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PARENT CORNER

Keeping Your Baby Safe

Parents looking at their baby in an incubator

The Importance of Handwashing

One of the best ways that you can help to keep your baby safe from infection is by washing your hands. The immune system, which works to fight diseases caused by germs (viruses and bacteria), does not work as well in babies as in older children or adults. Because of this, babies, can get very sick from infection. Premature and sick babies have a harder time fighting germs. While hand washing is always the best way to prevent infection, it is even more important during cold and flu season (October to April). Most cold viruses are spread by direct contact or touch and can cause serious illness in babies who are in a NICU. It is best that anyone who is feeling ill or coming down with a cold, wait until they are feeling better before they come into the nursery.

It is crucial that all parents, family members, visitors, and staff wash their hands according to these important guidelines:

  • Place jackets and coats on the coat racks that are near the scrub sinks.

  • Roll up your sleeves above your elbows.

  • Take off all watches, rings, and jewelry (except for plain wedding bands) and store safely or pin them to your clothing. The designs and crevices of jewelry may contain germs that can’t be killed by scrubbing. Please leave expensive jewelry at home.

  • Artificial nails, long nails, and nails with chipped polish have also been shown to carry more germs than short, natural nails. Please consider keeping your nails natural and short while your baby is in the NICU.

  • Briskly wash from your fingertips to your elbows for 3 minutes with the germ-fighting soap. It is not necessary to use a scrub brush. Special attention should be paid to the area around and under the fingernails. Plastic nail cleaners are at the sinks.

  • Dry your hands with paper towels after washing.

  • Nothing should be placed over your clean arms after washing.

  • Help children who are coming to see their brothers and sisters wash for 3 minutes.

  • Remind family members and friends who come to the hospital how important it is that they scrub for 3 minutes and wash their hands often.

  • If you are carrying your own or your baby’s belongings to your baby’s bed space, wash your hands before touching your baby. A 15 second wash with soap at the sinks in the nursery or with the hand wash foam at the bedside is needed.

  • Wash your hands again after touching your face or eyes, after changing your baby’s diaper and when going from one baby to another if you have more than one baby in the nursery. You may use the hand wash foam unless there is visible urine or stool on your hands after a diaper change.

  • Washing your hands is the best way to protect your baby from infection. Please share this information with your family and friends.