Can Siblings Kiss A Newborn Baby: What Parents Need to Know

The act of kissing a newborn baby is an instinctive way for many people to express love and joy. However, it can carry risks that may be surprising to new parents.

This article will delve into the risks of kissing a newborn and why it might be wise to limit this practice.

If you’re a parent, relative, or someone who loves to kiss babies, read on to understand why this common expression of affection could have unexpected consequences.

Introduction to the Newborn’s World and Why People Kiss a Baby

Kissing a newborn is a universal way to show affection. However, in the first few weeks of life, an infant’s immune system is still developing, and some common adult germs can be harmful to them.

Understanding why people kiss babies and the potential risks involved is vital for maintaining the baby’s health and why they should resist kissing newborns

What are the Risks of Kissing a Newborn?

While expressing affection through kissing is natural, there are serious health consequences for newborns when kissed by siblings, especially if the older kids attend school or are exposed to other children, given the higher likelihood of them being carriers of common childhood illnesses.

Here are some health risks for newborns due to kissing by siblings:

  1. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): This virus can cause respiratory infections that are severe in babies. Symptoms in newborns can range from cold-like symptoms to bronchiolitis, which can be life-threatening.
  2. Common Cold and Influenza: Newborns have a weaker immune system, making them more susceptible to colds and the flu, which can be more severe in their age group.
  3. Parvovirus B19 (Fifth Disease): While often mild in older children, it can be more serious in infants, leading to severe anemia.
  4. Whooping Cough (Pertussis): This bacterial infection can be life-threatening for newborns, leading to severe coughing fits and difficulty breathing.
  5. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Coxsackievirus, a virus that causes ulcers and rashes around the mouth and rashes on the hands and feet. While typically mild, it can be more uncomfortable for infants.
  6. Strep Throat (Group A Streptococcus): While more common in older children, if transmitted to infants, it can lead to a more severe infection.
  7. Mono (Mononucleosis): Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, it’s rare in infants but can be more severe when it occurs.
  8. Oral Herpes (Cold Sores or fever blisters): As previously discussed, HSV can lead to neonatal herpes, which can have serious implications for the baby.
  9. Bacterial Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): This is an eye infection that can be transmitted through close contact.
  10. Gastrointestinal Infections: Older siblings can transmit stomach bugs or viruses causing diarrhea and vomiting.

To mitigate these risks, it’s important for parents to educate older siblings about hand hygiene and to touch or kiss the baby’s mouth or face, especially if they are sick or showing any symptoms.

Furthermore, ensuring that older siblings are up-to-date with their immunization can help reduce the transmission of preventable diseases.

What is RSV and How Can Kissing Transmit It?

RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus can cause severe respiratory infections in infants. Transmitting through close contact like kissing, it can easily spread and lead to ICU admissions in severe cases.

Herpes and Cold Sores: How are They Related to Kissing a Newborn Baby?

Kissing a baby by someone with an active herpes blister can transmit the herpes simplex virus. This is a virus that causes cold sores.

Even if cold sores are not present, the virus can be passed on, leading to serious and potentially fatal condition as below:

  1. Skin, Eye, and Mouth Herpes (SEM): This is the most common and least severe form of neonatal herpes. Babies with SEM herpes typically have blisters on the skin, eyes, and/or inside the mouth. While this form can be severe, with appropriate antiviral treatment, the prognosis is generally good.
  2. Central Nervous System (CNS) Disease: This involves inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, known as herpes encephalitis or viral meningitis. Symptoms include irritability, seizures, lethargy, and tremors. CNS disease can result in long-term neurological issues or developmental delays.
  3. Disseminated Disease: This is the most severe form of neonatal herpes and involves multiple organs such as the liver, lungs, and brain. It can cause septic shock, organ failure, and is potentially fatal if not treated promptly and aggressively.
  4. Long-term Neurological Issues: Even after treatment, babies with neonatal herpes can experience long-term neurological problems, developmental delays, and motor disabilities.
  5. Recurrence of HSV: Even after the initial infection has been treated, HSV can reactivate and recur later in life. This can be in the form of cold sores (oral herpes) or genital herpes.
  6. Blindness: If the eyes are affected, untreated herpes infection can result in scarring of the cornea and permanent blindness.

It’s essential to be aware that while these risks are associated with neonatal herpes, the actual occurrence can be rare, especially with timely diagnosis and treatment.

Still, due to the potential severity of these complications, it’s recommended that anyone with an active or recent herpes outbreak, or even those without symptoms but known to have HSV, we should not kiss the baby especially around the mouth.

Pediatric Views on Kissing Newborns: What Do Experts Say?

Pediatrics often advise parents to avoid kissing their newborn in the first few months of life. Emphasizing hand hygiene, vaccinations, and controlled physical contact can prevent these risks.

The First Few Months of Life: What’s Special About a Newborn’s Immune System?

Newborn babies may have a weaker immune system, making them more susceptible to respiratory and sinus infections.

Understanding this vital part of infant development helps parents make informed decisions about kissing and touching.

Preventing Risks: How to Show Affection Without Kissing?

Kissing is a universal way of expressing love and affection. However, for newborns, especially in their first few months of life, direct kisses, especially on the lips or hands, can pose potential health risks due to their still developing immune systems.

