Where and when to start buying baby stuff during pregnancy can be an overwhelming decision. No wonder since the range of baby supplies keeps expanding. Making a baby essentials list can narrow down the choice but how do parents prioritize the baby must-haves from the add-ons? Pediatrician and co-author of “Heading Home With Your Newborn”, Jennifer Shu, says to put down only crucial tasks on your to-do lists: “If it doesn’t get done, your family’s health, safety, and well-being would be at risk.”
Good hygiene practices are essential for babies and children under the age of five years because their immune systems are not strong yet, making them more prone to infections. On the other hand, creating a sterile environment can do more harm than good as there are certain microorganisms that work hand in hand with your baby’s immune system. These bacteria are part of your baby’s microflora.
The goal (or trick) is to maintain the optimal conditions for the “good bacteria” to thrive and keep the “bad bacteria” out and away. So, instead of focusing on all the details of your baby’s arrival, focus on the products meant for its hygiene, immune system and consequently, its health:
Although you can bathe children in a regular bath tub, you need to optimize it when it comes to your teeny tiny infant or buy an infant bathtub. Newborn baby tubs are specifically designed for both newborns and older infants that are learning to sit. They comfortably support the baby and have a non-slip interior texture. A baby bath with a round shape and soft edges make the bath more soothing than distressing. Also, you can try immersion bathing in a newborn bath tub or a new technique called saddle immersion. They are preferred to sponge bathing for both thermoregulation and infant comfort.
Now that we’ve clarified which bathtub is best for newborns, a new question arises. How often should you bathe your baby in it?
Delaying the first newborn bath for 12–24 h of life increases parental bonding and breastfeeding success. Babies shouldn’t be placed in water for a bath until the umbilical cord has fallen off. You can use a soft washcloth and gentle soap until the umbilical cord has fallen off. Bathing two to three times per week is generally sufficient for full-term neonates. Additional bathing may disrupt bacterial skin flora and skin barrier function. Gentle bathing or dry wiping does not significantly disrupt the vernix, the protective layer that coats the skin at birth.
Make hygiene rituals more convenient by keeping all the baby bath items within arm’s reach of the infant bathtub. Never leave your baby alone during bath time, not even for a second. These include diapers and clothes, 2 bath towels, mild soap, a soft washcloth, baby lotion and a hairbrush.
Start by washing the face with plain warm water. While washing your baby’s hair, don’t be afraid to gently shampoo the soft spots to prevent cradle cap. It’s a condition where yellow, oily and scaly flakes build upon a baby’s scalp. Use mild soaps, not perfumed ones. Regular use of skin emollients reduces the risk of developing atopic dermatitis among infants with a family history of atopic dermatitis. Skin emollients should be applied in a thin layer, avoiding buildup in skin folds.
Clipping your baby’s nails after a bath is easier as the soaking will make them softer but make sure you use a baby nail clipper.
Soft Towels and Washcloths
After the final rinse, pat your baby dry with a clean towel. Babies can’t adjust to temperature changes as well as adults and can lose heat rapidly which is why you need a warm and cozy baby towel at arm’s length. Hooded towels are a big hit not only due to their practicality but also due to their over-the-top cuteness.
Washcloths are more appropriate for cleaning, whether it’s during bath time or when changing a diaper. The eyes should be wiped with a washcloth or cotton balls, from the inner to the outer corner of the eye. When doing an in-depth wash of the creases and folds, use them to wipe gently. Don’t be hesitant about cleaning a baby girl’s genitals.
Babies are prone to eye infections so make sure you use a clean part of the washcloth or 2 cotton balls for each eye in order to stop the spread. Don’t put a cotton swab in the ears or nose to clean, just clean the surface. A hooded towel and washcloth set can set your mind and ease. Choose a hypoallergenic, ultra-absorbent and quick-drying material, something that’s easy to care for and is fully machine washable, like bamboo.
Change Mat and Diaper Changing Station
Truth be told, you could somehow manage to change your baby’s diapers on many flat surfaces in your home. However, when we’re talking about safe and optimal baby hygiene, proper handling of diapers probably comes close to the top.
Babies get tummy bugs from infected food or by putting their fingers in their mouths after touching infected surfaces. This often leads to diarrhea. Diarrhea is trickier to handle and poses a greater risk for spreading infections. Improper handling of diapers can lead to more infected surfaces that continue the vicious cycle, maybe even including other family members in it if commonly used surfaces in the household are used. Never change nappies in the kitchen or dining area.
Furthermore, the real or improvised diaper changing station needs to be cleaned daily and thoroughly. Make sure you use a disinfectant or disinfectant/cleaner such as a bleach-based product, which is active against bacteria and viruses. A designated space for this task is a much safer and easier option. A change mat that’s made from a hygienic, 100% waterproof surface like polyurethane foam is not only easy to clean but also won’t soak in the fluids and become a moist nest for microorganisms.
Polyurethane foam is also durable, sturdy, non-slip and can weigh almost 3kg, making sure that although your baby moves it doesn’t. It can turn any flat surface into a change station. It’s important to keep all essentials within reach like disposable nappies or cloth diapers, wipe cloth, baby wipes, diaper cream and a nappy bag. This can be challenging if you keep switching locations and surfaces.
Although not necessarily essential by itself, that’s where a diaper change station comes in. When all the baby essentials are at arm’s length, you won’t have to leave your baby out of your sight. Also, it can be transformed into a storage unit in the next phases of your baby’s growth.
When cleaning the baby’s bottom always wipe from the front to the back. Seal disposable nappies in a plastic bag or nappy sack and place them in the outdoor bin, away from the house and family. A nappy bin would come in handy as it’s the quickest way to properly dispose of diapers while containing odours but it’s not essential. Always wash your hands thoroughly after changing a baby’s nappy.
Bottle Cleaners and Sterilisers
Rigorous hygiene practice is important when preparing feeds and drinks for a baby in order to reduce the risks of tummy infections. Moreover, damp and moist surfaces, especially ones with nutrients stuck on them, are the perfect grounds for bacterial growth.
First and foremost, always wash your hands before preparing baby foods or feeding your baby. The feeding bottles must be cleaned and sterilised after every use and unfortunately, there are places your fingers can’t reach. It’s not just about choosing the right baby bottle although one with a wider neck will sure make the cleaning easier.
Clean the equipment thoroughly with hot soapy water and a bottle brush. A bottle brush can be used to clean a variety of baby feeding equipment, not just baby bottles. Its detailed cleaner can access tricky spots while its ventilation holes keep it dry. You can sterilise the baby bottles the old-fashioned way, like boiling or steaming. On the other hand, sterilising solutions and microwavable baby sterilisers are available. However, the solutions are harsh chemicals while the microwavable baby sterilisers can’t be used to clean baby equipment with metal components.
UV bottle sterilisers, although not essential, are the most scrupulous and the safest way to sterilise baby bottles. You should continue sterilising a baby’s bottle-feeding equipment until your baby is 1 year old. Always fill it with milk as soon as your remove it from the sterilisation container so you avoid contaminating it.
When choosing baby bedding, you need to know what materials are good for sensitive skin and at what temperature can you wash baby bedding without ruining it but still get the nasty out. Natural fibres like cotton, rayon, linen and silk are sensitive skin-friendly. Look for “hypoallergenic” labels.
Even so, baby bedding that can be washed at higher temperatures is a better choice. Wash at 60°C or above using a powder or tablet detergent containing active oxygen bleach. Alternatively, you can wash at 40°C but bear in mind that without a powder or tablet detergent with active oxygen bleach won’t be effective.