Published April 2012, next review April 2015
Protecting your premature baby from infection at home
There are lots of steps you can take to help protect your premature baby from infection.
Infection poses a real risk to babies, both before and after they are born. Premature babies are at particular risk of infection, because their immune systems are still developing. It is worth taking care to maintain high standards of hygiene during the early months and years.
How to prevent infection in your baby
- Wash your hands with soap and water after changing nappies, preparing food or going to the toilet. You should also wash your hands often if you have a cold.
- Ask visitors to wash their hands when they enter your home.
- Try to restrict the number of other people who hold your baby in the early months, as far as possible.
- In the early weeks, keep your baby away from overcrowded areas, such as shops and restaurants.
- Try to visit public spaces such as GP surgeries or baby clinics at quiet times when your baby will come into contact with fewer people.
- Try to avoid situations with lots of young children, such as playgroups or schools.
- If you have pets, try to keep them away from your baby during the first few weeks.
At times you will have to balance practicality with the ideal situation. These tips sound straightforward, but everyone's situation is different. For example, if you have older children, it is harder to avoid playgroups or schools. If you have lots of pets, it may be difficult to prevent them from having any contact at all with your baby. Talk to the healthcare team about how far you need to go to protect your baby from infection.
As your baby gets stronger, you will need to worry about infection less.
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Taking your baby home:
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'He has a few buddies now - other babies his age - but we're still careful about being around people who are sick. We don't go looking for trouble! And next winter we'll be the same, limiting his exposure to colds and flu as far as we can. We're not as uptight as we were about hand wipes and antiseptic stuff, but we're very aware that he has damaged lungs.'
DID YOU KNOW?
The room where you are most likely to spread infection is the kitchen. Be especially careful to wash anything that touches raw meat or fish, and wash or replace sponges and tea towels regularly, as they harbous extremely high levels of germs.