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
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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