A nationwide survey of  2,300 new and expectant parents, conducted by The Lullaby Trust, has found that 54% would let friends and family kiss their newborn baby, unaware of the risk of serious infection.

Despite the risk, 63% of new and expectant parents would feel uneasy asking visitors not to touch their baby, worried that they’d offend someone, hurt their feelings, or be labelled an overprotective parent.

The baby charity warns that young babies have immature immune systems and are particularly susceptible to infections. “Even infections that cause mild symptoms such as a common cold in adults and older children can be life-threatening for babies” advises Jenny Ward, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust.

The risk of passing on infections to young babies can be greatly reduced by following simple hygiene measures. Nevertheless, one in three new and expectant parents wouldn’t ask visitors to wash their hands before holding their baby.

To raise awareness of infection prevention, The Lullaby Trust is campaigning for anyone coming into contact with young babies to follow the T-H-A-N-K-S guidelines; Think Hands And No KisseS. This includes three simple steps:

  1. Wash your hands before you touch a baby.
  2. Do not kiss a baby unless you are their parent or main carer – and even then, avoid kissing if you have an infection or are unwell.
  3. Do not visit a baby if you are ill, have recently been ill or have an infection. This includes colds, active cold sores as well as diarrhea and vomiting illnesses.

Jenny Ward, adds: “We have an important job to do in terms of making parents and the public aware of the risk infection poses to babies. Likewise, we need to empower parents to ask friends and family to follow the THANKS guidance to keep their babies safe.”

“That’s why we’ve created a range of easy-to-access resources on how to avoid spreading infection. We’ve also designed practical tools to equip parents and carers with the confidence to have conversations with visitors without feeling awkward.”

The charity has produced buggy tags as well as a simple animation that parents and carers can pass on to impending visitors, so they are well-informed on the steps to lower the risk of infection.  Resources also include guidance on spotting signs of infection and what to do if you think your baby is showing symptoms.

Campaign Ambassador and the UK’s No.1 children’s cookery author, Annabel Karmel, MBE says: “I lost my first child Natasha at the age of 3 months due to someone kissing her with a cold sore which then developed into encephalitis. I remember sitting in the hospital helplessly holding her little hand until she slipped away. Coming home without my baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. My entire world fell apart.”

“Had I known back then how at-risk babies are of picking up infections, perhaps Natasha would have been here today. We all want to keep our babies safe in those first months, but a simple kiss from a passing neighbour, or a cuddle from a visitor with a cold or cold sore could increase the risk of serious infection. And that’s why I’m working with The Lullaby Trust to spread the message of THANKS to everyone. No family should go through the excruciating pain of losing a baby.”

For more information about the campaign, including THANKS guidance, Annabel Karmel’s full video interview, and our new animation visit lullabytrust.org.uk/about-us/newborn-infection-prevention-campaign/.