Cold and flu season is upon us.  It's bad enough when you or I get sick, but for babies, these common seasonal illnesses can fall anywhere in the range of mildly annoying to life threatening.  So it pays to be extra cautious about staying healthy when there is a little one in the house.  


Here are five steps that can help you keep your baby healthy all winter long.


1. Wash, wash, wash your hands. Every time you touch, feed, or hold your baby, you should be sure to wash your hands - particularly if you have been out and about in public.  And ask your friends and family members to do the same.  


2. Breastfeed.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast is best when it comes to providing the very best nutrition and immune system protection for your baby throughout her first year of life. Breast-feeding not only gives her the right vitamins, minerals, and proteins to grow and develop, but it also fills her up with protective antibodies to help fight off illness.


3. Keep it clean. Keep your baby's world as clean as possible by washing frequently touched surfaces like toys, TV remotes, and doorknobs to get rid of germs.  But, remember, you don't need harsh chemicals to do the job.  Soap and hot water and natural substances such as vinegar do a fine job of cleaning and disinfecting your home.


4. Minimize exposure.  If there is a cold or flu outbreak at your older child's school, avoid exposing your baby by keeping him home and minimizing his exposure to anyone who is sick.  Of course, that is easier said than done when the sick person is a member of your own family.  But if you keep doing the other items on the list you stand a much better chance of stopping those germs in their tracks before they have a chance to infect your baby.


5. Vaccinate.  Talk to your health care provider about whether or not your baby should get a flu shot.  In general, the CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone, including children starting at 6 months. But babies under 6 months are too young to get vaccinated.


Oh, and here's another tip.  Don't do this. Earlier this week, MNN posted How to get sick in 5 steps.   Do your best to avoid these pitfalls and you stand a much better chance of staying healthy and keeping your baby healthy all winter long.

How to keep your baby from getting sick
Keep germs at bay with these five simple tips for keeping your baby healthy during cold and flu season.