Every year, we’re warned that new strains of flu have emerged – often even more serious than last season’s. It’s enough to make any mother worried, but for those who have just welcomed newborns, the concern is even more acute. How on earth do you protect this tiny, vulnerable being from a condition that’s both dangerous and common?
Bring out the breast milk
According to registered nurse Pam Rowe, unit manager at Life Healthcare’s Crompton Hospital’s Maternity Unit, breast milk plays a key role in developing your newborn’s immune system thanks to the unique blend of proteins, sugars, fats and probiotics it contains. More importantly, breast milk contains antibodies formed by the mother every time she comes into contact with viruses and bacteria. So, if you’ve already encountered the flu virus and beat it, the antibodies that helped you do this will be passed on to your baby.
This is a tough one, because everyone – from your elderly neighbour to your mom’s aunt – wants to pop by and welcome your little one into the world. The problem is, they’re all bringing in germs from their different environments, adding to those that older siblings have already brought home from school. If you can’t limit the number of visitors to the house, make sure no one touches the baby unless they have just washed their hands, and as enticing as it is to smooch those tiny rosebud lips, there should be no kisses on the mouth.
By now you know one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of colds and flu is by washing your hands several times a day. If you haven’t already started, now’s a good time to implement this as a household rule. It’s also a good idea to keep a stock of facial masks (the kind that surgeons wear, readily available from pharmacies) in case anyone in the home catches a cold.
Limit excursions to busy places
Being housebound with a newborn is no joke, but try to keep your outings to less busy places. Imagine all the germs carried around by people in crowded malls.
One last tip from Pam: although you may imagine that a flu vaccine will keep your baby safe from this season’s lurgies, your newborn’s system is simply not strong enough to handle the shot. That said, it’s probably a good idea for you and your partner (as well as any siblings) to have a vaccine.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.