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Ask Dr. Sears: Crowd Control

Q. We'll be with our whole family for the holidays. Is this too much for my newborn  -- could she get sick?

A. She's likely to be the hit of the party  -- and, as a result, everyone will want to hold her. Fortunately, most little babies enjoy the different touch and carrying rhythms of others. But too much of a good thing can tire your infant.

To cut down on stimulus overload  -- when she seems fussy or uncomfortable because of the excessive attention  -- think about doing what my wife, Martha, and I did: We kept our babies nestled against our chests in a carrier. This way, they were comforted by both our smell and our touch and not as easily within reach of others' (albeit well-meaning) embraces. Or simply hold her close to you and ration the interaction with others.

Be sensitive to your baby; if she seems unhappy, take a break from the party. A walk or nap could be just the thing to soothe her.

It's natural to worry that your baby will pick up a cold or virus in a large gathering  -- especially during the winter flu season. To lessen the chance, ask friends and family to wash their hands before touching her. But the good news is that newborns are actually quite sturdy: They're armed with hefty doses of immune-fighting substances that are transferred to them via their mother's blood when they're in the womb. However, if your baby was born prematurely, weighs less than eight pounds, or has a medical condition, keep her home, since her immune system will be more fragile.

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