“Aww so cute!”
I turned around just in time to see a hand reaching for my baby’s cheeks. My husband, who was holding our baby, hadn’t realised.
“Please don’t touch my baby!” I said loudly.
The woman threw me a dirty look as if I was the one who had committed a grievous offence, not her. Maybe she thought I was being racist? I made a face. “There’s a pandemic going on, hello?!”
Her face changed. She dropped her hand and walked off without a word.
True story, folks. And it’s not just a one off either. Now I’m not usually this rude or abrupt, but I think most parents of babies will agree with me when I say that nothing gets my blood boiling quicker than strangers thinking it’s okay to touch babies.
Let me say it louder for people in the back.
Stop. Touching. Babies.
Firstly, a baby is a person. Do you go around touching strangers without their consent? If you do, please walk yourself to the nearest police station and hand yourself in thank you. If you don’t, I’m glad that you have some common sense and decency, now please apply it to babies as well. A baby is not an object to be handled, passed around, or touched as you please. Sure, a baby can’t yet give consent, but the parents surely can and most parents won’t want you touching their babies, even if they’re too polite to say so.
Secondly, it’s a health hazard! We don’t know where your hands and mouth have been! Especially with a raging pandemic out there. Babies, especially newborns, have yet to develop their immune system. Getting babies sick can be extremely dangerous, and it causes an immeasurable amount of stress to the parents who now have to look after a sick baby and might have to take time off work to do so. Inconvenient and worrying. Sadly, despite the raging pandemic, some people still forget to socially distance themselves from babies and other people. Sometimes though, it really is out of our hands (cough pun intended cough) and babies will get sick, but there are some things we can do to minimise the risks. Here are some tips on how to help keep baby healthy.
Practise good hygiene by washing your hands constantly, especially before handling baby. Don’t just rinse them quickly under the water either, make sure you get in there with a good soap scrubbing and washing off! And ensure that anyone who wants to touch baby does the same.
Carry hand sanitizer and sanitizing spray/wipes with you for when you’re out and about and can’t wash your hands. Wipe down any surfaces that baby might be in contact with such as highchairs. Make sure that anyone who wants to touch baby sanitizes their hands first too.
3. Avoid kisses.
This one is for the friends and family. I know! It’s so difficult to refrain from kissing these little bundles of joy. It might surprise you to know though, that kissing babies can lead to life threatening illnesses for them, like RSV. If you absolutely must kiss baby, don’t do it on their face or hands. Instead, try kissing bellies or legs where there is less chance of your germs ending up in their mouths.
4. Avoid large crowds.
Try not to take baby where there are large crowds of people, especially in areas that are not well ventilated. Keep gatherings intimate. This way, you also limit the number of people wanting to get their grubby hands on baby!
Try babywearing when you take baby out. I’ve found that people are much less likely to reach for baby when they are snuggled up nice and close to you, than when they are in a pram. This way, you have more control as well with keeping your distance from others.
6. Health screening.
This is especially important, and one that often gets forgotten by others in the excitement of meeting a new baby. Everybody wants to come visit. This is great, and of course you want to introduce your little bundle of joy. However, make sure to let people know not to visit if they are sick or feeling unwell, even if it’s just a little sniffle. What might be a harmless cold could be very harmful for a newborn baby. They will be welcome to come once they’ve recovered. In the new normal of living with COVID-19, ask any visitors to take a self-test before coming.
7. Doctor's orders!
If you are worried that you won’t be able to stop that pushy aunt from smothering your newborn with kisses, invoke a higher authority. Blame it on the doctor and let them know that the paediatrician has advised you to keep other people’s physical interaction with your newborn to a minimum.
Follow your baby’s vaccination schedule and get them vaccinated. This will help protect them from harmful diseases such as TB, measles, and whooping cough. Discuss with your paediatrician if you have any concerns or questions regarding the vaccinations. If your baby is sick before a scheduled vaccination, call and ask if you should reschedule or if it’s okay to go ahead.
Lastly, remember that you are your child’s biggest advocate for their health and safety. It can be hard to draw clear boundaries, especially with friends and family when we don’t want to hurt their feelings. But trust me when I say that hurt feelings are better than sick babies, and if you won’t advocate for your child then who will?
As for the rest of us, let’s make sure we all do our part in stopping the spread of illnesses, NOT just COVID-19. Stay home if you’re unwell, mask up in public places, and practise good hygiene. And don't touch babies. Just don't.