Keeping Baby Hale and Hearty
Keeping Baby Hale and Hearty
Lydia Hurlbut admits she was a bit nuts the first six weeks after bringing
home her new baby, Kyra. She wouldn't allow children -- healthy or sniffling --
within eyesight of the newborn. She admitted adults to her home only after she
carefully screened them for colds and other illnesses and even then she send
them off first thing to wash their hands.
"I was a total freak about it, absolutely psychotic," says Hurlbut,
who is a registered nurse in Pasadena, Calif. But she's convinced that those
draconian measures -- along with breast-feeding almost exclusively for Kyra's
first year -- paid off by keeping her baby healthy. "Kyra didn't even get a
cold until she was 8 months old."
Pediatricians say infants typically don't get sick much in the first few
months after birth, primarily because they're born with antibodies they've
acquired in the womb. Breast-feeding can also help protect against certain
ailments, such as ear infections and some respiratory illnesses.
Build That Immunity
Nonetheless, it's important to minimize exposure to germs in the first three
months because babies' immune systems aren't developed until then, and their
bodies aren't as good at battling illnesses on their own yet. Premature infants
are at greatest risk of getting sick since they haven't had as long in utero to
acquire their moms' antibodies.
"In those early weeks, their bodies don't respond as efficiently as they
will when they get to be 3 to 6 months of age," says Dr. Lillian Blackmon,
associate professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine
and a member of the American Academy's committee on fetuses and newborns.
Even the common cold can be tough on infants since they breathe only through
their noses during the first few months and can't cough to clear mucus from the
backs of their throats. Their airways are smaller, too. "They get into a
lot of distress," says Dr. Blackmon. "They'll be irritable, they won't
feed well, they'll cry, and they won't sleep very well."
Avoiding the 'Day-care Flu'
Parents can do a lot to stave off illnesses. "Number one, wash your
hands a lot because that's one of the major ways that things are
transmitted," says Dr. William Kanto, chairman of the department of
pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia and another AAP member of the fetus
and newborn committee.
Other popular pediatrician tips:
- Stay current on immunizations
- Keep infants, especially under 3 months, away from adults and children who
- Avoid crowded grocery stores, malls and other public places
- Choose child care carefully
If you have to send your little one to child care, try to find a situation
that minimizes the risks -- not an easy task, since even the best day-care
facilities, with the most conscientious staffs, can be awash in germs.
It will also help to limit the number of day-care providers you use: Find a
good day care and stick with it, and select a place that separates infants from
other children. "Think about whether this will be a family day care with a
few children or a large day care," advises Blackmon, "because every
time you expand the number of families, you expand the infection risk."