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When to Take a Newborn to Church

author image Kathryn Rateliff Barr
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
When to Take a Newborn to Church
Your church family eagerly waits to see your little one appear in church. Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

After your baby is born, friends and family are anxious to see the baby-- and that includes your church family. When you attend your first postpartum church service can be as much about you as your baby. If you've had a surgical birth, for example, you have a longer recuperation period than most women who gave birth vaginally. When taking your baby to church, certain considerations are natural and safe.

Infection Control

The conventional wisdom once was to keep the baby at home for the first month, but that isn't necessary as long as you follow some simple rules, according to Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., a rheumatologist practicing at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Your baby has antibodies he received in the womb that boost his immune system, and he receives more antibody boosting if you breastfeed. Avoid people who are ill at church and restrict their access to your baby. Ask everyone to wash their hands before touching the baby.

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Limited Contact

Wearing your baby in a sling at church is an easy way to restrict access and reduce your baby's exposure to germs. The sling will also help you breastfeed your baby discreetly, even right in the pew.

With a sling, you have more control over who sees and touches your baby. If you have concerns about a specific individual, you can say, “The baby’s sleeping, and I don’t want to disturb her” or “I’m trying to get her settled right now so I’d prefer to let you see her when she’s more comfortable.” You can also enforce a “look but don't touch" policy where the baby remains tucked close to you in the sling, away from those who haven’t just washed their hands.

Some churches have a nursing booth or nursery area where the service is broadcast. Spending the service there is another way to limit your baby’s exposure to large numbers of people.

The Nursery

Most churches have strict policies against having a sick child in the nursery, but it does happen. Common nursery policies also require workers to wash their hands between diaper changes, feeding and other baby contact. Whether or not you leave the baby in the nursery can depend on how many children are in the nursery and your comfort with leaving your little one there.

If your baby becomes fussy in church, the nursery can provide you and your baby a place where you can get your child settled without disturbing other worshipers. Consider these points carefully, and decide whether your baby is better with you or in the nursery.

Infant Baptism

Your decision to bring your baby to church may be motivated in part by your desire to have your infant baptized soon after birth. If your church immerses the baby during an infant baptism, you can wait until the baby is a few months old to minimize concerns that disrobing your baby and getting him wet could pose a disease risk. Ask your pastor or priest what your church’s policies are on the best time for baptism. If you have a baby with immune issues, explain your situation and ask about a private baptism to minimize exposure to others.

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