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should you wash hands before holding a baby

Should You Wash Your Hands Before Holding A Baby? (Or Tell Others To)

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It’s very common for new parents to freak out and want everyone to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer before they are allowed to hold their baby. Even though it’s a perfectly natural reaction, is it really necessary to do it and, if so, how do you go about asking other people to do it? Given today’s landscape, I thought this would be an excellent question to tackle.

So, should you wash your hands before holding a baby and tell others to as well? Special precautions should be taken around newborns to prevent any unnecessary exposure to germs from other people during their first couple of months. Asking others to wash their hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent this exposure and hand sanitizer can be used as a secondary step.

While there is no need to go completely overboard with handwashing, it is a common-sense way to help reduce the spread of germs to your fragile newborn. Let’s take a look at how we can ask others to wash their hands and the potential danger not doing it could present to your baby.

Tell other people to wash their hands before holding your baby

Some people are super polite and others have absolutely no trouble telling other people their opinion, regardless of the consequences. When it comes to allowing others to hold your baby, it’s completely okay to be assertive in asking them to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before you will let them do it.

From someone else’s perspective, it might seem harmless enough to skip it because they are just one person and they probably consider themselves to be pretty clean, anyway. Unfortunately, there are two problems with this:

  • People often have many common germs on them that pose no threat to them because of a strong immune system but could cause problems for a newborn
  • Everyone loves to hold a new baby and one person that skips the handwashing can quickly turn into many more which makes the odds much worse that some germs have made their way to your baby

At the end of the day, your baby is YOURS and it is also your responsibility to protect her in any way possible.

How do you tell other people to wash their hands?

This kind of thing can be awkward for some people, but it really doesn’t have to be. You just have to be assertive and be sure that other people know what should happen before they can hold the new baby. Of course, this can be easier said than done if you have stubborn friends or family that think the rules don’t apply to them (we all have a couple of those!)

I say that you should still just stay strong and let them know it’s your decision. If you aren’t able to do that, however, don’t be afraid to simply tell them that the doctor said it was a rule or that it’s hospital policy (if you are still at the hospital).

Should you use hand sanitizer before holding a baby?

The short answer is yes, probably so.

The long answer is that hand sanitizer is not a good substitute for washing your hands with soap and water. In fact, the CDC recommends handwashing for 30 seconds with soap and water as the very best way to reduce the spread of germs on a day-to-day basis for most people.

That’s because hand sanitizers are less effective against certain germs or viruses, don’t work well if the hands are dirty or greasy, and don’t remove potentially worrisome things such as chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still use hand sanitizer. It does mean, however, that it should probably could be used after washing hands as a secondary precaution.

If you are looking for a safer and natural hand sanitizer, I HIGHLY recommend The Honest Company for their awesome-smelling sanitizer sprays. These work very well for babies and kids because you can simply spray it where it needs to go instead of worrying about a messy gel.

These are finally back in stock and you can grab a single on Amazon or get a 12-pack directly from The Honest Company by clicking on the image below.

The dangers of touching a baby with dirty hands

During the first few months of a baby’s life their immune system just isn’t very strong because it is still immature. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this means that babies are way more susceptible to viruses and bacteria until they are about 3 months old. In fact, they consider it important to intentionally avoid outside exposure to germs during those months to keep your baby as healthy as possible.

What does this mean for you?

You should make other people wash their hands before they hold your baby!

While mom’s immune system does continue to work for the first couple of weeks, there is a definite time period of vulnerability there. Other than limiting exposure, breastfeeding has been shown to help boost a newborn’s immune system along with a host of other benefits! True, it might not stop everything – but every little bit helps!

Do newborns get sick more easily?

I wasn’t able to find any information that suggests newborns get sick more often than older babies or adults, but their compromised immune system means that they likely will get sick more easily.

This means that even common illnesses such as a cold could hit your baby harder than it would you. It also means that simple bacterial exposure is way more likely to lead to infections if left unchecked.

When does a baby’s immune system get stronger?

Like I mentioned before, your baby’s immune system will start to mature and get stronger at around the age of 3 months.

Now, this doesn’t mean that they suddenly have immunity to all germs. What it does mean, however, is that they have a much better chance at avoiding getting sick with every little exposure to germs at this point.

This is about the time that most parents start to loosen up a little bit, start taking their baby out around people, and generally kind of getting back to normal. Of course, babies should still be kept away from obviously risky situations such as large, crowded events or places. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to avoid bringing your healthy baby to the hospital or doctor (unless it is for them!) to avoid groups of sick people. Daycare and babysitters are other places to consider taking extra precautions.

When can newborns be around others?

It’s probably unavoidable to keep people away from your baby right after she is born – everyone will want to visit!

After that initial rush, however, you’ll probably keep to yourself at home for a while. At around the 3-month mark, it’s probably safe to start venturing out and letting your baby interact with others. This could include visits with family and friends, church, daycare, and other activities where there are lots of people.

Unfortunately, many people might not have the luxury to stay at home with their babies for three months and might have to use childcare before that point. If that’s the case, just do what you can to limit exposure elsewhere and be sure to bathe, clean up, and changes the clothes on your baby when she comes home from childcare to ensure that you remove as many outside germs as possible!

At the end of the day, figure out what makes the most sense for your personal situation and do what you can to ensure that anyone that comes into contact with your baby for the first few months of life is taking the proper precautions to limit germ exposure!

How long after smoking can someone hold a baby?

We’ve all heard of second-hand smoke, but did you know that third-hand smoke is a real thing?

Third-hand smoke is what a smoker gets on their hands and clothes after smoking a cigarette and it can have a negative effect on everyone, especially babies! You should also never allow anyone to smoke inside the house with your baby or even bring your baby into a house that is smoked in regularly!

Exposure to this sort of third-hand smoke could lead to an increased risk of:

  • asthma
  • ear infections
  • more frequent common illnesses
  • pneumonia
  • increased SIDS risk

In our personal experience, we have a family member that smokes. We have made it perfectly clear that if that person wants to hold or be around our children then she should wear a robe over her clothes while smoking which she can then take off inside to hold the baby. She also has to wash her hands after every cigarette!

Don’t be afraid to ask other people to wash their hands before holding your baby!

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!