If you have a newborn in your house, you may have noticed that everyone around wants to cuddle up with them, showering them with love and hugs and kisses. But those kisses might not be something that's as innocent as you might think. Kissing newborns can be extremely dangerous, doctors warn, so you might want to rethink allowing your extended family and close friends give your little one kisses and you might want to be careful about kissing your little one yourself — thinking things through and using common sense and some precautions can be key here.
The first few months of a baby's life are particularly dangerous when it comes to kissing, because their tiny immune systems haven't fully matured yet. That's why parents are often cautious about where they take them and why you might not let your sister's kids with colds come over to hold your newest addition. But it's more than just colds and flus (and more serious and contagious conditions) about which you need to be aware. In an interview with Healthline, Dr. Karin Nielsen, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases, said that HSV-1, the herpes virus that causes cold sores, is very dangerous for newborns.
"So sometimes people won’t even know that it’s fully come on yet, they’re in the beginning stages of a cold sore, and so if they kiss a baby, they can contract herpes and again with a baby with that vulnerable immune system, they can go on to develop herpes and unfortunately herpes can cause brain trouble in some babies, they can get kind of encephalitis or inflammation in their brain and so herpes is one of those that we really don’t want to spread to a newborn baby," Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and the author of The Newborn Baby Blueprint, tells Romper.
It's really important to be aware of these dangers because though chances are fairly good that nothing would happen after you or another loved one kisses your newborn, if they were to develop one of these dangerous conditions (herpes isn't the only possibility), it could have some really serious effects. Lifehacker noted that herpes simplex can, in rare cases, lead to meningitis, which can be fatal for newborns, and, as Casares notes, it can also potentially cause brain inflammation or encephalitis.
If your baby is less than a month old, kisses can be especially dangerous because their immune system is so new. Casares says that after that, there's less of a fear, but that you need to be really careful around them until at least the six to eight-week mark. It probably doesn't sound all that appealing to have to tell your loved ones (and remind yourself) that they can't or maybe shouldn't kiss your new little one, but for their first two months of life, an abundance of caution might be necessary.
But just because you might not want to kiss them doesn't mean that you have to (or should) withhold affection. There's a ton of other things that you can do to bond with your baby and shower them with love before smooches are safe. Connection with a parent or caregiver helps a baby build resilience, says Casares, which is a good thing. "So other physical forms of affection like snuggling a baby, holding them close, all of those things, of course you want a parent to be doing," she adds. "Babies care about being cared about, that’s what they care the most about."