Germs and the new baby
February 20, 2018 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm not sure how cautious I should reasonably be about people visiting and holding my baby when she is born in June. I see people on reddit barring friends and family from visiting their new baby unless they get a TDAP shot. That seems extreme to me, but am I just out of touch?

So, when I had my first child 8 years ago I was the first of my cohort to give birth and I didn't really know what I was doing. Hours after my daughter was born, I happily handed her over to whomever wanted to hold her. I didn't make them use hand sanitizer, inquire about their vaccinations, etc. I took baby to shops and restaurants and never worried for a moment. Baby never got (too) sick, baby grew up and here I am again.

A few years later, my friend had a baby. When we offered to come visit at the hospital, we were asked not to. I wasn't allowed to hold the baby for about 3 months. Her kids weren't allowed to hold him. The kids and I were allowed to touch the baby on the stomach with one finger. This seemed strange to me - I chalked it up to the fact that this friend grew up in another country and I'm not sure what their norms are around newborns.

However, now, I'm reading reddit and seeing the ladies there insist that everyone who gets near the baby have a TDAP shot. I've never heard of this before now. Is this a fringe thing, or is it mainstream? I think of myself passing my daughter around like a hot potato years ago and I wonder what the hell I was thinking - but then again, I took the classes, I read the books, and I didn't get any warnings about standard, everyday exposure to friends, family and the world.

This time, my preference is to be relaxed again about who gets to be near the baby. Our family isn't that big. We don't have many friends in town. I'll pass out the hand sanitizer this time. I will inquire about the health of the very few young kids that may visit, before they visit. Is this enough? Am I ridiculously naive? What can I read on this topic?
posted by kitcat to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
requiring everyone to get a shot seems really bizarre to me and not "normal." Every time I've held a friend's newborn, they have requested that I wash my hands first, which seems completely reasonable.
posted by cakelite at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

Pertussis kills babies. When many US MeFites were kids, pertussis wasn't an issue because everyone was vaccinated. Pertussis outbreaks have become much more common the US because of anti-vaxers. People who are wary of anti-vaxers encourage their friends and loved ones to get vaccinated, including an up to date TDAP. Asking unvaccinated people to stay away from your baby seems pretty sensible to me.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2018 [55 favorites]

Tell them not to lick the baby.

That was the exact guidance we got from our pediatrician when we asked this question when our son was born. Aside from anyone who is horrifically ill, normal contact isn't a concern. Ask them to wash their hands just to add an extra layer of protection.

(We laughed at the time. Two weeks later, a niece licked him. WTF?)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2018 [43 favorites]

I think it's good practice for anyone who is going to be a regular caregiver for your baby to be up to date on TDAP and for people to practice good hygiene.

I didn't really let people (other than my husband and our parents) hold our baby for a while, but that was because she was less than 5lbs and a slow gainer, AND born in cold and flu season, so I wanted to be extra cautious until she was like 10lbs.

I have to say, I was shocked at how many people out and about would touch the baby. Like acquaintances and strangers. It was hard for me not to be like "DON'T TOUCH THE BABY."
posted by vunder at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

We asked folks in regular contact with the baby (grandparents, nanny, etc.) to get the T-Dap and their flu shot etc. Initially we asked people to wash their hands before touching her but quickly gave up on that.

We did keep a big ol' thing hand sanitizer near the front door and asked visitors to take a squeeze.

Honestly, my concern was much more pronounced during the winter months when my daughter was not yet fully vaccinated because of her age and I was terrified of the flu.

Good luck!
posted by jeszac at 11:44 AM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

My kid was born underweight at the beginning of flu season so we were pretty careful. We asked visitors to wash their hands before holding the baby and to not visit if anyone in their house was sick. When we went out in public I usually kept her in those one-piece pajamas with the fold-over sleeves to cover her hands, since so many strangers think it's A-okay to touch the adorable little hands of some baby they don't even know.

Our pediatrician strongly recommended that anyone who is "in frequent contact" with the child have a TDAP, so I didn't bug occasional visitors about it but I did ask her regular caregivers (babysitters and grandparents). Pertussis is prevalent in our county, perhaps due to a higher-than-average concentration of anti-vaxxers...
posted by xylothek at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2018

Seems to be the new normal, in some circles, based on the unfortunate rise of certain preventable diseases thanks to the low vaccination rates in the upper middle class urbanites, to say nothing of the low vaxx rates among those who object due to religion or suspicion of authority among every socio-economic class.

