Every parent wants the best for their baby and hygiene comprises a really important part of this care. Babies have a very immature immune system and germs and bacteria are two things parents need to keep an eye on.
Although newborns don’t need daily baths, there are certain precautions that parents can take to keep babies as safe as possible. Hand washing is one of the simplest measures that moms can implement, and which will stop germs from getting passed to the baby. Everyone who comes in contact with the baby should be encouraged to do the same.
Other simple measures such as regular diaper changing and efficient sterilizing of feeding equipment is common sense but can make a big difference to the baby’s wellbeing. Prevention is always better than cure in a newborn baby. If a baby gets an infection it can cause stomach problems that can lead to dehydration and this can develop into a serious problem.
Other hazards for babies are allergens in the home that can lead to breathing difficulties and chest infections and these can be kept under control with a few simple precautions. Until a baby has fully developed its lungs and respiratory system, it may be vulnerable to allergens.
20 Keep The Baby's Eyes Clean
It’s really important to clean a newborn baby’s eyes because there are problems that can occur and if not treated, can cause infection and in the worst cases, blindness.
There is a condition called ophthalmia neonatorum that can occur as a result of an infection picked up from a vaginal delivery. The infection is caused by a sexually transmitted disease in the mother and if she is unaware she has it, then the baby can be infected. An ointment is applied to the baby’s eyes in the hospital to prevent this infection from developing, and eyes are cleaned to avoid blocked tear ducts that can lead to infection in the baby’s eyes.
19 Carefully Treat The Cord Stump
The stump from the umbilical cord should be treated carefully until it falls off and cleaned regularly. Doctors recommend cleaning the area with a mild baby soap and swabbing around the stump with damp cotton wool and drying the area thoroughly.
How to Adult tells us that if there is any foul smelling discharge or yellow pus around the wound, or if the baby seems distressed when the stump is touched, it may be a sign of an infection that will need to have medical treatment. It is also important to keep an eye out for any bulging around the stump as this could be an umbilical hernia and will need medical attention.
18 Keep The Ears Clean
It’s important to clean a baby’s ears to ensure there is nothing clogging up the ear and impeding hearing. However, it is never advisable to stick anything in the baby’s ear even a specially designed baby cotton swab.
The baby’s ear should be cleaned by using a damp washcloth that should be gently wiped around the exterior of the baby’s ear. Nothing should ever be inserted into the ear. The washcloth will remove any wax that has worked its way out of the ear. The Toddle tells us that sticking anything into the ear could force the wax further into the ear and cause damage or infection.
17 Always Be Gentle
It’s important to keep the baby’s genital area clean to avoid infection and diaper rash. When changing the baby’s diaper, make sure the genital area is clean and if there is any poo in the genital area, clean it away with dampened cotton wool or a cloth, or some alcohol-free wipes.
Always make sure to wipe from front to back to prevent any poo lingering and causing a urinary tract infection. The genital area may be a little swollen in the newborn baby and this is normal. The swelling will reduce after a few weeks. Baby Centre reminds us that cleaning products with perfume, alcohol, and soap can irritate the balance of baby’s skin, so should be avoided.
16 Be Wary Of Germs
Infections in newborns can be quite serious and for this reason, it is wise to keep babies away from people who are unwell. The baby will build up an immune system from germs that it comes into contact with naturally, so there is no need to expose it to anymore.
Even an illness that seems mild in an adult can develop into something serious in a newborn. Web MD states that if someone wants to come and see the baby, try and avoid them holding the baby, and ask anyone who is touching the baby to wash their hands.
15 Keep The Baby Away From Smoke
Newborn babies can be especially vulnerable to inhaling smoke and they should be kept away from smoke if at all possible. They have immature airways and their lungs are developing, so they can be easily damaged if they inhale any smoke and it can lead to breathing difficulties later in life.
Raising Children tells us that they are also vulnerable to second-hand smoke from a smoker’s breath or hands and to third-hand smoke, which is the residue left on clothes and furniture. If visiting a friend’s house where someone smokes, it is best to put the baby on a blanket rather than directly onto a carpet or sofa.
14 Bathe The Baby 2 To 3 Times A Week
A newborn baby only needs to be bathed two or three times a week, not every day. In between, the baby should be topped and tailed daily. This involves cleaning the baby’s face, neck, hands, and diaper area.
When bathing the baby, it is important to keep the temperature correct, it should be around 98.6 degrees, and the room should be no cooler than 75 degrees. The baby will find it hard to regulate its body temperature in the beginning, so it should not be allowed to get cold. Make sure there is a clean towel handy to put the baby in straight after the bath.
13 Keep The Baby's Nails Trimmed
Newborn baby nails grow surprisingly quickly and can become quite ragged and sharp and this can lead to the baby scratching its face. The nails need to be kept trimmed and short to avoid this, but this can be easier said than done.
Enlist the help of another adult if the baby is wriggly, and use some round ended scissors or special baby nail clippers. Trimming the nails after a bath may be easier as the nails will be soft and can be peeled off with care. Don’t be tempted to bite them off as you might inadvertently pass infection from your saliva to the baby.
12 Clear The Baby's Nose
The baby can’t clear its own nose so it’s best to keep an eye on it and clear out any mucus that collects. You can use some dampened cotton balls to clear the area around the nose, but if there is any residue inside the nose, the best method is to use saline drops that will dissolve any dislodged matter, which the baby can sneeze out.
If the baby is laid flat after the drops have been administered, it will allow the liquid to pass through the nose and clear anything further up the nose. The baby’s nose needs to be kept clear as it will impede feeding if the nose is blocked.
