When you bring home your NICU baby, nurses or pediatricians or NICU doctors may have thrown around the words “winter lockdown” and “preemies are more susceptible…” and to “keep them isolated.” What does this look like when taking your preemie out of the house, though (if that’s even allowed)? Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to keep your baby’s immune system safe outside of your Purell-laced home (Ha!).
Shield your baby
Doctor’s offices always freaked me out, and as all NICU parents know, after your baby’s homecoming, there will be frequent doctor visits. My son came home from his 103-day NICU stay just at the start of flu season. Every sick child in my county was going to be at the same doctor’s office, in the same waiting room, sneezing directly into my child’s mouth, I just knew it! (Overbearing and controlling? No way! Keeping my kid alive?! Yes.) The infant car seat was our best friend. My husband and I would carry it into the waiting room with a huge blanket draped over (and only peeked inside if we REALLY had to). I found that if baby is covered (whether it’s a blanket over his car seat or cocooned away inside a carrier/baby wrap) very rarely will people try to sneak a peek at baby. Of course you want to show baby off, but when it’s flu season and I don’t have your most up-to-date medical record, try not to get too close, yes?
Keep in mind that doctors’ offices are where the ill congregate; take extra steps at minimizing your little one’s exposure. Directly after doctor visits, I threw the car seat blanket into the wash and then threw baby into the bath. This seemed to work, as our son didn’t get his very first bug until he was 13 months old!
Keep your guard up year-round
Another thing to keep in mind is to not let your guard down during the non-flu seasons. Say it’s the middle of summer, and it’s like 99 degrees out and it’s so hot that the sun has to be burning away, just, everything, right? Plus the air is clean, you’ll probably be outside more than inside (less close contact exposure), it’s all good. Like previously stated, my son didn’t get sick for the very first time until he was 13 months old. But it was also July! I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but it definitely happens! I think in the non-flu seasons the things to look out for the most are shopping centers, grocery stores, places where an array of people are going in and out. Use those sanitary cart wipes; don’t feel insecure. Those things are the best.
Taking your preemie out of the house to visit family and friends serves as a great outing void of public shopping cart handles. Feel comfortable enough to ask if anyone in the household is sick or has the sniffles before visiting. I know this can be hard because some people simply aren’t receptive to this. But that certainly doesn’t make it all the more important! Personally, I didn’t require that everyone use hand sanitizer before holding baby, but I made sure no one was sick. The bug that can cause even mild symptoms in an adult can wreak havoc on a preemie’s immune system, so don’t take the risk.
This too shall pass
Remember too, that this stage will pass. There will be a day when you won’t have to worry about taking your preemie out of the house as much. Getting your preemie through those first several months in a relatively sterile environment will go a long way in ensuring continual good health and time to allow that immune system to grow!