Following some pertussis outbreaks here in the Northwest, I had two friends and a coworker who gave birth within 6 months of each other on either side of February 2012, and one friend and the coworker, who don't know each other, demanded TDAP before I could touch their kids; the other friend didn't, and seems to be slow-rolling vaccinations on her own kids. Though she apparently believes in them, and ridicules people who don't, she and her husband have some theory about hitting the kids with too many shots at once. (It doesn't seem sound to me, but I don't know better and it's their kid, whereas I have no kids and all my vaccinations, so I don't hector them about it.)

I got the shot because it's better for me and everyone around that I don't get those 4 diseases, but the babies were the reason. Now those babies are hilarious little kindergartners, and I'm glad I got to watch them grow up all the way, not just from the point at which they were incrementally less likely to die from being visited by people.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

We had a rule that anyone staying at our home needed the pertussis vaccine/booster + flu shot for my youngest, in part because he was a near-term baby, but also whooping cough was going around and it kills babies. The people who get it tend to have been vaccinated in the past but pertussis mutated past a couple of rounds of vaccines and so people need boosters...which became clear when it started going around because of that + anti-vaccine advocates.

I would know as I had whooping cough between my two kids, despite having been vaccinated, and had held a newborn. Hence my rule.

Everyone else just needed to wash hands.

I’ve lost a baby so I allowed myself to be a bit nuts on this topic. I think it’s also fine to be relaxed. We all weigh risks and benefits!
posted by warriorqueen at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2018 [15 favorites]

The recommendations (medical guidelines) have changed since you had your first kid. (Why do I know this? Because my PCP had me get a TDAP in 2012 because I was planning to get pregnant in the next year-ish and they wanted it done before then. By the time I got pregnant in 2013, lo and behold, the guidelines had changed to say moms should get TDAP while pregnant and I had to get the damn shot AGAIN.)

Anyways, my spouse and parents all got the TDAP (plus me, as part of prenatal care, of course). Our midwives and pediatrician strongly recommend both of the baby's parents get it, and my parents are local and were over a lot/providing regular care. When they went to get it, both of their PCPs were very supportive. We had a nanny for kid's first year and would have required she get it as well but she was already up to date (it lasts several years). We didn't ask my MIL to get it before she visited, but I think she may have already been up to date on it. It's possible there's some geographic variation; there are non-vaxxers around here so they may recommend it more strongly. Your immediate family members (like you, baby's other parent, older kid) should certainly get the TDAP if you haven't already.

Your friend who didn't let anyone touch the baby for three months sounds fairly extreme (assuming baby had no health issues, and it wasn't a bad flu season!), but I did and recommend you ask people to wash their hands before touching or holding the baby. You have no idea where they've been and what they've touched, and newborns can be pretty fragile. If a baby gets a fever over a certain amount within the first couple of months of life, they need to do a spinal tap to confirm the baby doesn't have sepsis (systemic infection that can be fatal). I would prefer people wash their damn hands rather than risk a spinal tap, even if it's a small risk. Source: I work in public health & patient safety, and have a focus on women's & children's health.
posted by john_snow at 11:56 AM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

About five years ago, I was living with a dear couple and this was the recommendation then, as I was in the household. Grandparents and those with frequent contact were also urged to get the shot.

I don't think it's an unreasonable thing to ask. You can get it at Walgreens in like 10 minutes, unlike treating a baby with whooping cough. If someone who is going to be in frequent contact with the baby is reluctant, please look up some videos on YouTube of babies with whooping cough. It's horrific.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:56 AM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Even if you think you might have gotten one before, I was told some years ago as a hospital volunteer that if you can't document it, getting the TDaP instead of just a tetanus booster is basically fine, and people are supposed to be getting tetanus boosters way more often than they actually do, so like--this isn't actually a huge hardship. All you're asking is for people to be vaccinated against the things they SHOULD be vaccinated against, not some weirdo out-there stuff.
posted by Sequence at 11:59 AM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

You don't have to do this but it's not crazy either. Pertussis is no joke.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:03 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

We asked close relatives to have TDaP before they came to stay (we had soooo many visitors before the kid was 3 mos. old, ask me what I would change if I was doing it over). We lived in Ca. when our small was born and the vaccination rates in some communities have fallen far below the levels needed for herd immunity. We both had our shots while I was pregnant; I had a flu shot while pregnant to pass some immunity to the baby and my spouse and close family all got flu shots once she was born too.

