Hey there, mama-in-the-midst-of-sick-season,
This time of year is so tough. The weather can make it hard to leave your house, especially with a little kid (cue cabin fever). The short, dark days can have a very real impact on your mood (psst: seasonal affective disorder is common—read about it here).
And, perhaps most stressful of all, there is the constant threat of illness invading your homes. If you have a baby or small child, the seemingly never-ending stream of headlines about the latest RSV and coronavirus outbreaks is daunting, to say the least.
You may find that you are on edge all the time. You’re washing your hands repeatedly, continuously wiping down surfaces (and your baby), and probably very reluctant to risk exposing your child to any germs.
Mama, I am writing to you as a medical provider and a mother: You are not wrong for wanting to protect your baby.
I’ll admit, it’s a little ridiculous that I need to say this. But the truth is that many parents are faced with backlash when they take steps toward preventing illness transmission to their children.
The crestfallen relative who can’t understand why you won’t let them kiss your newborn “after they traveled for so long to get here.”
The friend who is annoyed when you cancel a playdate because their child has “had a little cough, but it’s probably fine.”
The “you’re making too big a deal of this” comments from in-laws when you decide that you just don’t feel comfortable taking your infant on a plane right now.
Our society does not make it easy for new parents to stand up for themselves and their children. But that’s exactly what you are doing in spite of it—and that is no small accomplishment.
Mama, you are in the right here.
First, newborns and small children don’t have super strong immune systems yet. It takes several months for a baby’s immune system to fully “kick-in” and then they are still learning how to fight off infections. Plus, their little bodies are sensitive—a virus that presents as a little cold in an adult can be a bigger deal for babies.
You are wise for wanting to avoid illness when possible.
Now, I do want to add a caveat here: We simply cannot prevent all illnesses and most babies who get sick end up being fine.
I don’t want you to hole yourself up out of fear completely—because remember, your holistic well-being matters, too. It is important for you to socialize (when you want to) and get out of the house (also when you want to).
Here’s my advice: Talk to your pediatrician. Let them know what your concerns are, and with everything they know about your baby’s medical history and the current infection trends in your area, they can help you come up with a plan that feels reasonable and safe.
The other fundamental issue at work here is that when people give you backlash for decisions you have made as a parent, they are undermining your parental intuition. They are telling you that the inner-wisdom and expert-level understanding you possess about your child and family is wrong.
And that is unacceptable.
You are your baby’s expert.
Yes, you should absolutely consult with your pediatrician and any other expert you see fit. And yes, you should read new studies when they come out (if you want to) and Google things that are concerning to you. And yes you can even go ahead and solicit the advice of family members and friends if it feels right.
But at the end of the day (or middle of the night), give yourself permission to tune out all the noise—there’s a lot of it—and key into the one voice that actually matters: your own.
If that voice is telling you to lay low during a flu outbreak, go ahead and listen. That voice belongs to a fabulously smart and strong mother.