Research-backed

Kissing A Baby: Possible Risks And Precautions To Take

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Babies are super cute and highly kissable. The moment we lay eyes on those chubby cheeks and those tiny hands and feet, it is almost irresistible to want to kiss them. Apart from spreading love and joy, kissing and cuddling a newborn are known to play vital roles in the all-round development of the baby.

This brings us to the big question, can I kiss my newborn baby? Of course, you can.

Is It Okay To Kiss Newborn Babies?

Parents shower their affection and love when they kiss their babies. Acts of affection, such as kissing, hugging, and cuddling let your baby know that they are loved.

Research shows that babies who are shown affection by their moms grow up to be less anxious and more resilient adults (1) (2). When kissed, your baby’s immune system strengthens and their IQ levels improve. To know more about the benefits of kissing your baby, click here.

Is It Safe To Kiss Your Baby On The Lips?

For babies as young as two months old, who aren’t yet using their hands to reach out to things or moving around with their little feet, lips are the primary focus. Babies usually start sucking their hands, making cooing sounds, and smiling at people during this time. They multitask their lips for eating, pacifying, and communicating.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) published the neural map of two-month-old babies after studying how much neural activity happens in newborns. The study showed that most brain activities occurred when the middle of a baby’s lip was touched.

Post research, the lead author Meltz off said, “Lips are important for babies. Young babies are lip experts, and their brains reflect this.” (3)

So there you have it; babies love it when you touch or kiss them on the lips.

However, it is the responsibility of every parent to take certain precautions when kissing a baby.

Precautions To Take When Kissing Your Baby

“An infant’s immune system doesn’t mature until around two to three months,” says Dr. Sabella. “In those first few months, the immune system — especially cell-mediated immunity — becomes more developed. This is very important in helping a child fight off viruses.” (4)

From this, we can infer that a newborn or a week-old baby has a weaker immune system than a three-month-old baby and that the newborn is more prone to viral and bacterial infections. So, it is pivotal and essential to take necessary precautions while kissing your baby. Here are a few precautions that you can take to keep your baby safe.

1. Maintain personal hygiene

Often, parents are so focused on taking good care of the baby that they forget to tend to themselves.

For moms and dads, maintaining personal hygiene should be as important as keeping their newborn baby clean and healthy. These are a few things you should do (5).

  • Wash your hands and face before cuddling or kissing your baby. Wash them when you return home from work, when you prepare food, and after using the bathroom.
  • Do not forget to wash up after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds while washing them.
  • Visit the dentist often and maintain good oral hygiene.
  • If you have other children around, be extra cautious while letting them play or kiss the baby. Do not neglect their hygiene.

2. Vaccinate your baby

Most infections that spread through kissing are treatable and not very serious. Your baby’s immune system can fight an infection within a few days. Moreover, some vaccines could help build up your baby’s immune system and prevent many of these infections (6).

Infections, such as whooping cough or pertussis and chickenpox, which usually spread through contact can be prevented using vaccines. Keep in constant touch with your baby’s pediatrician — stay on the vaccine schedule and don’t skip any of them.

3. Get yourselves vaccinated

Newborn babies do not have a completely developed immune system. To ensure your baby is safe, consider getting yourselves vaccinated, and encourage your family members, nannies, and caregivers to get routine vaccinations (7).

  • Ask those who will be spending considerable time around your baby to get vaccinated (8).
  • Children around the baby are recommended to get vaccinated for whooping cough.
  • Teens and adults are advised to get flu and whooping cough vaccines (9).

4. Do not wear cosmetics while handling your baby

The reasons are obvious. Kissing involves holding the baby intimately and closely, which brings your baby in close contact with your makeup (10).

Most cosmetic products are loaded with chemicals, and even if not, it is not the best choice to cuddle or kiss your baby while you have makeup on.

  • Hair relaxers are very dangerous for babies, even if labeled ‘no-lye.’
  • Hair coloring products may cause allergic reactions in babies.
  • Facial beauty products such as lotions, creams, lipsticks, and eye makeup are non-toxic but can cause diarrhea if consumed by babies.
  • Talc, when inhaled or swallowed, may result in chemical pneumonia.

So, it is best to avoid kissing your baby or allowing others to kiss your baby while having makeup on.

5. Avoid having visitors over or going out during the first few weeks

Although everyone is hyped and wants to meet your newborn, it is considered fine to avoid having visitors over the first few weeks. However, as you are likely to have visitors, it’s best to set up some health rules for them.

  • Visitors should always wash their hands before holding or kissing a baby.
  • People who have recently recovered from the flu or common cold may be asked to visit you after they are completely well (11).
  • Individuals with a history of respiratory disorder should refrain from kissing the baby.
  • Avoid heading outdoors and having visitors over, especially if your baby was born during the winter (11).
  • Load up on hand sanitizers, tissues, and wipes and place waste-paper bins around the house.

6. Discourage others from kissing your baby on the face

It is difficult to tell relatives and friends not to kiss the baby. However, if a visitor or a family member has cold sores or a respiratory infection, politely ask them not to kiss the baby, especially on the lips or the face.

Newborn babies have a weak immune system, which makes them easily prone to viral infections. The first month is pivotal, and therefore, it is best to prevent anyone from kissing the baby on the face (12).

In general, it is a good practice to encourage those who want to kiss the baby to refrain from kissing the face, as viruses and bacteria can easily spread through the baby’s mouth, eyes, or nose (8).

7. Watch out for symptoms

Although some symptoms may seem like a common cold, others may require attention. Coughing during feeding, poor appetite, respiratory distress, excessive crying, fatigue, irregular stools, sweating, and vomiting are some symptoms that need to be taken care of (12) (13) (14).