It does seem extreme to ask people to get shots for you, I guess - but it also seems sensible and considerate that the grands all went ahead and did it before they came and snuggled her.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:11 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a summer baby as well. We asked that everyone who'd be doing significant caregiving for him be up to date on TDAP (basically the grandparents). We did not require that of every single person coming over to squee at him for 15 minutes and then leave again. But again: summertime, not cold/flu/pertussis season, so I felt comfortable being a bit more lax. If he'd been born in the midst of Raging Killer Flu Season 2018, I'd have been a lot more DON'T BREATHE NEAR THE BABY!!!
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:12 PM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm six weeks pregnant in Australia, and the official advice here is for the pregnant woman to get a pertussis booster at 28 weeks, and for all adult household contacts and carers to get a shot at least two weeks before contact with the baby.

Given the potential consequences I think it's fair enough, myself, but your comfort with that level of risk may vary.
posted by escapepod at 12:16 PM on February 20, 2018

TDaP is actually a good idea for the elderly or anyone near pregnant women, the elderly, or children on a regular basis. So I would not worry too much about asking people to get it, myself.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:18 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

We're about to have our first and my experience echoes what a lot of folks here have said - parents and any friends/relatives/caregivers who will be around regularly should get it. People who are visiting for a bit should not come over if they're sick and should wash their hands/at least use hand sanitizer before they hold the baby.
posted by brilliantine at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

No, you cannot "require" another person to get any kind of invasive medical procedure. You don't know what their medical history is. Yes, you can refuse to allow anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to your standards to hold your newborn baby, or you can refuse to allow anyone to hold your baby for three months, or whatever.

We have summer babies. We did not allow visitors at the hospital, and we restricted visitors for the first three months. For those that we allowed to hold the baby, we asked them to wash their hands first. We asked people not to visit if they were sick. We never asked anyone their vaccination status.

For the first few weeks we didn't let anyone hold our first baby. For the second baby my spouse got pissed and told me I was crazy and insisted that we take new baby out in public at 2 weeks and insisted that I allow people to hold him. Guess who ended up in the hospital with a fever at 3 weeks old, getting a spinal tap. No, it's not crazy to restrict public access to your child. You don't owe it to anyone.

Btw, all tests were inconclusive. Fever was due to an unknown virus, not something known/vaccinated-for. Don't drive yourself crazy; there is all kinds of stuff in the world, you simply cannot protect for everything. Practice good hygiene and good common sense (ie, avoid indoor playspaces during cold & flu season, for example), your kiddo will be fine.
posted by vignettist at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm very pro-vaccine. Many people will be vaccinated because they got the tetanus ab, and pertussis was probably included, and they didn't notice. Your baby will be covered by Mom's antibodies for a little while, esp. when nursing; ask the doc. Pertussis has made something of a comeback, but is still not common. I would ask anyone who spends more than a casual visit to get the DTAP jab. Hospital stays are pretty short these days, I would discourage hospital visitors unless you stay for several days. Maybe ask the hospital for some masks for visitors for the 1st x weeks.

I had a surgical delivery and a post-surgical infection which was super not-fun. I had left the hospital and returned hours later and had to be on a regular surgical floor. Having a hospital-induced infection, I made any visitor wash their hands and wear a mask, especially hospital staff who wanted to visit cute newborn.

Read what the CDC says; this is their area of expertise. Consider that you will be taking the baby shopping, to the doctor's office, etc., maybe child care, during the 1st 6 - 12 months. Assess caregivers on handwashing.

posted by theora55 at 12:28 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

If the baby will take a soother, giving them one during visits might be a good way of helping keep the baby's hands out of their mouth, and preventing adults from putting their fingers or lips on the baby's mouth/chin, which is probably also helpful for preventing diseases from spreading.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

First, congratulations!

Do what you are comfortable with.

