"Are you sick my darling?"

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Every māmā worries. One of the big worries that enters your life once pēpi is born and sometimes even before is that your baby may get sick. Currently coronavirus or COVID-19 is the big worry. Not too long ago and when my son was very first born it was measles. For the foreseeable future, at least, it seems there will always be something out there to protect our babies from getting māuiui.

It can be scary thinking of all the potential risks out there and you may just want to stay home. Especially with a new pēpi and extra especially with an illness outbreak or pandemic. Lockdown/isolation/quarantine will become familiar as a Māmā but that won't make it any easier. It will still be hard on your mental health so remember to get fresh air, eat well, and reach out for help.

There is always risk but how do you even know if your pēpi is actually sick? It’s not like they can turn around and tell you, not yet anyway. When my son was first born I was constantly worrying what if he’s sick and I don’t notice or know enough about the signs? What is that brown fluid he's just puked up? What is that stuff in the corner of his eye? Is he too hot? Is he too cold? Is he crying more than normal because he has a sore puku? Has that lump behind his ear always been there? Why did he just sneeze? Even if you don't know, trust me you'll know.

The general rule for newborn babies is no visits if you're sick. That fact is pretty universal. You will still always get the odd visitor who comes and stands in the corner and says "oh no I'm a bit sniffly" when you ask if they want to hold your pēpi. It will annoy you that they even showed up and you will cross all fingers and toes that their germs remain theirs and aren't shared around. I'm not sure at what age this universal rule ends but at some point people will just grab your baby with their snotty noses and gross coughs which will also annoy you and you will swoop in and scoop your baby up to save him in the same way you do when a cigarette lights up in a 10 metre radius of your pēpi.

There will also always be those people who think they're exempt from the 'no kissing my baby' rule, sometimes they're whānau and sometimes they're close friends. Either way it is almost always too late to tell them by the time they've gone in for a kihi. Even if you bring it up they usually say "oh but I'm alright aye, I don't have germs", which may or may not be the case and their germs may or may not be temporary illness related.

Having sick tamariki is no fun, that is not disputed. Something that nobody talks about though is that at some stage you will get sick and still be required to care for your pēpi. It will be the worst illness you've ever experienced. Breastfeeding will be a debilitating experience and you will feel like men act with man flu. Everyone will insist you have mastitis regardless of your symptoms and make it feel like your fault for being sick in the first place which will also annoy you. Ignore them, hydrate, try to rest, and get some good breastfeeding friendly painkillers. Don't feel too bad if you lose your voice and can't sing, read or play anymore. A day or two of feeding, changing, and napping with minimal fun interaction won't harm your pēpi while you recover.

Calling in the professionals for a potentially sick baby can be a balancing act if you're unsure. You don't want to be seen as that overreacting, hypochondriac parent but you also don't want to miss or ignore something important that could have been prevented with early intervention. Trust your instincts. It is always better to be safe, the doctors and nurses will agree and won't think you've wasted their time if you're really concerned. Remember there is always Plunketline (0800 933 922) if you don't want to/can't leave the house or just want another opinion. Remember you know your pēpi best even if you don't feel like it sometimes. You've got this Māmā!

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