Possible Risks Of Kissing A Newborn Baby

1. HSV-1 or cold sores

The Herpes Simplex Virus, type 1 that causes cold sores in grown-ups can also infect babies (15). Herpes form itchy and painful fluid-filled blisters that appear around the mouth and lips (16).

Often when an adult with cold sores accidentally kisses a newborn baby, there is a high chance of infecting the baby. It may take 24 to 48 hours before a blister pops up (17), and sometimes, there could be no symptoms for up to 12 days.

Here are some symptoms of cold sores in a newborn:

  • Poor feeding habits
  • A fever that can be mild initially (100.4° F)
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy (18)

It is best to avoid kissing your baby if you have HSV-1.

2. Whooping cough

Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a contagious respiratory infection. It is an airborne disease that can easily infect you if you spend quite a considerable amount of time with an infected person (19).

Kissing a baby on the face when you have a history or symptoms of pertussis can infect the baby since droplets can easily enter the baby’s mouth, nose, or eyes. Some initial symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Mild cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Apnea, a pause in breathing (20)

Note: Infected people are contagious for up to about two weeks after the coughing starts, and symptoms may not show until 10 to 21 weeks after  exposure. Although there are vaccines, none of them are 100% effective, and it is best to exercise caution (19).

3. Kissing disease

Mononucleosis, more commonly known as the kissing disease, causes a sore throat and a fever (21). It spreads when an affected individual kisses a baby on the lips. The transmission medium is infected saliva, and it is best to avoid kissing the baby anywhere on the face (22).

Symptoms of mono may not show for up to two months after being infected. Some symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck (21)
  • Vomiting

There is no specific treatment for mono, and the symptoms may resolve within two months (22).

4. RSV

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is yet another virus that causes difficulty in breathing. It spreads when the baby touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, mouth, or nose. It is also contagious and can infect the baby if they inhale the droplets from an infected person’s nose or mouth. Hence, it is best to avoid kissing a baby if you are infected (23).

Most often, RSV only shows mild cold-like symptoms (24) ; however, the following symptoms may also occur in younger babies.

  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Apnea (short pauses in breathing)
  • Flaring of nostrils
  • A decrease in appetite
  • Irritability (25)

Generally, symptoms last for five to seven days (26).

5. Cavities

A baby’s teeth are tiny and tender, and oral care is of utmost importance. While kissing a baby on the mouth or the lips, cavity-causing bacteria could easily be transferred from your mouth to the baby (27).

That does not mean a mom cannot kiss her baby on the lips; just ensure you make frequent visits to the dentist and maintain good oral hygiene (28).

6. Food allergies

Parents might have no idea about what food their newborn baby is allergic to. And we could never know what someone ate just before they kiss the baby.

Babies may not be consuming food that they could be allergic to directly; however, they are at risk of being exposed to allergens. For example, a sibling with peanut butter on their face might kiss the newborn baby, which could lead to allergies.

Oral hygiene is of utmost importance here. Exercise caution and avoid kissing the baby on the lips soon after eating or having beverages.

As the proverb goes, ‘every coin has two sides.’ Although infections that spread through kissing a baby are quite contagious and sometimes risky, a baby needs to be kissed and cuddled. Kissing your baby heightens your bond. Just keep the precautions in mind, take necessary measures, and kiss away.

References:

1. J Maselko, et al.; Mother’s Affection At 8 Months Predicts Emotional Distress In Adulthood; BMJ Publishing Group Limited (2011).
2. The Power of Kisses; Greater Good Science Center (2010).
3. Pucker Up, Baby! Lips Take Center Stage In Infants’ Brains, Study Says; UW News, University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) (2018).
4. Is Your Newborn Baby’s Immune System Strong Enough?; Cleveland Clinic (2017).
5. How To Keep Your Newborn Baby From Infection; Pediatric Hospitalists at Christiana Care (2013).
6. Vaccinate Your Baby for Best Protection; CDC (2019).
7. New Parents & Grandparents—Which Vaccines Do You Need; Cedars Sinai (2018).
8. Ask the VEC: Keeping a Newborn Healthy Around the Holidays; Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia (2014).
9. Vaccines for Family and Caregivers; CDC (2019).
10. Personal Care Products; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
11. Healthy Home: Protecting Your Baby from Germs; WakeMed.
12. Newborn Illness – How to Recognize; Seattle Children’s Hospital (2020).
13. If Your Child is Not Feeling Well; CDC.
14. Recognizing Newborn Illnesses;American Academy of Family Physicians (2020).
15. How To Protect Your Baby From Herpes Infection; UT Southwestern Medical Center (2017).
16. Herpes – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment;American Academy of Family Physicians (2020).
17. Herpes Simplex Virus (Cold Sores) In Children; University Of Rochester Medical Center.
18. Herpes Simplex Virus in the Newborn; Department Of Health NY (2011).
19. Pertussis | Whooping Cough | Causes and Transmission; CDC (2017).
20. What Is Pertussis (Whooping Cough)?; American Thoracic Society.
21. Mononucleosis (Mono) (for Parents); KidsHealth From Nemours (2020).
22. MONONUCLEOSIS; Delaware Health And Social Services (2011).
23. Alarming Fact: Your Kiss Can Hurt a Baby; Lifehack.
24. Baby Your Baby – All About RSV; Intermountain Healthcare (2013).
25. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – RSV Symptoms;American Academy of Family Physicians (2018).
26. RSV: When It’s More Than Just a Cold; HealthyChildren.org (2019).
27. What Every Parent Needs to Know About Baby Teeth; College Of Dentistry (2017).
28. The Most Common Childhood Disease Is In The Mouth; Seattle Children’s Hospital (2014).