How To Avoid Getting Ill When Caring For A Sick Child

Last Monday my sister-in-law rang, begging us to take care of her eight-month-old daughter for the following day. She couldn’t go into daycare as she had a cold, and both parents were working, and we were the only ones free.

Well, relatively free. We had to cancel our second haptonomy appointment, which I have to admit I was disappointed about, because the doctor had promised to massage my back and belly this time and I’d been looking forward to it. Never mind, family comes first.

I was also a bit worried because at first we thought she had a stomach bug, and stomach bugs are the last thing I need while pregnant. In the end it turned out to be a cold, which I’m far more used to dealing with, but I didn’t know that before he got here the next day. So I asked my gynocologist for some advice, and here is what she told me to do:

– Wash hands as often as possible, especially before and after changing, feeding and taking her temperature.
– On top of this, disinfect hands with hand sanitizer.
– If possible, get someone else to change her and handle the disposal of nappies.
– It would have been best if I’d known more in advance and had time to start taking probiotics, but by then it was a bit late.
– Try not to hug or kiss her too much, or let her chew on your hands.
– Let her roam free as much as possible, rather than holding her.

I more or less managed the first three points. I disinfected my hands every ten minutes. I washed them whenever they came into direct or indirect contact with any form of bodily fluid she’d emitted (mainly snot and drool). I got my boyfriend to change her, directing from a short distance away, although I couldn’t quite resist intervening when it looked like it might turn into a poo catastrophe. He fed her the solids, while I took care of the formula, which was less messy.

But you can’t not hug and kiss a sick baby who doesn’t know where she is or where her parents are. Eight months is a sensitive age – it’s around this time that babies realise the limits of their own bodies, that they can’t control their carers’ reactions, and that they’re entirely dependent on them for everything. About an hour into the day, our niece seemed to realise that while she was certainly having lots of fun in this new environment, with these new toys (we let her play with the ones we’ve bought for Baby) and two vaguely-recognisable people to care for her, mummy and daddy weren’t there, and hadn’t been there for a while, and she couldn’t make them come back. So she started crying, and wouldn’t settle unless we picked her up and comforted her. So much for avoiding physical contact.

She was also teething, producing an impressive amount of drool and putting everything in hand’s reach into her mouth, including my hair, clothes and yes, hands. So much for avoiding bodily fluids.

And yet… I didn’t get ill.

Either I’ve had that particular bug before (it’s possible, I get cold a LOT), or disinfecting my hands every ten minutes worked.

And we had a lovely day, despite her being ill. I regretted not taking photos of my boyfriend playing with her and making her laugh. He’s going to be such a good dad, I’m convinced of that.

Next Wednesday we’re minding her older sister. Tune in to see if we pass Parenting: Level Two – minding a 2 1/2-year-old, or How To Childproof Your Non-Child-Friendly Flat.

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