When you have a new little one at home, you're probably anxious to show him off to your friends and family. But before you get your baby all dressed up for church, you might want to hold off her debut for a few weeks or months. Depending on your baby's situation, the time of year and how touchy-feely the churchgoers are, it may be best to stick around the house for a little while before you take your infant out into large crowds of people.
1. Full-Term Infants
If your baby was born full-term and has no special health needs, you should still be cautious when taking her into crowded areas, warns AskDrSears.com. That's because those attending church may want to touch and hold your little one, transferring harmful germs to her immature immune system and causing sickness. AskDrSears.com recommends keeping your little one out of crowded places for at least a few months. When in doubt, ask your pediatrician if going to church is OK during your next well-baby checkup.
2. Premature Infants
If your little one was born prematurely or has health issues, your time at home might be extended, especially when it comes to church, playgroups and other social situations. On Intelihealth.com, Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, suggests that these infants have special needs and weaker immune systems that may need more time to develop than full-term babies. He points out that anything you can do as a parent during the first three months to limit your baby's exposure and risk for illness reduces your chances of experiencing the trauma of a sick baby. Because premature and special-needs infants vary on a case-by-case basis, always talk to your pediatrician about your little one's immune system and a suggested schedule for taking her out and about.
3. RSV Season
Babies born during the season where a yearly outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is common may need some extra time at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the RSV season usually starts in December or January and ends in April or May. RSV is especially dangerous and can even be deadly to infants. Because adults can carry the virus with much less severe symptoms, attending church with a newborn might not be a good idea during these months.
After speaking with your pediatrician and deciding that church and other social situations are acceptable for your infant, take precautions to help protect your baby from germs and illness. Make sure that your infant's vaccinations are up-to-date and ask that parishioners wash their hands before they touch or hold your little one, suggests KidsHealth.org. Or use a sling or carrier cover to place a barrier between well-wishers and your baby, enforcing a "look but don't touch" policy to protect your little one. As always, keep your baby away from anyone who has visible symptoms of illness, like a runny nose or a cough.