I’m here to help with one of the conversations you probably dread the most–how to tell grandparents not to kiss Baby! Babies are delicious and so kissable, but kissing a newborn can spread illness when they are very vulnerable.
Be clear but kind as you have a conversation with your parents or grandparents. Stay firm with your decision but remind them that it is only temporary. And, feel free to throw your doctor or midwife under the bus and say the directive is coming from them.
Some families are harder than others. Read on for real advice for all types of families, from facts to explain your concerns to scripts to ease ruffled feathers.
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Is it ok to ask grandparents not to kiss your baby
It’s easy to second-guess yourself as a first-time (or even experienced!) parent. Are you being too over-protective? Or too lax? It’s so hard to find the balance.
This may be your first time setting boundaries with your family, and while that’s not fun, it’s even harder if you’re doing it with your partner’s family. Establishing your parenting practices takes some trial and error, but this one has some clear medical evidence to help you decide.
Newborns lack a mature immune system to protect them from even the most common bugs, making any type of virus dangerous.
According to Dr. Sabella, Director of the Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, an infant’s immune system doesn’t really start to mature until at least they’re a couple of months old. This means that a newborn baby’s immune system is insufficient at fighting off any virus.
Knowing the potential risks involved, it’s perfectly okay to ask grandparents not to kiss your baby. We carry plenty of germs around that may not effect us very much, but they could make a newborn baby pretty sick.
Newborn babies also don’t have all of their vaccinations since they’re unable to get vaccines until they’re a few months old. This means that diseases such as whooping cough, measles, and chickenpox are diseases your baby is susceptible to getting.
Premature babies are even more susceptible to infection than full-term babies. If your little one was born prematurely, it’s even more important that the grandparents don’t kiss them or visit when they’re not feeling well.
Typically babies receive some antibodies from their mother during the third trimester to give them some protection. Premature babies may miss some of those antibodies since they’re born before the third trimester is over.
Why is it dangerous for newborns to get sick
The problem with a newborn catching anything–even a common cold–is that a small baby can deteriorate very quickly. That’s why babies under 3 months old should see a doctor anytime they catch even a cold.
While dehydration is the primary concern, the youngest babies are at high risk for bacterial meningitis when presenting with a fever. This often leads to spinal taps and hospitalizations for newborns with fevers.
Although modern medical care typically keeps your baby alive, the cost to your pocketbook will be worth having the difficult conversation with the baby’s grandparents.
What about kissing babies on the head or face
It’s best for grandparents to stay away from your baby’s face completely when planting a kiss.
If you feel comfortable, just avoiding a kiss on the nose or mouth will still lower the risk of them contracting something significantly. If they must kiss the baby somewhere and you’re okay with letting them, a peck on the cheek or head is less likely to spread germs to your baby.
However, it’s still possible for your baby to catch something even if no one kisses them on the mouth. One of the main risks involved is your baby catching HSV-1, or herpes simplex virus type 1.
According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of the world population under age 50 have this virus. This virus is contagious, and incurable, and It usually presents itself as a cold sore.
Anyone who frequently gets cold sores should know not to kiss the baby if they currently have a cold sore. But the real problem is the person with the virus can be contagious even before a cold sore shows up.
Even though most adults with the virus have minimal or mild symptoms, it can cause complications and even be fatal if a newborn becomes infected.
And, of course, thanks to Covid, we are all aware airborne illnesses can spread over relatively long distances. Much like Covid, scientists think that flu viruses also spread through droplets in the air up to 6 feet away from the infected person.
When is it safe to kiss Baby
A baby’s immune system won’t be fully developed for a while but during the first six weeks, it’s especially important for you to be careful about germs. When your child is a little older, their immune systems will better be able to manage viruses.
A baby’s immune system starts to mature when your baby is around three months old, so it may be okay for the grandparents to kiss your baby then. However, until your baby is fully vaccinated and their immune system is fully developed, it’s still important for visitors to stay away when they’re not feeling well.
Even if it seems like just a cold or another minor illness, it’s best to reschedule and have them visit when they’re feeling better. If nothing else, adjusting to a baby is hard–don’t put yourself through taking care of a sick baby if you don’t have to.
How to tell grandparents not to kiss Baby
One of the hardest parts of not allowing your child’s grandparents to kiss your baby is having to tell them how you feel.
Especially when it comes to older grandparents, they may think you’re overreacting or that it’s no big deal. It is never easy to have hard conversations, and some families make it harder than others.
You may be afraid they’ll get upset or offended when you tell them and if they do get upset, you may feel like you’re making the wrong decision. No matter how they react, you have to do what’s best for your baby’s health.