Our twins were preemies, born in the heart of cold and flu season. Anyone who handled them for the first few months had to have washed their hands first and we asked them to use hand sanitizer. If they were sick, they weren't welcome in the house. None of our friends are anti-vaxxers, but we asked a few to make sure. Their cousins and other kids were allowed to touch the babies' feet if they weren't sick. (That last one seems to be really common these days.)

It might have been their preemie status, but our friends and family (some of whom are very stubborn about doing things Their Way) tended to be surprisingly good about "this is a newborn/little baby so we're asking you to be careful." But frankly, if they didn't like it, well, those were our house rules and these were our babies. When they had babies of their own, they could make their own rules for them. For now, they needed to respect our wishes.

Pertussis / Whooping Cough can be dangerous. An updated TDaP is a good idea for anyone who will be handling your baby on a regular basis, like a nanny or babysitter.
posted by zarq at 12:51 PM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

I had a friend who asked that everyone who wanted to be chilling out with her baby get the TDAP and I got it because it was offered at my doctor and was low friction. A friend of mine got pertussis as an adult and it was no joke, actually, so I'm perfectly happy to have been vaccinated again as an adult and I have no problem having been asked to get vaccinated.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:55 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

"When many US MeFites were kids, pertussis wasn't an issue because everyone was vaccinated."

for what it's worth, I had pertussis in the 5th grade (despite getting the shot when I was very young), was out of school for weeks, and still very vividly remember how frightening the disease was. When I first got sick, I thought I was dying. I'm definitely not dismissing how serious pertussis would be in a newborn! You can ask people who are going to be around your child to get the shot if it will make you feel better, it isn't really the "norm," but it's true that pertussis is very serious in babies.
posted by cakelite at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2018

Barring any out-of-the-norm situation (like preemie baby or raging local Pertussis situation) I would weigh carefully the value of demanding vaccinations for everyone who comes near with the cost of having fewer people who could help with the baby (e.g. come over and watch it while you take a shower, babysit for the night so you and spouse can go out, etc.)

Don't put yourself into an isolating bubble of your own demands.
posted by mccxxiii at 1:05 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Our grandson is now 2, we got the vaccination when he was an infant as did the other grandparents, since our kids asked that we do that. They live in CA where there are lots of antivaxers. Better safe than sorry. It was a different world when my kids were born.
posted by mermayd at 1:16 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

When we were preparing for the birth of twins a little over a year ago, my wife's OB suggested that all "caregiver" adults (parents, grandparents, local aunts and uncles) get updated TDaP shots and flu shots. When they were born six weeks early, we had to wash our hands every time we walked into the NICU, so when we took them home we continued that practice for a couple of months, and asked everyone else to wash their hands before touching them. If anyone thought that was out of the ordinary, they didn't say anything to my wife or me about it.
posted by bradf at 1:21 PM on February 20, 2018

I support pertussis vaccine for all those who will hold/breath on/cough near/kiss your baby, who cannot be vaccinated against pertussis as a newborn. The first recommended dose is at 6 weeks, and pertussis in a newborn can kill.

Both my kids had it as teenagers and hacked, coughed and vomited from all the coughing for many, many weeks. Babies literally turn blue during coughing spells.

Measles kills too, and childhood vaccination does not occur until 1 year of age. Please ask if the children of visitors might not be vaccinated, especially if there is an outbreak in your state. An infected child at Disneyland caused a nationwide outbreak a couple of years ago, fueled by anti-vaxxers refusing to vaccinate their children. Measles is incredibly contagious - even being in the same room with someone who is ill can spread it, which is why pediatricians now won't have sick and well-children appointments scheduled near each other, and try to keep waits before visits short to minimize mingling in the waiting room. This is really a Thing, not just an overreaction. Measles kills children every year, mostly un-vaccinated kids.
posted by citygirl at 1:23 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

People who will be spending significant time with the baby should get a TDaP. When I had my first, I asked my parents and siblings to get their TDaPs (and they did, and it takes 10 minutes at Walgreens). This was extra beneficial because when my siblings started having their OWN kids a few years later, all the relatives were already up-to-date and they didn't have to ask anyone! I was the first of my friends to have a baby, so I asked my friends to wash their hands. But now a LOT more of my friends have kids, so by baby #3, almost every adult she was coming into contact with had had their own pregnancy/dadding TDaPs, and they washed their own hands without me saying anything. (And with two big brothers in the house touching the baby constantly, I wasn't all that fussed about hand-washing, to be honest.)

