What Should I Do Before Visiting a Newborn?
Yay, a close friend or family member of yours had a baby- how exciting! Although it is fun to visit a new baby, especially with cute little faces like the one above, it can be exhausting for the new parents to keep track of every visitor and their health status. Instead of texting the new and exhausted parents, here are a few things to know before you go.
Get Your Tdap and Flu Vaccine Updated
Tdap is a vaccine given to help protect against Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (also known as whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that could land a newborn in the hospital). This vaccine is important for you to keep up to date as newborns cannot begin the vaccine series until they are 2 months old. As pediatric nurses, we have seen little babies in the hospital with whooping cough, and it is heartbreaking.
… but, didn’t I get that vaccine when I was younger? Why again?
Most people receive a 5-dose series prior to age 6 called DTaP and another booster vaccine around age 11 called Tdap. Subsequently, the Td booster vaccine is given every 10 years; however, it is important to point out that this booster does NOT protect against pertussis. Adults can unknowingly have pertussis and spread it to others. Therefore, it is so important to stay up to date with the vaccine when visiting a newborn. The Center for Disease Control recommends every adult receive a one-time TDaP vaccine so you can ensure both you and others around you are protected against these diseases.
It is important to note two things. First, we also highly recommend the flu shot for the same reasons listed for the Tdap. Second, vaccines take 7-21 days to reach full effect, so it is best to get both the Tdap and the Flu vaccine several weeks before visiting a newborn. Additional CDC information can be found here, or you can talk to your pediatrician.
Be Aware of Germs and Illness
After making sure you are up to date on your vaccines, please do not visit if you have any signs of sickness. As explained above, newborns do not have strong immunity to help fight germs. A mild cough might seem innocent but could potentially be deadly to a newborn. If you recently had a fever, cough, diarrhea, chills, stomachache, other signs of sickness, or have been around other sick individuals, please delay seeing a newborn. For more information about keeping your baby healthy during cold and flu season, visit here.
When visiting, it is wise to not bring other children. Kids can be germ factories since they tend to touch everything, not wash their hands, and forget to cover their mouth when coughing. If you do bring your kids along, encourage handwashing.
Time Your Visit Well
Many parents feel overwhelmed at first with their new responsibilities and lack of sleep. If you are not immediate family, it may be respectful to allow the family to establish a routine and enjoy baby bonding time before visiting. Parents are more welcoming to visitors after a few weeks.
When it is time to see the family, ask them what time would be best. Babies are on their own timeline, so before you leave, text them to make sure it is still okay. The baby may be breastfeeding, or they may be in the middle of a bath. They may ask you to come a few minutes later.
Which brings us to our next point….
Don’t Show Up Empty Handed
Before you leave, ask her if she needs anything, and try to be specific. If you ask her, “Do you need me to pick up something?” she may say no. Be more direct and say, “A coffee shop and grocery store are on my way. What drink and grocery items can I get for you?” She will likely respond with a few things that she may really want. If she doesn’t, try to bring her a few of her favorite things anyway.
There are so many things to remember when visiting a newborn, and although this isn’t all of them, this is a good start! What did you wish other people knew when you had visitors with your newborn? Let us know!
Kayla Loschky, RN, BSN