The holidays are a time for festive gatherings in the homes of friends and relatives. But, for parents of new babies, these parties are often stress-inducing, posing many questions about their newborn’s safety: “Is it safe for my baby to be around all these people?”, “What illnesses can my baby get?”, “Is there anything I can do to prevent my infant from catching something contagious?” Fortunately, the answer to the question posed in the title is, Yes, you can take your newborn to holiday parties, but you and the other guests should follow some simple guidelines.
First of all, having a baby is a joyous, momentous event, and that should be shared with those family and friends who are closest to you. So, feel free to have people over to your house, or go to others’ homes if you feel like celebrating. Don’t push yourself, however: as a new mom, your body’s been through a lot, and if you don’t feel like going to a crowded party and making small talk, then don’t.
But if you do, then follow some simple procedures to prevent your newborn from catching a contagious illness:
- Anyone with a cold, fever, cough, or other contagious illness should not pick up or kiss the baby
- Anyone who will pick up the baby should first wash their hands
- Try to keep small children from handling the baby, as they often have poor hand hygiene and are frequent transmitters of contagion
- Unvaccinated children or adults should not be around the baby until after her first set of vaccines, around 2 months old
The Importance of Vaccines
Babies don’t get vaccinated against most communicable diseases until they are several months old. Therefore, it is imperative that some common vaccines be given to those people who are around the baby a lot, such as parents, siblings, grandparents, and day care workers. This is known as cocooning.
The two vaccines that are most important are the Tdap and the influenza. The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Of these, the key illness is whooping cough. Many teens and adults can have a case of whooping cough which, in those age groups, looks like a nagging, annoying cough of a few weeks duration.
But, in infants, whooping cough can be quite serious, and even fatal. Babies don’t get their first whooping cough vaccine until two months of age, and don’t complete the series until six months of age, so everyone around a newborn should get vaccinated against pertussis. Most women are vaccinated during pregnancy.
Similarly, the flu vaccine is not given to infants until six months of age, so everyone around the baby should get a flu vaccine to best protect the baby. Influenza is a respiratory illness that causes serious complications in infants. Babies who contract influenza in the first year of life have a much higher risk of complications and hospitalization than older children, so vaccination of frequent contacts is vital to keeping the baby healthy. Pregnant women often get a flu shot during the flu season, and this may help protect the infant after birth.
Obviously, you can’t require everyone at holiday parties to get vaccinated. But you can certainly request that those closest to you who will be around the baby extensively to do so.