When the flu is going around (or something else infectious), people are very understanding about you not wanting to take your baby out, or wanting to expose her to very many people. I have never been given a hard time about restricting contact when something infectious is active -- and if someone did give you a hard time, the other 99% of the world would have your back and be horrified on your behalf.

I didn't really worry about kids interacting with my baby because unlike adults who slack off on their boosters, kids have ALL their dang shots. (I knew who the anti-vaxxers were among my social sphere, and avoided them until MMR was on board.) As long as they're not obviously sick, I'm not super-fussed, and their responsible adult is usually urging them (with horror) to wash their hands before touching the baby anyway.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:23 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think your friend sounds extreme with the not going out and the one-finger touching, but then when I think back, I remember that strangers tend to get down in the baby's face quite a bit. Especially toddlers - they are really fascinated by babies. And toddlers don't know not to cough on the baby (some adults don't, either). When you go out, if you keep your baby up against your body in a sling, rather than in a stroller or carrier that gets set down, it will mostly keep people out of the baby's face without your having to say a word.
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:31 PM on February 20, 2018

My care providers told me that regular caretakers should get the TDaP booster if they hadn’t had one in more than 5 years. The way it was explained to me is that the whooping cough portion of the mixed vaccine currently in use appears to last only around 5 years, though the tetanus protection lasts for 10. The generally recommended every 10 years booster means most/many adults aren’t actually immune. My parents and aunt and uncle got the booster, and I think so did my grandma.

It’s funny you mention being first in your cohort... I think I had my baby so much earlier than all my friends that they were mostly freaked out and didn’t even want to visit or hold the baby, which saved me any decisions about yes or no. I did take the baby on a plane at 7 weeks, and parked the stroller in bars or restaurants while the baby slept even earlier.

I live in NYC and have noticed that it’s common to see very young babies, a week or two old, outside in bars, shops, and restaurants. From what I’ve heard from baby-making friends in other cities, this wouldn’t be so normal. I think people’s small apartments in the city mean that everyone, baby or no, leaves their place more often for socialization, buying necessities, and just not going crazy from being in a single room. Just an example of how much “normal” varies.
posted by sometamegazelle at 1:42 PM on February 20, 2018

22 babies died of flu in the USA last week; 84 so far during this flu season. I have an 8 week old and it is terrifying how widespread it is this year. This is a major reason new parents are doubling down on these rules right now.
posted by sadmadglad at 1:43 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Rules in our home w. new baby:
1. Everyone is vaxed w. Tdap and flu who enters house.
2. Everyone is symptom-free if they want to touch. (We've had a few colds come through the house, so there has been a bit of "look, don't touch" with those involved).
3. Everyone washes hands before touching.

If rules are followed, baby is passed willingly and lovingly from arms to arms.

Turns out, with cute baby in hand, following rules has not been a problem at all.

P.S. The one finger thing is strange.
posted by Toddles at 2:35 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

I live in one of the lowest vaccination areas of the country, which means herd immunity eventually stops having the same effect. One of my babies was born during winter and all over the maternity ward were signs saying that whooping cough was about and to get shots and not to come if you were feeling unwell. A few babies in my area had already died. Standard doctor advice was that anyone who wanted to hold the baby had to get the vaccination and best practise was to keep the baby at home as much as possible for at least six weeks.

I stuck to all of this with both my kids and had no shame about it whatsoever. No one actually argued with me about it but if they had, my response would have been along the lines of, you can have a mild cough and not realise it's whooping cough. If you unknowingly gave it to my baby and they didn't survive, because they almost certainly wouldn't as a newborn, I'm sure you'd be really sorry and tell me over and over again but you know, my child will still be dead. So I'll risk the minute or two of awkwardness in denying you a cuddle until you're vaccinated or they're old enough and we'll all survive that. I can't vouch that the same will happen if we do things your way.

