It’s heartbreaking when your happy, energetic little one become unwell. As parents we do everything we can to try to keep our babies from becoming ill or feeling pain. However, up until 12 months, a baby’s immune system is weak and underdeveloped, which means that they’re more prone to picking up a variety of infections.
Of course, you can’t keep them in a bubble and away from other people who could potentially infect them, but what you can do to protect your baby is practice good hygiene from birth, both in and out of the home.
Germs are microorganisms and are necessary for life on earth. Not all germs are dangerous for babies, but some are more likely to affect them because of their weaker immune system. The most common infections for bubs include colds, flu, thrush, and gastroenteritis.
Here are several simple ways you can protect your baby and family from these infections:
Hand washing for the whole family
This is the number one rule and should be a priority for everyone. It is the best way to avoid germs being transmitted to your baby from you or others, as the majority of illnesses are spread via hands. This includes washing your baby’s hands. If they’re too young to hold over a sink, you can use a dampened soapy washcloth instead.
Always wash your hands with warm soapy water:
- Before and after preparing food
- Before and after changing nappies
- Before and after preparing bottles or breastfeeding equipment
- Whenever you’re ill
- After using the toilet, touching pets, gardening, or wiping someone’s nose
Note: hand sanitisers don’t work as well as soap and water, particularly against viruses.
Don’t let people kiss your baby’s face or hands
Whilst young babies are not fully immunised, it makes them highly vulnerable to severe infections. Kissing a baby can spread germs that lead to illness (or worse), so it’s highly recommended that no one kisses a newborn (and that includes their parents, sorry).
Read about the dangers of people kissing your newborn, and the precautions you can take to protect your little one.
Ensure all milk residue is removed from bottles and breast pump equipment
Milk is the ideal environment for viruses and bacteria to grow, which is why you need to take special care when washing any parts that come into contact with it. All breast pump parts, bottles, teats, caps, and lids need to be thoroughly washed in warm soapy water and ideally a bottle cleaner to remove all residue, before rinsing in cold water, and finally sterilised.
Clean and disinfect the home regularly
You don’t need to go overboard and create a super sterile environment in the home, but as babies tend to touch and put everything in their mouth, it’s important to keep a safe and healthy environment for your growing and curious little one. Here are some great tips:
- Since babies spend a lot of time playing on the floor, ensure they’re regularly cleaned and disinfected.
- It’s also a good idea for everyone to remove their shoes when they enter as they can carry a lot of bacteria into the home.
- Vacuum any carpeted areas each week.
- Open all windows for at least 10 minutes a day to ventilate and improve the air quality.
- Keep food-preparation areas very clean and disinfected.
- Regularly wipe down door knobs, light switches, and cupboard and drawer handles.
- Don’t forget to give a regular clean to their highchair, and if applicable, the bars of their cot with warm, soapy water.
Disinfect items that go in their mouth
When it comes to their toys, remotes, phones, dummies, teething rings, rattles, play area surfaces, and basically anything they put in their mouth, it’s best to regularly tackle them with a disinfecting wipe or cleanser.
Wipe down their change mat every day
Wipe down the nappy change mat or table with warm soapy water every day to get rid of germs. If your baby is sick or has diarrhoea, use a disinfectant wipe or spray to clean the surfaces.
Disinfect public ‘hot spots’ when you go out
Always keep a handy pack of cleaning and disinfecting wipes in your nappy bag when you head out. You’ll come across many places that are unclean and potentially harbouring germs that lead to illnesses. Some hot spots include highchairs, supermarket trolleys, public toilets, and baby changing facilities. Disinfecting wipes are also useful for when your baby inevitably drops their toys or soother/dummy on the floor, and there’s nowhere nearby to wash them.