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Protecting Baby (and You!) From The Flu

Coming home from the hospital with your new baby is a momentous occasion. Sharing in those first nights at home, test driving the nursery, getting through nighttime feedings and the seemingly endless stream of family and friends who want to visit. But in the winter months, visits especially can take on a different level of caution if your child is under the age of six months as influenza season comes crashing down into Wyoming.

Wyoming already has shown to be at the highest levels of infection rates according to the CDC, and we are just a few weeks into the new year. How can a pair of new parents protect their newborn and take adequate precautions to protect baby from a serious illness like the flu? Read on and share with any new parents you know!

1.) Limit Your Exposure

A good rule is this: "A good defense is the best offense." You are not rude, though you may feel like it, by restricting access to your infant or even yourself during the flu season months. It is not only okay but encouraged; especially if those well-meaning family members or friends had the flu recently or currently have flu-like symptoms, have been exposed to or cared for those with the flu, or haven't had a flu shot.

As parents, if you haven't had a flu shot, it's time to get one. We have several weeks and months still ahead of where the influenza virus is a risk. Also, who wants to care for an infant while battling the flu, right? While the flu shot is not a 100% guarantee you won't get the flu, it does help prevent the most active viral strains that the CDC expects to be most rampant this year.

Being cautious doesn't make you a helicopter parent, or overprotective. In these initial few months of life before the first round of vaccinations, your baby doesn't have the antibodies to fight infection. This not only means they are susceptible to illness but that they will have that illness for longer and complications can be a factor.

2.) When and If You Do Go Out

Keep a distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing of about 6 feet. If you received a snuggly or swaddler front carrier, this is an excellent opportunity to get some miles on it as you keep baby close to you. People, again well-meaning, are less likely to want to touch your baby's hands or face if they are snuggled into your front.

Be your baby's advocate, if someone looks like they are reaching for your infant's hands or face, stop them. It's okay, again you aren't rude. Simply explain you are limiting their exposure until they are a little older and have built up antibodies. If in a stroller keep the canopy down and the blankets up!

3.) Take Care of You And Your Home

You may feel a bit like a germaphobe, but this is one of the times of your life where this is appropriate behavior. Wash. Your. Hands. Wash for at least 20 seconds in warm soapy water every time you cook, go to the restroom, eat or change a diaper. Utilize hand sanitizer if getting to hand washing isn't a possibility, but try to suds up at the nearest possible opportunity.

Pay attention to keeping kitchen and bathroom counters and surfaces germ-free, or as germ-free as possible. Disinfect shopping carts, use a paper towel when opening communal door handles, and keep a packet of sanitizing wipes in your diaper bag. Even the pediatrician's offices or our medical office building waiting area isn't off limits to being exposed, so make sure that you take precautions anywhere in public.

Eat well, get some exercise, get plenty of rest (well as much rest as you can if we're honest here). The more you treat yourself well, the better your immune system can fight on your behalf.

4.) Helping Baby

If you are nursing, keep nursing. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce ear infections and severe colds in infants by 63%. Infants who nurse are also less prone to respiratory tract infections or stomach bugs.

Another pro tip, don't delay your child's vaccinations. The first round is usually scheduled for the two-month window, be sure to keep that appointment unless you and your child's pediatrician have agreed to another immunization schedule. The more your child is given their boosters on time, the better able they are to combat serious diseases at this young stage of life.

Have any other ideas or tips for new parents on limiting their family's exposure to the cold or flu? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook page!