Protecting your premature baby from infection at home

Premature babies are at particular risk of infection but there are lots of steps you can take to help protect them at home.

How can I protect my premature baby against infection?

Your baby may have had vaccinations against common illnesses while they were in the baby unit.

It’s also important that anyone who spends a lot of time with your baby is up to date with their vaccinations. This will help protect your baby against picking up some infections.  

NHS has more details about what vaccinations your baby can have and when.

Other ways of protecting your baby include:   

  • washing your hands after changing nappies and going to the toilet, and before feeding your baby or preparing food
  • washing your hands with warm running water and soap and drying them carefully
  • asking visitors to wash their hands before they touch your baby
  • not sharing towels with someone who has a stomach bug
  • using a tissue when you cough or sneeze, before throwing the tissue away and washing your hands
  • breastfeeding your baby if you can – breastmilk has many benefits for premature babies, such as helping them to fight infections, as well as helping you to bond with your baby   
  • keeping your baby away from smoke
  • avoiding contact with people who have coughs, colds or stomach bugs.

Can I have visitors?

You may want to limit visitors for a while after leaving the neonatal unit so that you have private time together to settle into being a new family. This will also help reduce the risk of visitors passing on infections to your baby. Premature babies are particularly at risk because their immune system isn't fully developed. 

It is important that no-one smokes in the same house as your baby. Secondhand smoke is especially harmful for babies and children because they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Find out more about smoking after pregnancy

You may find it stressful if you have visitors who want to hold or touch your baby. If you are nervous about this, try and explain the situation to them before they arrive. They will understand. You can also ask them to wash their hands before holding your baby, if you are comfortable with that. 

Going out and about

It’s important to make time to get out and get some fresh air. This can help improve your mental health and recover from giving birth. But your healthcare professional may advise you to be careful when you go outside with your baby because of the increased risk of infection. So try to find a balance between protecting your baby and getting out of the house. For example, it may be better to try going to places where you have a lot of space, such as a local park and avoid crowded places such as shops, restaurants and public transport. 

Speak to your health visitor if you’re not sure what’s best for you and your baby. Find out more about support for you and your premature baby at home

Bliss also has some information about helping your premature baby avoid infection

EFCNI, Hüning BM et al. (2018) European Standards of Care for Newborn Health: Transition from hospital to home. European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants.

NICE (2009) Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis in under 5s: diagnosis and management
Clinical guideline 84. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Geddes D, Hartmann P, Jones E. (2013) Preterm birth: Strategies for establishing adequate milk production
and successful lactation. Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 2013; 18: 155e159.

Review dates
Reviewed: 23 August 2021
Next review: 22 August 2024