A Guide to Baby Illnesses

By Alexa Joy Sherman

From the moment you give birth to your baby, you’ll be experiencing a whole lot of firsts with him: first smile, laugh, tooth, word, step-and, on the less popular side of the list, first (but certainly not last) illness. “Unless you put your baby in a bubble, she will get sick,” says Scott Cohen, MD, a Beverly Hills, Calif., pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. “Children typically contract 10 to 12 illnesses before the age of 2.” That’s because babies are smaller, their immune systems are immature and they may not be fully vaccinated yet. Plus, kids aren’t just clueless about germs-they eagerly ingest them. “Babies drool, put toys in their mouths and don’t have the social graces to cover their coughs,” says Ari Brown, MD, a pediatrician in Austin, Tex., and coauthor of Expecting 411, Baby 411 and Toddler 411.

What’s a protective parent to do? A lot! “Breastfeeding can help boost the immune system,” says Cohen. “Getting antibodies from the mother definitely helps fight infection.” You can limit germ exposure, too: “Make sure everyone around the baby washes their hands and uses a hand sanitizer,” Cohen advises. “Don’t let anybody who seems even slightly under the weather near your infant, and keep small children-who tend to wipe their noses and mouths a lot-away from babies under the age of 2 months in particular.” Vaccinating against preventable illnesses is also essential for infants and those in their midst. Use OUR VACCINATION LOG to make sure your baby is on schedule for getting all of the immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Of course, vigilant as you may be, the sick-baby odds may still win out. “However,” says Cohen, “most illnesses are not serious and can be easily managed.” It’s true. See for yourself.