Should I Let People Touch My Newborn?

Woman kissing the feet of a newborn as a man and little girl look on

eclipse_images / Getty Images

Newborns are precious and adorable. Nearly everyone wants to take a peek—or even have a cuddle. Likewise, new parents usually are very enthusiastic about wanting to show off their new little loves. However, you also want to keep your baby safe from germs and accidents. You may wonder whether it's safe to let people touch your newborn.

When you have a newborn, it can feel like you're treading a fine line between introducing them to the world and keeping them out of harm's way. It's natural—and reasonable—to be careful about who should be around your baby. Learn more about what health and safety considerations to take when deciding who gets to touch or hold your baby and when; and how to communicate expectations to extended family members, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Concerns About Letting People Touch Your Newborn

Almost everyone wants to hold a new baby, but there are real concerns to keep in mind. "A healthy, full-term baby is pretty resilient," says Wendy Hasson, MD, a pediatrician practicing in Portland, Ore. Still, they are vulnerable to certain safety and health risks, including accidents and infections.

Accidents and Injuries

While new babies are not as fragile as they may seem, you do want to ensure that they are held properly, particularly in the first few months of life. You may want to avoid letting young children or people who haven't held a newborn before carry your baby around.

Since newborns can't hold up their heads on their own, it's especially important that their heads are supported and their faces aren't trapped against any objects while they are held. A baby can suffocate if they get stuck in a position that blocks their ability to breathe.

Risk of Infection

Additionally, there is the worry that germs that produce colds, flu, COVID-19 or other illnesses or diseases could be spread to your fragile new baby. Signs of infection in newborns include fever (over 100.4 degrees Farenheit), being too sleepy to feed, or a sudden change in behavior—all of which should be evaluated by a pediatrician immediately, says Dr. Hasson.

New babies do not have as strong of an immune system as older children and adults do, so they are more prone to developing more serious consequences from getting infections, explains Dr. Hasson. Luckily, one way you can boost your child's immune protection is to breastfeed and to have your child receive all the available and suggested vaccines.

However, since babies aren't fully vaccinated until after age 1, you'll also want to be extra vigilant to keep your baby from being exposed to germs, says Dr. Hasson. That may mean reducing their exposure to people whose health status is unknown or anyone who seems unwell.

Smart Safety Protocols

There are no hard and fast rules about whether and when to let people touch or hold your newborn, says Amina Ahmed, MD, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital. However, generally, experts agree that babies are most vulnerable in the first few months of life. So, it is wise to be to limit who you let touch your newborn, says Dr. Ahmed.

Use Extra Precautions for the First Two Months

In their first two months, newborns are at the highest risk of infection, warns Dr. Hasson. So, it's advisable to avoid letting most people touch your baby and to avoid crowds, says the pediatrician. "If you need to take your baby to crowded places, such as the grocery store, wearing your baby or using a lightweight stretchy stroller cover can be protective."

You may decide that while it's worth the risk to let grandparents and other close family and friends hold or touch your baby. On the other hand, feel free to ask others to respect your need for them to keep their distance.

And if strangers attempt to touch your baby? Know that it's within your rights to ask them to keep their distance. 

Amina Ahmed, MD

"Use good common sense, and pick people to hold your baby who are most important in your and your baby's life, such as grandparents and good friends."

— Amina Ahmed, MD

Cocoon Your Baby

Decide on a small circle of people that you feel comfortable touching or being near your newborn, suggests Dr. Ahmed. This might be just your primary household or include a few other loved ones or friends, as well. Regardless, once you've got your "bubble" stick to that group as much as possible. Doing so will cocoon the baby from outside germs, says Dr. Ahmed.

Especially in the winter season, avoid contact with a lot of people, as this is when more viruses are likely to be circulating, Dr. Ahmed adds.

Insist on Basic Health Protocols

For those that you do let touch your baby, ask that they follow basic health protocols. Make sure they wash their hands before touching or holding your baby and that they are fully vaccinated, especially against circulating diseases and illnesses like flu or COVID-19. "Have a core set of helpers and visitors that you know are up to date on their protective vaccines," says Dr. Hasson.

Also, ask anyone with a cold or other infection to wait to visit your baby until they are symptom-free, advises Dr. Hasson.  Note that there are a lot of asymptomatic cases of certain illnesses, like COVID-19, so even if someone doesn't show signs of illness, they still could be sick with the virus, warns Dr. Ahmed. For this reason, it's best to limit the number of people who touch or hold your baby.

Another smart strategy, says Dr. Ahmed, is to let someone hold your baby for just a few minutes, thereby limiting your baby's potential exposure.

Deciding Who Gets to Touch Your Baby

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide who gets to touch your newborn—and even who gets to be close enough to breath on them. Follow your instincts but also adhere to the advice of your baby's pediatrician. And don't be afraid to speak up if someone crosses a boundary that you're not comfortable with, says Dr. Hasson. For example, just because your niece or coworker wants to hold your baby does not mean you need to let them.

Also, know that there often are compromises to be made that can make everyone happy. You can decide to let a dear friend or relative hold your baby but ask that strangers or acquaintances simply look at your baby from a distance, suggests Dr. Hasson. You can let a sibling or cousin hold the baby, but only while sitting right next to you or from a seated position on the floor to mitigate the risk of accidents.

Wendy Hasson, MD

"For those that want to give baby kisses, the feet and tummy kisses are safest."

— Wendy Hasson, MD

Keeping your baby safe is your job. Sometimes, tough calls have to be made. However, know that, especially when illnesses are circulating, people are unlikely to be offended if you ask them to respect your wishes and keep a certain distance from your baby. Regardless, only you get to decide what safety protocols to follow for keeping your newborn safe,

A Word From Verywell

It can be both tempting and scary to let people touch your newborn baby. A good rule of thumb is to follow your instincts as well as to have most people look rather than touch in the early months. Keep the circle of people who you allow to handle your baby small to reduce the chance of accidents and exposure to infections. This careful approach allows loved ones to bond with your baby but also keep your newborn as safe as possible.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nemours Foundation. Household Safety: Preventing Suffocation.

By Sarah Vanbuskirk
Sarah Vanbuskirk is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering parenting, health, wellness, lifestyle, and family-related topics. Her work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, and websites, including Activity Connection, Glamour, PDX Parent, Self, TripSavvy, Marie Claire, and TimeOut NY.