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When can we take our newborn out in public?
Q: My husband and I just had our first child, and we’re wondering when we can take our newborn out in public. We’d love to show her off, but we don’t want her to catch anyone’s germs or cold. Everyone at both our workplaces keeps asking when we will be coming in.
Charlie Waterbury
A: Charlie, congratulations on your new baby! It’s wonderful that you’re proud of being new parents and want to show off your baby to your friends and colleagues.

You’re right that newborn babies are more susceptible to catching illnesses from other people because their immune systems are not fully developed. But don’t be overly worried. Your newborn is not entirely defenseless: she has some immune protection from the antibodies she got from you during pregnancy. Also, if you’re breast-feeding, your baby is getting additional antibodies and protection from illness through the breast milk.

We usually advise parents to be most careful not to expose their baby to illnesses in the first month of life. But remember that it is healthy for your baby to get fresh air, feel the motion of walking and experience new sights and sounds. It’s also healthy for you and your husband to go out, get some physical activity and have the chance to share your excitement and get support from your family, friends and colleagues. You can feel comfortable taking your newborn to the park, the supermarket or grandma’s house. But it’s best to avoid crowded places, especially during the winter, when more people are sick with colds and flu.

When making arrangements to get together with other people, ask them if they or their children are sick with a contagious illness. If so, wait until everyone is healthy before getting together. Limit the number of people you let hold your baby. Ask anyone who holds your baby to wash his or her hands first. Ask adults and children not to kiss your baby on the face or touch your baby’s hands since those are common ways for her to catch germs. They can safely touch your baby’s feet or legs instead.

Remember to wash your own hands often, too. And be sure to keep your baby up-to-date on her immunizations to help protect her from serious illnesses.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician