Discharge Instructions: Going Out, Visitors, and Your Premature Infant
The immune system is the body’s defense against germs and infection. An adult’s immune system constantly protects the body from germs. Babies who receive their mom's breastmilk have extra immune protection. But your preemie’s immune system needs time to develop. During this time, germs that don’t make you sick at all could make the baby very sick. So you need to give your baby extra protection. For the first 3 months after birth, keep your baby away from places where germs are easily spread and from people who may pass germs to the baby.
It’s OK to take the baby for short outings. A walk around the block, or visit to the park is fine. But to avoid germs, stay out of crowds and confined, crowded spaces. This means places like malls, movie theaters, or airplanes. You should also avoid bringing the baby to places where there are a lot of other children, such as a school or daycare center. Don't be afraid to ask strangers to keep their hands off your baby. You can always say something like, "Our pediatrician told us the baby could get really sick from any germs, so we can't let you touch her." Remember, your baby's health is more important than a stranger's hurt feelings.
It’s OK for the baby to have some visitors. Just make sure your visitors aren’t sick. Before having someone over to visit, don’t be afraid to ask if he or she has a cold or other infection. Also ask visitors to wash their hands before holding or playing with the baby. You might want to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer near the front door (out of reach of small children). This makes it easier for visitors to clean their hands before touching the baby.
Wash your hands to prevent infection
Most germs spread on hands. Washing your hands well and often is the best way to avoid passing germs to your baby. People who have contact with the baby should follow the steps below. If there are other children in the family, you may need to help them wash their hands, but they may enjoy being in charge of telling visitors to wash.
Remove any rings, bracelets, or watches you’re wearing. It can be hard to clean under these. (You may want to stop wearing jewelry and false nails until your baby is a little older.)
Use warm water and plenty of soap to work up a good lather.
Clean your whole hand, under your nails, between your fingers, and up your wrists. Don’t just wipe — rub well.
Keep washing for at least 10 to 15 seconds. You may be surprised how long this takes, so be sure to count.
Rinse. Let the water run down your fingertips, not up your wrists.
How long to take precautions
Your baby won’t always need this extra protection. As he or she gets older, his or her immune system will become more developed. After about 3 months, it will probably be OK to take your baby to more places and have more visitors. Talk to the baby’s healthcare provider to make sure. Also, take extra care during your baby’s first winter or two. Flu and cold germs that often spread during the winter can make babies very sick. You and any others who will be close to the baby should be sure to have the flu shot and the TDaP shot (for whooping cough) as soon as possible. Babies who are at especially high risk for the RSV virus can get shots of palivizumab to help prevent severe infection during their first winter.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer:
Lee, Kimberly, G., MD, MSc, IBCLC
Date Last Reviewed:
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