I have heard of people who argue with new parents that they should be able to touch their baby without a vaccination/hand washing/whatever and I think it's the height of selfishness to potentially risk the health of someone else's baby because you don't want to take precautions. Your baby, your rules.
posted by Jubey at 3:04 PM on February 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

I also hung out on reddit a fair bit while pregnant (and now postpartum with an 8-month-old) and the conversation around barring visitors who don't have Tdap seems extreme and not consistent with how people in my social circle handle it. While I don't think there's anything wrong with someone having a rule that they don't want people to visit unless they're vaccinated against a particular communicable disease - whether that's pertussis, or flu, or shingles, or whatever - I definitely don't think it's very common. I suspect there's a bit of an echo chamber dynamic going on in those boards, where other new or expectant moms are so eager to support people who are trying to put up boundaries around new-baby visits that conversations have started to drift towards "OF COURSE no one can visit you without Tdap, duh" every time it comes up and it creates a perception that demanding vaccinations from visitors is something everyone does when it very much is not.

I think doctors tend to be more directive about avoiding crowds and encouraging visitors to be vaccinated for flu if babies are born during flu season; you may have missed this with your older one if s/he was also a summer baby. I think encouraging people to wash their hands before holding a newborn is very normal and many/most new parents do it. Keeping baby out of crowded indoor places for the first few weeks is less widespread but wouldn't raise eyebrows in my neck of the woods. Not letting anybody hold the baby, or demanding people are vaccinated before they visit, would be pretty out-of-norm in my experience but also something that most people will shrug and roll with because it's not totally crazy, just probably more risk-averse than most of us are especially with a second baby. (If the baby had any NICU time or was born early or small, it starts to move more into the realm of normal/expected.)

Not letting kids touch a baby and/or asking friends to leave children at home before visiting a newborn seems totally and completely reasonable to me, but that may just be because I'm a proud parent to the world's cutest 4-year-old disease vector.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:08 PM on February 20, 2018

I required people to get a tdap and a flu shot before meeting my oldest, who was born prematurely and had a compromised immune system, especially during her first two winters. I asked but didn't require that people get a flu shot before meeting my youngest who was born during flu season. I did not let people with visible or recent cold symptoms visit for his first winter. And we had very few children around our kids, because we were among the first to have kids, but I would have limited exposure to kids in daycare, preschool or elementary school if that had been an option.

If there has been a pertussis outbreak in your area, I don't think it's an unreasonable request. Babies die from pertussis and the flu. My husband has had lifelong complications from pneumonia as a six week old. The rash of anti-vaxxers puts babies at the most risk, so it makes sense to me to be more cautious now than when I was a baby.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:31 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Our pediatrician recommended asking for TDaP boosters from anyone like grandparents who would be holding the baby for more than just a little bit.
posted by slidell at 4:35 PM on February 20, 2018

More anecdata:

My OB recommended all people who would be around the baby frequently and early get the tdap and flu vaccines (spring baby). I talked to my brother and my parents; my brother got both vaccines and my parents had already had flu shots and recent tdap boosters. I got the flu vaccine and tdap as part of my prenatal care, my wife always gets the flu vaccine and got a tdap booster.

We did not ask any other visitors about vaccines. We asked everyone to wash hands when entering our apartment for the first couple months. We didn’t take the baby out much at first except for occasional walks (and she’d be in the stroller or worn, so no contact with anyone but parents) - but that wasn’t due to concern about illness, it was just what worked best for us.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:57 PM on February 20, 2018

I think it's reasonable to limit contact for an unvaccinated baby. Babies are more prone to serious complications from infection. It's totally reasonable, imo, to avoid contact with the masses for those first few months.

I wish all people were up to date on their vaccines. But, when I know people aren't up to date, I avoid them, because my child has medical conditions that make serious illness dangerous to him. All infants have a similar medical issue.

It's devastating when your child is sick, especially a newborn, who has limited ability to fight any
infection. I support your friend, and urge you to support them as well. Please keep all your family's vaccines up to date, for everyone's sake. The alternative can be devastating.
posted by Kalmya at 5:03 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Of course you can set any restrictions you feel are necessary. But please do keep in mind that other people have their own reasons for compliance or non-compliance. As an elderly person with a compromised immune system and post-polio syndrome, I have to be extremely careful about what medical procedures I undergo -- it's a personal balancing of risks and difficulties.

