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Having a healthy baby is the most wonderful gift any parent can wish for, and keeping baby healthy, especially in those newborn days, is a source of worry for new mums and dads. Those first few weeks, before you begin to understand the non-verbal cues your baby gives you, can be fraught with frustration as you wonder what crying might indicate, or if he or she is sleeping too much or not enough. Is she simply wet, hungry, in need of a nap? Could it be something more dire? Luckily, you don’t need to take nursing courses in order to know when to react and what to do.

It’s difficult to know, as a brand-new parent, when to call the doctor. The general rule to follow is if baby is running a fever, crying inconsolably, listless, or anytime you sense something is even a bit “off”, check with your pediatrician. Your physician won’t mind and is probably used to new parent woes. Keeping baby healthy begins with a good doctor/patient relationship.

There are also a few preventative tips you can follow. First and foremost, always wash your hands. This is just a good habit to get into for everyone who comes into contact with the baby. Thoroughly washing your hands will serve to keep you and the rest of your family relatively cold and flu free, or limit your exposure significantly. Hand sanitizer is a good substitute when soap and water are not available. Do this each and every time you handle your newborn.

Don’t expose your baby to secondhand smoke. Studies show secondhand smoke increases upper respiratory viruses in babies, as well as children and adults. Ask smokers to take it outside. Keep disinfectant wipes with you at all times when you leave home. Wipe down any surface which may come into contact with your baby. Invest in a shopping cart seat cover. Other children have been in that same seat. Don’t neglect disinfecting all areas of the shopping cart. Remember babies love to put their mouths on everything!

In cooler weather, keep a hat on your baby. A good deal of your body heat is lost through your head and a chill can reduce immunity, even if minimally. Keep up with your baby’s immunization schedule. Immunizations don’t just keep baby well, they protect the rest of the family from common, yet deadly, diseases and illnesses. Finally, breast is best, so if you are able, breastfeed your baby to help build immunities.  If you are unable to breastfeed your baby, discuss what formulas are best for your infant with your pediatrician.

Keeping your baby healthy is a joint effort between you and your baby’s doctor. Remember that your pediatrician is your greatest ally and the best advocate for your baby’s health. Make sure you are timely about keeping those well-baby check ups and never feel that you are “bothering” your pediatrician with off-hour concerns. If he or she is a caring, understanding and experienced professional, then he or she will understand your trepidation and prefer that you err on the side of caution