11 Sterilize All Feeding Equipment
It is vital to sterilize all baby’s feeding equipment until they are 12-months old, as dirty equipment can lead to infections, particularly diarrhea and vomiting, which can be dangerous for a baby. Other infections such as thrush are a potential threat to babies from unsterile equipment.
To sterilize, all equipment including bottles, pacifiers, nipples, cups, and toys should be washed in hot soapy water before sterilizing. Then they must be rinsed and sterilized in steam. boiled or in a microwave sterilizer or using specially designed sterilizing tablets. After sterilizing, the equipment should be used straight away or sealed to prevent infection from getting in.
10 Wipe Clean The Baby's Face And Mouth
It might seem too early, but it’s important to get into good oral hygiene habits with the newborn. Their gums are at risk even before teeth develop. A baby’s mouth should be cleaned daily using a moistened cloth. Make sure your hands are clean and wipe the inside of the baby’s mouth and gums.
It’s also important to keep the baby’s face clean. Babies can get acne that needs cleaning with water and should disappear on its own without treatment. It’s also important to keep the face clean to avoid infection developing from any dirt or dried milk.
9 Watch Out For Dried Milk
Sometimes while feeding, some milk can dribble out of the baby’s mouth and settle in the folds of skin. This is particularly the case if the baby is a little bit chubby, which means are more folds. If this milk dries and settles in the folds, it can become stale and smelly and cause redness and soreness inside the fold.
Make sure after each feeding that the neck is clean and free of milk. At bath time, check the folds in the arms and legs in case there is any residue there and clean them thoroughly. Newborns have a very immature immune system so are more prone to infections.
8 Keep An Ill Baby In The Home
If a baby gets ill, it can be very upsetting, and panic can quickly set in. The baby’s feeding is a good indication of how ill they are. A sick baby will be off its food, for sure. If the baby’s temperature reaches 100 degrees or more, a doctor should be called, and he may give the baby some medication.
It is best to keep the baby warm, but not overheated as it is hard for them to regulate their own temperature. Similarly, with a fever, dress the baby in layers of cool clothing and give them lots of cuddles. Keep them away from anyone who might pass on germs and make the infection worse.
7 Get The Recommended Vaccinations
Doctors recommend that moms keep up to date with all vaccinations. Babies are born with a certain level of immunization from their mother, but this will run out after a few weeks. If the baby is breastfed there are certain immunities that they will receive from the milk, but some diseases need extra protection.
Vaccines that are given to newborn babies are given at the time that the baby will be running out of its natural supply of antibodies, so it is wise to stick to the recommendations from your doctor. It is a mother’s choice to vaccinate or not, but bear in mind that they do not only protect the baby but the wider family and community from contracting serious illnesses.
6 Change Diapers Regularly
Newborn babies don’t pee very much in the first couple of days, but will once they start to digest the milk and are feeding more regularly. They will also poop infrequently, especially if they are bottle fed. Breast milk has a natural laxative in it so breastfed babies will poop more.
New babies will go through around 10-12 diapers a day and it is important to keep them dry, as they can develop diaper rash and become very distressed. Although nappies are absorbent, some moisture can be left on the baby’s skin and this causes the rash. Keeping the baby dry can help prevent it.
5 Wash Your Hands Before Touching The Baby
It’s a really simple procedure but it’s the best way to prevent illness and the spread of infection. Always wash your hands after changing a diaper and encourage family members and anyone touching the baby to wash their hands regularly. Using hot water and an antibacterial handwash will ensure that germs don’t get passed on.
If you’re out and about it’s handy to have some antibacterial hand sanitizer in the diaper bag to use if you can’t get access to a sink.
4 The Baby Needs Protection From The Sun
A baby can easily get sunburned or suffer from heatstroke so it’s important to keep a baby safe and protected from direct sunlight. Sunburn in a baby can cause dehydration and fever, as well as the obvious pain on the skin.
A baby’s skin is thinner and more vulnerable than an adult’s, so it needs even more protection. The UV rays in the sun are what cause the damage, so direct sun at any time of the day can cause damage, but a baby should be kept out of the hottest sun in the middle of the day.
3 Sleep Safe
Doctors are at pains to warn moms about SIDS. Advice on prevention is available to new moms and one of the most important pieces of advice is to put the baby to sleep safely.
Babies should be put to sleep on their backs and kept away from pillows, duvets, cushions or too many cuddly toys. Crib bumpers are not recommended. A baby should be placed with its feet at the foot of the crib to avoid it wriggling down and getting smothered by blankets.
It’s advised that babies are not put to sleep on sofas surrounded by cushions because of the risk of suffocation.
2 Some Germs Are Necessary
A baby has a certain amount of immunity in their bodies from the mother. If they are breastfeeding, they will pick up more immunity from the colostrum and the natural antibodies in the milk. However, babies can pick up illnesses easily and because of their underdeveloped immune systems, they can be at risk from germs and bacteria.
Some germs are necessary for the babies to build up their immunity, but they will pick them up naturally from contact with their immediate family. This will help to give the baby some protection when they start to mix with other children and move around.
1 Keep Air Allergen-Free
Allergens in the home can cause nasal allergies and irritation in infants. To avoid contamination, it is best to keep the home as free from dust as possible, as dust mites live on the flakes of human skin that make up house dust.
Pet hair and dander can also cause allergies, as can pollen and seeds. Mold is also an allergen and any dampness in bathrooms, cellars or cold rooms should be treated before a baby encounters it, or it can cause nasal or chest problems. Allergens can be avoided by covering mattresses with a protector, putting bedclothes on a hot wash and lowering the number of cuddly toys in a baby’s room. They can be put in the freezer to kill any dust mites.
References: Raising Children, Web MD, Baby Centre, The Toddle, How to Adult