The 'no vax, no visit' post: how parents are helping keep babies safe

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 Photo: Getty Images

Social media updates from new parents were once loving, smitten posts announcing the birth of baby, followed by a stream of oh-so-cute photos. Yet it seems the latest trend in parenting social media updates are quite the opposite.

"A simple injection can save the life of a newborn! I know this may seem harsh but No-Vax-No-Visit" and "Don't feel bad asking people not to touch and kiss your newborn - prevention is the best medicine!" are some of the updates shared by new parents now.

Some of these updates are even making an appearance before baby is born.

Now the proud mum to two boys, Natalie used social media to inform friends and family that when her second son was born it was a "no vax, no visit" policy at her place - and if anyone was sick, they should postpone their visit.

"Having lost two newborns five years ago to extreme prematurity doesn't help my anxiety around newborns. If I seem to be overacting in anyway so be it, but I know what it feels like first hand to grieve the loss of a baby," says Natalie.

"I haven't just relied on Facebook to voice my opinions, I've also had conversations with friends and family. I would never be rude about the issue, but after the birth of my first son many people felt it was acceptable to play pass-the-parcel with my newborn. I have a much different opinion second time around and people need to know."

When it came to her "no vax, no visit" rule, Natalie understood that it was impossible to screen the vaccination records of every visitor. Instead, they were welcome for a "look but no touch visit."

She said that most people respected her wishes, calling to postpone when they were sick, adding, "But I had one visitor cough violently into their hands and then reach out to touch the face of my baby, and this is someone who is not on Facebook!"

Rhianna, mum of three, thinks that social media is a great way for new parents to update their friends and family - and not just with cute baby photos. "Given how social media is such a big part of life it is a great medium to use for updates. It's also a great way to get people be more aware of issues."

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When Riley Hughes died from whooping cough, Rhianna saw an increase in updates from parents in her social media feed. "New mothers were requesting that those not vaccinated against whooping cough stay away from their newborns. I totally understood where they were coming from."

Clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack points out that "it would hopefully go unsaid that if you were sick you did not visit a newborn, but that isn't always the case." Yet McCormack cautions that sometimes "there is a more polite and friendly way of doing things than making a blanket statement on social media and perhaps putting people off side."

While many parents are only trying to protect their newborns, McCormack warns that you don't want to be a tiger mum to the degree that you alienate your entire support network, adding that for some may see the updates as "offensive, annoying and even redundant."

She advises that it might be "best to communicate with people as they turn up if you have any concerns. If they are sick you can always turn them away".

But Tina, a mum to two boys, thinks it is common courtesy to let someone know you are sick before visiting, especially if they have a baby. In her experience "friends and family have let me know if they are ill, then it has been my call to say come over or stay away and that conversation happens privately, not on social media."

Tina doesn't want to risk offending the decisions of others by posting her views on social media. "One of my friends hasn't vaccinated her children and even though I may not agree with it, it's her choice. This friend was meant to come over for dinner but called to let me know that her child had what looked like measles. My son was not completely vaccinated and I didn't want to risk measles. I asked her to visit another time. We had that conversation between ourselves and not across a social media feed."

Elizabeth, mum of two, said that even if a friend of hers did post an update for sick visitors to stay away, she would still call. And when it came to someone coming to see her little ones she was very clear: "I sure wouldn't welcome anyone who showed up sick or un-vaccinated. In that case I would be completely willing to play the southern-belle 'now is just not a good time for us' card if anyone does."

Whether social media is the best place for parents to update friends and family on their baby visitor policy seems to be an individual choice, however the consensus is that the health of a baby - especially a newborn - must always be respected, whether that message comes through on social media, a text message, or a mummy standing at the door.

Josefa Pete is a writer and mother to two boys. You can follow her on Facebook or read her blog.

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