hygiene habits for new parents
Health and safety

Good hygiene habits for new parents

Practicing these good hygiene habits for new parents around the home is very important for keeping your newborn baby healthy and happy.

Becoming a parent can turn some people into complete and total clean freaks. You might find yourself madly sterilising every inch of the house even before baby arrives. You can never be too clean when it comes to babies, however, it should be noted that good hygiene is not just about being obsessively clean. It’s more to do with preventing the spread of germs, such as washing your hands after using the toilet or changing a nappy, or taking care to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

According to the Hygiene Council, exposure to some germs is an important step in the process of natural immunisation of your child. The Council does also point out however that exposure to harmful pathogens that can cause serious infection is uncessesary and preventable by practising good hygiene habits.

Breathe in clean air

Try to air all rooms in your house for at least 10 minutes every day and dust regularly. Making sure your house is well insulated, ventilated and heated will prevent it from becoming too damp.

What is a germ?

A germ is a micro-organism. It can be bacterial or viral, and some germs can cause illness, which causes worry for parents. Research has discovered that some bacteria are beneficial — and even necessary for our bodies to build up defenses through our immune systems. This is why GPs are less likely to prescribe antibiotics as freely as they did in the past; while drugs kill bacteria, they also kill friendly flora that are useful for maintaining healthy bodies.

Newborns and infants are more susceptible to catching colds and viruses; after all, babies have less developed immune systems and tend to put things in their mouths. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your little one’s exposure to harmful germs.

Hygiene hot spots

1. Hands

Proper hand hygiene is probably the most important hygiene measure you and your family can take. Wash your hands under running warm water with soap. Rub your hands together for 15-30 seconds and pay attention to fingertips, thumbs and in between the fingers. If you find yourself in a situation where water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitising solution.

Always wash your hands:

  • after visiting the toilet
  • after handling or caring for pet animals
  • after handling raw foods such as meat and poultry
  • when you come home from work, shopping etc.
  • before handling and preparing food for your baby
  • before caring for/handling your baby
  • after changing a baby’s nappy
  • after handling tissues or wipes used to wipe the baby’s nose, eyes, bottom etc.

hygiene habits for new parents

2. Laundry
  • Soiled items including reusable nappies must be washed at 60°C or more in order to kill bacteria.
  • Heavily soiled items should be laundered separately.
  • Launder your baby’s towels, clothes and bedding regularly.
  • Run your washing machine empty at a high temperature occasionally to prevent it becoming a reservoir for germs.
  • Wash your hands after handling laundry.
3. House

Disinfection and regular cleaning of all surfaces that are frequently touched, such as door handles, taps, toilet flushes, toilet seats, switches and bin lids can help to reduce the spread of germs around the home. Always clean and disinfect kitchen work surfaces before preparing food. Keep your baby’s high chair clean using an antibacterial cleanser, or wipes to kill any bacteria that may be present. Do not share the baby’s towels, toothbrushes and other personal hygiene items with other family members.

4. Toys

Children love to share their toys and they can easily become contaminated through handling or by children putting their mouths to them. Some germs can remain viable on toys for a long period of time. Buy toys that can be easily be washed either by hand or in the washing machine on a hot water cycle.

5. Nappies

Nappy changing can result in the dangerous transmission of infection. This happens mainly through hand contact with faecal contamination, on cloths and sponges where organisms grow fast, as well as through germs spread accidentally onto kitchen surfaces and food. In order to prevent infection, it is recommended that disposable nappies be sealed in plastic and placed in a waste container.

Reusable nappies should be disinfected within a nappy bucket, with the contents of this bucket poured down the toilet rather than the sink after use. As the risk of the spread of infection through nappies is so high, all surfaces touched during this procedure need to be cleaned and disinfected afterwards. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after changing your baby’s nappy.

6. Feeding equipment

Sterilise all of the equipment that you use to feed your baby – bottles, teats, beakers and breast pumps. Before you sterilise feeding equipment, you need to wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water. Rinse off all traces of milk and food residue. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when sterilising baby equipent. Store all sterilised equipment in areas that have been cleaned effectively.

Family hygiene tips

Hand hygiene is the key to infection prevention.

  • If brothers and sisters come home from nursery school with runny noses or coughs, make sure they practise proper personal hygiene and use tissues correctly.
  • Parents should enquire about and be alert to local outbreaks of flu, vomiting bugs, diarrhoea, chickenpox and measles.
  • Communal toys in nursery schools can be a potential source of infection spread.
  • Teach siblings and others coming into contact with your child how and when to clean their hands.
  • Don’t share personal items, e.g. towels.
  • Keep bathrooms clean and dry. Wet items such as face cloths can harbour bugs. Wash and dry face cloths regularly.
  • Create a space to store baby bath items. Clean your baby bath after use and make sure it is dried properly.
  • Clean all work surfaces and frequently touched surfaces often. Disinfect the hard surfaces that children touch frequently, including doorknobs, tables, light switches and countertops.
  • Change towels frequently, but make sure they are properly dry before use.

More like this:

8 steps to a healthier air at home
Top 5 tips to reduce allergy triggers at home
Laundry tips for new parents

ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.