Remember, it’s your job to protect your baby, not your parents. Here are our best tips for telling the grandparents not to kiss your baby without offending them:
Assume the best
My best advice for starting this conversation is to remember your parents are probably coming from a place and love and excitement. Although it might feel like it, they are not coming from a place of control or undermining you.
Babies are cute. Most people want to kiss them. And what’s sweeter than your own baby’s baby?
And, we know a lot more about virology and immune systems now than 30 or 40 years ago. Things have changed–even if your parents or grandparents don’t want to admit it.
Explain your concerns
The most important part of this conversation is to let them know it’s not personal. This isn’t about you thinking they’re gross or dirty or you being a controlling first-time parent.
Prohibitions on kissing babies come from concerns about babies’ immature immune systems and the really severe consequences of a newborn catching an illness. Besides your baby possibly becoming very sick, you could encounter some horrifying hospital bills (on top of the ones you already have from the birth of the baby).
Show them the facts
If your child’s grandparents think you’re overreacting, give them some material to read. There are plenty of articles out there with evidence from doctors and other trusted professionals. A newborn contracting something serious such as HSV-1 is rare, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take proper precautions.
If you’re worried about your parents or in-laws getting offended, show them the facts so they know you’re not just overreacting.
Have a conversation before the baby is born
If you try to have this conversation when your parents show up at the hospital, it may not go over well. Give them time to process the information by telling them before your baby is born.
That way, if they do get upset, you’ll give them time to cool off before they actually meet your little one. If you’re sharing any articles or facts with them, this will also give them time to read the information and understand the risks themselves.
This rule is very common, so if they take the time to search the Internet or chat with their friends, they’ll find that it’s not unique to them.
Here’s the exception–you know your family best, and some might only accept the news from a medical professional.
Once you’re in your recovery room, talk to your nurse or doctor and ask them to break the news to your parents. They are excellent at shielding new parents from those who don’t listen to their wishes.
Be clear – no kissing the baby (for now)
Some grandparents will try to slip in a kiss and pretend it was an accident, that they forgot, or that they didn’t understand. It’s your job to leave no room for doubt.
Some people like to send out a mass text message or email with information about visits after the baby is born. Personally, I think it’s more natural to drop the information in a conversation.
For example, if you regularly talk to your parents, you can mention one of your regular calls or visits that you were shocked to learn that little babies often have to get spinal taps if they get a fever. Let them know that your doctor suggested the best defense is not to kiss the baby for at least the first three months.
By making it clear that the kissing ban isn’t forever, you’re enlisting your parent in your child’s care and safety rather than putting them on the outside forever. Plus, then they’ll know it’s not just them.
Don’t forget the sanitizer and soap
Banning kisses is just one step in keeping your new baby safe. Don’t forget to have everyone wash or sanitize their hands before holding or touching the new baby.
Some people use stroller tags to remind touchy strangers to keep their hands off, but these can also be subtle reminders for friends and loved ones as well.
Keep sanitizer around the house and model good hygiene. Sanitizing and washing your hands will remind them to do so as well. Or, when they want to hold the baby, simply offer sanitizer along with the baby!
When all else fails, blame it on the doctor
Let them know it’s the doctor’s orders. To make you feel more comfortable having the conversation, you can even talk to your doctor about it first. Ask the pediatrician what the risks are and how to avoid your newborn getting sick.
While your parents or in-laws may not believe it’s a real risk if they hear it from you, they’re more likely to respect your wishes if your doctor said it was necessary.
Set rules for when grandparents are sick
Even if they’re feeling well, it’s still essential for your child’s grandparents not to kiss them when they’re born. But you also may want to set certain rules for when they’re sick. If they come down with something, they shouldn’t see the baby until they’re completely well.
Something as simple as a cold can hit a newborn baby pretty hard. Let them know that it’s important for them to screen themselves before they come to visit and if they have any symptoms at all, they’ll have to wait until they’re 100 percent better.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What to do if your mother-in-law keeps kissing Baby
First, know that it’s ok to be upset with someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries.
Realistically, your best option will be to be proactive and direct. When passing the baby to her, remind her that she needs to avoid kissing the baby until she’s older.
Can a baby get sick from a kiss on the cheek
Given that common viruses like the flu can infect from as far as 6 feet away, babies can absolutely get sick from having someone’s face on theirs.
Nobody wants to be the bad guy and ask doting grandparents to back off, but it’s really an important step to keep your baby healthy when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Babies are magnets for kisses. They’re warm, soft, and so cute. Few people will love them as much as their grandparents, so try to keep in mind that they’re probably coming from a place of love and excitement rather than malice or ill intent.
Let your parents or grandparents know that everyone has to be a little cautious to keep the new baby safe and that it’s only for a little while. Soon, those chubby cheeks will be fair game!