All I'm asking is if I wanted to hold your Adorable Baby but haven't gotten a vaccination, please be kind when you say no. I'll be disappointed, but I won't be Doing Something Wrong; I just don't always want to explain my differences.
posted by kestralwing at 7:45 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

A lot of cultures keep a newborn in isolation with parents and immediate family for the first month or even six weeks. Then the baby gets the germs it already has some immune relationship with via the mom. The baby is sweet and cute, but they kind of stay in their new baby zone until about six weeks anyway. It is up to the parents to have the safe, trust building intimacy that brings the baby more out around six weeks. Lots of visits with others who are not grandparents are not actually for the baby's benefit. The baby derives no benefit from social actions with non intimates in the first six weeks.
posted by Oyéah at 7:51 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Whether this is "normal" or not I think depends on where you are at. I've read that we have a lot more anti-vaxxer folks where I live now than I'm used to from where I grew up, so the risk level is a bit higher. I'm also due in June, and my OB told us that anyone who's going to be spending time with baby should get TDAP. So, we are going to go with that. We've already told friends and family that if they want to be holding or touching baby when he arrives, they need to be up to date on their vaccines. We'll also be having folks wash hands when they visit/hold baby, and if anyone has symptoms of cold/illness, they won't be touching baby.

The spinal tap thing, as described by other posters above, is something we really want to avoid in the first few weeks if possible and we feel that asking people to get vaccinated reduces the risk. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what is best for your family. If you live in a more vaccinated area, maybe the risk isn't as high for you as it feels like it is for me.
posted by FireFountain at 8:42 PM on February 20, 2018

The thing about regional variance in vaccination rates is, it only takes one family of “Well, we did our OWN research!” anti-vaxxers on the same airplane as your well-meaning friend who simply hasn’t kept up on his own shots.

I don’t think those hyper-vigilant reddit moms are reacting in an extreme way. Rather, it is a rational response to an extreme lack of vigilance on the part of others.

Full disclosure: I am not a parent, but I do work in a hospital environment, and I spent some dedicated portion of my undergrad degree on epidemiology. I’m also a lousy boundary-setter with deep admiration for those who do it well.
posted by armeowda at 9:26 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

You need to assess your own risks based on your conditions and family history.

If whooping cough is bad in your area or you know a lot of anti-vaxxers I can see the need to enforce the ban on people without vaccinations but otherwise? Especially if you don't have a medically fragile baby? That's a bit much. We certainly didn't but it wasn't bad in our area when our kid was a baby.

As for flu and cold, having a baby with a cold sucks and the flu can kill babies (two little ones died locally from it this year) so good hygiene and a flu shot (sadly not always effective) are important for care givers and anyone in constant contact. Avoiding crowds, etc? That's a bit much unless you have a particular legitimate reason beyond a nebulous fear of germs. My wife was in and out of the hospital due to some life threatening post partum problems so we were exposed to a lot of terrible stuff. Hospitals are easy places to pick up stuff, so weird old ladies pinching cheeks in the grocery store didn't phase me.

My wife (a doula) has worked with people who've had their parental concern escalate into debilitating germ phobias so it is always good to make sure you get a second opinion beyond Dr. Google from people you trust.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2018

Reading here and reddit, it seems that a lot of OBs are recommending TDAP boosters for grandparents, etc. I will see my OB for the first time next week, so I'll see what she says. We had what was officially termed a pertussis 'outbreak' last year, which resulted in 137 cases in my city (population approx 1 million). The outbreak was concentrated much further south than my city, and seems likely due to the religious anti-vaxxer wackos down there. I honestly don't know how to judge that level of risk. Thanks for all of your answers.

After posting here I also asked my longtime friend, who lives in another city, had a baby 2 years ago, and is a doctor - in public health, I had forgotten - and he said that he and his wife never inquired about anyone's vaccination status and he thought asking people who would be near your child to get a booster would be a bit extreme. Just thought I'd add that since it's a different perspective still coming from someone highly educated, informed and invested in the issue. We are in Canada, I don't know if that makes any difference.
posted by kitcat at 11:31 AM on February 23, 2018

A different city most likely has a different risk. Even the same city at a different time of year (say winter vs summer) has a different risk. I'd ask your own doctor at the time of birth and take it from there.
posted by Jubey at 4:48 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Because of this, I just got my TDaP updated. Grandchild is due in May. Thanks.
posted by theora55 at 6:37 AM on February 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

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