniff out when he tries to skip it. We’ve halved the amounts of colds brought home with just this simple step!
Kids love kissing their newborn brothers and sisters, but they can be taught to keep away from the face and hands to minimize passing on germs.
Have a conversation with family about what you expect of them. Sometimes people need to be explicitly told that you won’t be upset at them for canceling on you for something like the sniffles. Talk about health in general parents friends! First-time parents may not realize that there’s a “24-hour-rule” for things like fever and puking for a reason—lots of times, the symptoms pop back up around the 23 hour mark! Having open conversations can help to eliminate those “Oh, I thought she was over the pukes!” moments.
Follow your pediatrician’s office on social media. Many times they’ll send out notices about what sorts of illnesses are going around locally and where it seems like they’re being caught. Last summer, this helped us stay healthy when a particularly virulent stomach bug was being passed around at the local splash pad.
Finally, between holidays, school shows, and family parties, there will be times when you just can’t avoid being in a crowd during flu season. Putting your infant in a baby carrier keeps them tucked safely against you, away from others’ germs. If you have a relative who’s known as the touchy one (we had one family friend who put our baby’s hands directly inside her mouth), it’s easy to say, “Oh, my little guy’s so happy in his ring sling right now; I don’t want to take him out and risk upsetting him.”