I’m not much of a germaphobe. I ascribe to the five-second rule. I don’t bathe my kids every day. And my kitchen counters could use a good wipe down. I firmly believe exposure to germs (and dirt and grime, too, for that matter) is good for our kids, and science backs me up on this.
But there is one exception to this rule: newborns.
In fact, this might not make me very popular, but I’m just going to come out and say it: Keep your lips, dirty hands, and nasty germs away from new babies.
Look, I get it. Babies are downright delicious. Those round, soft cheeks. The soft tufts of hair. That fresh smell. All that sweet baby goodness is evolution’s way of making sure parents can handle the months of sleep deprivation, piercing cries, and nasty diaper blowouts.
Babies are freaking intoxicating and downright irresistible. They turn us all into a pile of mush. In fact, just a few minutes with a baby, and we lose all sensibilities and common sense. We start talking in that annoying sing-song voice and referring to ourselves in the third person. We post pictures of their naked bums with annoying captions: #Adorbs. And we get all up in their grill with our germy mouths and dirty hands, never pausing to think about the nasty bacteria, dangerous viruses, and infections we’re exposing them to.
Like I said, exposure to dirt and germs are healthy for our kids. Science says so.
But this applies to kids, not babies. Because newborn babies have immature immune systems and haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, they are vulnerable to all kinds of infections and illnesses. It is literally a matter of life and death. In fact, a baby actually died when it contracted meningitis from a seemingly innocent kiss from someone with a cold sore, and there are several other publicized cases of babies catching herpes from someone who was unaware they were infected or contagious.
I know what you might be thinking. Oh, great, more rules from hyper-paranoid, uber-sensitive, snowflake helicopter parents telling us what we can and can’t do. Um…no. It really is that important, it’s not that complicated, and these aren’t just rules. This is basic common sense, human decency, and general good hygiene, people.
Don’t kiss the baby. Just don’t do it. For that matter, don’t let the baby suck on your fingers. Don’t cough or sneeze on the baby. In fact, for the love of all that is holy, just stay away if you’re sick. No one likes to be sneezed on, let alone a new mom and her tender little baby.
This isn’t a permanent moratorium against kisses, of course. Once a baby has been vaccinated and has a chance to build up their immune system, germ protection protocol is a bit more flexible. I mean, within a few months, the baby will be licking the kitchen floor as he crawls across it.
As a toddler, she might smear poop on the walls and splash around in the toilet. Before long, we find our kids are sucking on a half-eaten lollipop they found in the couch cushions. We throw our hands up and look the other way even if we’re throwing up in our mouth a little bit. With a little time, you can give all the snuggles and smooches you want (respecting a kid’s body autonomy, of course).
But when it comes to newborns, use a little common sense. Come visit the new family. Bring food or give the baby one of those adorable but completely impractical onesies with snaps. Ask to hold the baby (after washing your hands, of course) while mom showers, naps, or eats a meal using both hands.
Just please, don’t put your germy lips and dirty hands anywhere near that baby.