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Discharge Instructions: Going Out, Visitors, and Your Premature Infant

The immune system is the body’s defense against germs and infection. An adult’s immune system constantly protects the body from germs. But your preemie’s immune system needs time to develop. During this time, germs that don’t make you sick at all could make the baby very sick. So you need to give your baby extra protection. For the first 3 months after birth, keep your baby away from places where germs are easily spread and from people who may pass germs to the baby.

Going out

Mother and father walking outside with infant.

Washing hands.

It’s OK to take the baby for short outings. A trip to the market, walk around the block, or visit to the park is okay. But to avoid germs, stay out of crowds and confined, crowded spaces. This means places like malls, movie theaters, or airplanes. You should also avoid bringing the baby to places where there are a lot of other children, such as a school or daycare center. Don't be afraid to ask strangers to keep their hands off your baby. You can always say something like, "Our pediatrician told us the baby could get really sick from any germs, so we can't let you touch her." Remember, your baby's health is more important than stranger's hurt feelings.


It’s OK for the baby to have some visitors. Just make sure your visitors aren’t sick. Before having someone over to visit, don’t be afraid to ask if he or she has a cold or other infection. Also ask visitors to wash their hands before holding or playing with the baby. You might want to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer near the front door (out of reach of small children). This makes it easier for visitors to quickly clean their hands before touching the baby.

Wash your hands to prevent infection

Most germs spread on hands. Washing your hands well and often is the best way to avoid passing germs to your baby. People who have contact with the baby should follow the steps below. If there are other children in the family, you may need to help them wash their hands.

  • Remove any rings, bracelets, or watches you’re wearing. It can be hard to clean under these. (You may want to stop wearing jewelry until your baby is a little older.)

  • Use warm water and plenty of soap to work up a good lather.

  • Clean your whole hand, under your nails, between your fingers, and up your wrists. Don’t just wipe — rub well.

  • Keep washing for at least 10 to 15 seconds. You may be surprised how long this takes,  so be sure to count.

  • Rinse. Let the water run down your fingertips, not up your wrists.


How long to take precautions

Your baby won’t always need this extra protection. As he gets older, his immune system will become more developed. After about 3 months, it will probably be OK to take your baby to more places and have more visitors. Talk to the baby’s doctor to make sure. Also, take extra care during your baby’s first winter or two. Flu and cold germs that often spread during the winter can make babies very sick.


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