Kissing A Baby: Possible Risks And Precautions To Take

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Infants are adorable, so it is very difficult to resist kissing a baby. Their cute little eyes, plump cheeks, and tiny hands and feet arouse feelings of affection and a desire to give them tiny pecks. Besides displaying love and joy, kissing and cuddling a newborn are crucial for a baby’s development.

Many may be apprehensive about kissing a newborn. Hence, in this post, we share the safety concerns, possible risks, and precautions to take while kissing a baby.

In This Article

Is It Okay To Kiss Newborn Babies?

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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, enhancing parent-child bonding.

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 systemiXA complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that help the body fight infections and protect itself from outside invaders strengthens and their IQ levelsiXA set of tests to determine human intelligence, which is ascertained by dividing mental age by chronological age and multiplying by 100 improve.

protip_icon Did you know?
A Harvard-MIT study suggests that infants perceive kissing, sharing utensils, and food as social cues of closeness (31).

Is It Safe To Kiss Your Baby On The Lips?

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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)

protip_icon Expert says
Brittany Grider, MD, Pediatric Hospitalists of Northwest Ohio, US, recommends avoiding kissing the baby if you don’t live in the same house as them to reduce their risk of contracting new gems (32).

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

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

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Often, parents are so focused on providing good infant care 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 safe practices you may follow (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 during social interactions. 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 pertussisiXA medical term for whooping cough that involves an infection of the lungs and breathing tubes and chickenpox, which usually spread through physical 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

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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.

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 disorderiXA disease that affects the respiratory organs caused due to an infection or smoking tobacco 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.
protip_icon Quick fact
Consider limiting visitors for two to three months until the baby’s immune system is better functioning (33).

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

Dr. Laura Purdy, a US-based board-certified family medicine physician, says, “If people kiss the baby on their mouth, they may get cold, flu, covid, or other respiratory infections. But I think most people kiss a baby on the forehead. In that case, if somebody had oral herpes around the mouth, they could transmit it to the baby. The same thing could be said for impetigo. So, it would mostly be a skin-to-skin transmission at this point.

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

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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).

protip_icon Quick fact
The babies’ possibility of contracting pertussis is low when family members and caregivers are vaccinated (34).

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
  • WheezingiXA high-pitched whistling sound that occurs while breathing due to narrow or partially blocked airways
  • Apnea (short pauses in breathing)
  • Flaring of nostrilsiXA sign of breathing difficulty when the nostrils widen while breathing
  • A decrease in appetite
  • Irritability (25)

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

Dr. Purdy opines, “Kissing babies does not cause RSV. However, the exchange of respiratory secretions with somebody who has RSV will cause the disease. So, even if someone doesn’t touch your baby but is around and has RSV, it can be transmitted.”

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I kiss a newborn baby on the head?

Yes. You can kiss a newborn on the head, and the cases of any infection caused by a kiss are rare. However, staying away from the baby is better if you have a cold, cough, or any contagious disease or infection. You should not let any stranger kiss your baby (29).

2. Can babies get meningitis from a kiss?

Yes. A case was reported where a baby died being kissed by someone with HSV-1. The baby contracted viral meningitis caused by herpes. Although exceptionally rare, there is still some risk for the baby to contract the infection if it comes in close contact with anyone with an infection, cough, cold, or other contagious illness (29).

3. Do babies like it when we kiss them?

Yes. In a study by Sachine Yoshida et al., they observed that touch plays a pivotal role in the preverbal conversation between the baby and parents or guardians. The report further observed that infants as young as four months old can respond to their parents’ touch, i.e., hugs and kisses (30).

As the saying goes, “a coin has two sides,” there are pros and cons to kissing a baby. Although there is a risk of transmittable infections, a baby needs to be loved, cuddled, and kissed. Moreover, babies love being kissed, and it also helps enhance your bond with them. However, you need to be cautious and take certain precautions such as following basic hygiene practices, avoiding visitors during the initial weeks after childbirth, and ensuring routine vaccinations for you and your baby. These precautions will help reduce the risk of contracting infections and allergies due to kissing.

Infographic: Ways To Politely Refuse Or Stop Someone From Kissing Your Baby

Family members or guests sometimes ask to hold the baby and kiss them. In such cases, you might not be sure how to stop them due to social obligations. However, your baby’s health is paramount, and as a parent, you have the right to decide for your baby first. Therefore, here are a few ways to politely refuse or refrain someone from kissing the baby.

ways to politely refuse or stop someone from kissing your baby (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Kissing newborns can strengthen their immune systems and improve their IQ levels.
  • Parents can kiss their babies on the lips provided they follow certain precautions.
  • Maintaining personal hygiene, getting yourself vaccinated, and discouraging others from kissing on the baby’s face are some precautions to follow.
  • Kissing babies raises the risk of health issues, such as cold sores, RSV, whooping cough, and cavities.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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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. Making the Vaccine Decision: Addressing Common Concerns; CDC.
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.
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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; (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).
29. Can A Baby Die From A Kiss? Yes, But It’s ‘Exceptionally Rare’; Indiana University Health
30. Sachine Yoshida, et al.; Infants Show Physiological Responses Specific to
Parental Hugs; iScience (2020)

31. When babies see people swap spit, they know what’s what; The Harvard Gazette
32. Please Don’t Kiss The Baby; Blanchard Valley Health System
33. New Parents and Newborns: Are Visitors OK?; Johns Hopkins Medicine
34. Pertussis (Whooping Cough); San Francisco Department of Public Health

When visiting a newborn, it’s thrilling yet crucial to refrain from kissing the baby. Prioritize hand hygiene and refrain from touching the baby’s face to maintain their well-being.

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