But there are several alternative ways to show love and affection without directly kissing a baby, ensuring they still feel cherished and safe.

1. Touch and Cuddling

Physical contact is vital for a newborn’s emotional and physical development. Instead of kissing:

  • Hold the baby close to your chest so they can hear your heartbeat.
  • Practice “skin-to-skin” contact where the baby is held against your skin, promoting bonding and comfort.

2. Talk and Sing

Babies love the sound of human voices, especially those of their family members:

  • Talk softly, narrate what you’re doing, or just converse with the baby.
  • Sing lullabies or any soothing song. The melody and rhythm can be comforting and bonding.

3. Massage

Gentle baby massages can be both relaxing and beneficial:

  • It can soothe a fussy baby, improve their sleep, and even aid digestion.
  • Use gentle, circular motions and ensure your hands are clean.

4. Smiling and Making Faces

Babies are incredibly attuned to facial expressions:

  • A simple smile or goofy face can engage and entertain a baby.
  • Around 6-8 weeks, babies start to smile back, making this interaction even more precious.

5. Play and Interaction

Engage with the baby using age-appropriate play:

  • For newborns, simply moving their arms and legs in a bicycle motion or gentle tickling can be fun.
  • As they grow, introduce soft toys, rattles, and other sensory items.

6. Gentle Strokes

Instead of kissing the baby’s face or hands:

  • Gently stroke the top of her head, back, or little feet. These are less risky areas in terms of germ transmission.

7. Read to Them

It’s never too early to start reading:

  • Even if they don’t understand the words, babies will love hearing the rhythm of your voice and looking at pictures.

8. Dance

Hold the baby close and sway or dance gently. The movement can be soothing and is another way to bond without kissing.

9. Blow “Kisses”

Instead of direct contact:

  • Blow gentle air kisses towards the baby from a distance. They’ll come to recognize this gesture as a sign of love.

10. Hand Hygiene

While it’s not a form of affection, it’s essential to emphasize:

  • Always ensure that you, other family members, and visitors wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before handling the baby.

Remember, as much as it’s natural to want to shower a baby with kisses, the primary goal is to keep them healthy.

By using these alternative expressions of affection, you can ensure your baby feels loved while also minimizing health risks.

As the baby’s immune system strengthens and they grow older, there will be plenty of time for all the kisses in the world.

Physical Contact: Why is it Vital, and How Can it be Safe?

While limiting kisses is advised, physical contact is essential for emotional bonding. Practices like skin-to-skin contact can be conducted safely with proper hygiene.

Parents’ Guide: When to Allow Kisses and Touch Your Baby?

A balanced approach involves knowing when and how to allow close contact with your newborn. Consulting with a healthcare provider or pediatrician is recommended.

Conclusion: A Balanced Approach to Kissing and Newborn Care

While kissing is a natural way to show love, understanding the risks of kissing a newborn helps parents, relatives, and friends to find safer ways to express affection.

With awareness and care, kisses can still be a part of a newborn’s life without compromising their health.


  • Risks of Kissing: Respiratory infections, herpes, RSV, and other illnesses can be transmitted to newborns through kissing.
  • Newborn’s Immune System: The weaker immune system in the first few months of life makes babies more susceptible to these risks.
  • Expert Opinions: Pediatricians often advise against kissing newborns.
  • Safe Alternatives: Affection can still be shown without kissing, and physical contact remains a vital part of bonding.
  • Informed Decisions: Understanding the risks and taking a balanced approach can allow for a safe and loving environment for the newborn baby.



Why is it risky to kiss a newborn?

Kissing a newborn poses risks because their immune system is still developing and might not effectively combat certain viruses and bacteria that adults can carry.

Common germs that might be harmless to adults can cause serious illnesses in infants. These include respiratory infections, the herpes simplex virus (responsible for cold sores), and the RSV virus, among others.

If I don’t have any visible cold sores or symptoms, is it still risky to kiss a newborn?

Yes. Even if cold sores are not present, the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) can still be transmitted asymptomatically, which means a person might be carrying and shedding the virus without showing any symptoms.

Thus, it’s always advisable to be cautious and avoid kissing a newborn on the mouth or face.

Are there safer ways to show affection to a newborn without kissing?

Absolutely! There are many ways to express love and bond with a newborn without risking their health.

Touching the baby’s little feet or leg area, holding their hands, or gently caressing the top of their head are all affectionate gestures.

Additionally, skin-to-skin contact, which involves holding the baby close to your chest without barriers like clothing, is a powerful way to bond and is safe when done with proper hygiene.

How long should I avoid kissing a newborn?

Many pediatricians advise avoiding kissing newborns directly on the mouth or face for the first few months of their life, as this is when their immune system is most vulnerable.

However, the exact duration can vary. Always consult with your healthcare provider or pediatrician to get guidance tailored to your baby’s specific needs.

If someone recently recovered from an illness, how long should they wait before holding or kissing a baby?

It’s essential to be cautious, especially if someone recently recovered from an illness. Even if they feel better, they could still be contagious.

The safe duration can depend on the specific illness, but a general rule of thumb is to wait until at least 24 hours after all symptoms have disappeared.

However, with certain illnesses like the flu or a cold, it’s best to wait even longer. Always consult a healthcare professional for guidance based on the specific circumstances.

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This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.