Basic hygiene practices are key to keeping your baby healthy, comfortable and happy. However, with the mountains of information, advise and opinions available to moms it’s sometimes difficult to filter the facts from the fallacies and make informed decisions.
So, let’s make it easier for you! Babies have immature immune systems and therefore certain areas of your baby’s body must be kept clean to avoid infection or illnesses. These are:
- Face: wash your baby’s face often focusing on the eyes, cheeks and forehead. In the first few weeks you need only moisten a cotton wool ball with warm saline water (no-rinse baby cleansers also work) and gently wipe the eyelids, inner to outer eye, cheeks and forehead, using a different piece of cotton wool for each eye and section.
- Ears: use a rolled-up piece of cotton wool to clean around and behind the ears. Never use cotton buds as these irritate, and can even damage, a baby’s ears
- Nose: as with the ears use a rolled-up piece of cotton wool moistened in saline solution and gently insert it in one nostril. Use another cotton ball for the other nostril.
- Nails: cut your baby’s nail with a pair of round-tip scissors or file them with a baby emery board. To keep baby calm chat with him while firmly, yet gently, holding his hand or foot during the procedure. Alternatively, do it while he’s sleeping. It’s advisable to wait until your baby is at least a month old to trim the nails. Avoid cutting them to close to the skin to prevent infection.
- Hands: always keep your baby’s hands clean. Wet wipes are a Godsend in this regard.
- Umbilical cord: keeping the umbilical cord clean and dry until it falls is crucial. It’s vital to clean the cord often, but gently, in order to prevent infection. It is also essential to keep the stump dry and avoid covering it.
- Genital area: for a baby girl, wet a cotton ball with water, hold her legs apart and wipe gently between the labia with it. Start at the front and gently wipe backwards. For baby boys, gently rinse the genital area with water. It is also recommended to give your baby some ‘nappy-free’ time, and air her skin to prevent nappy rash. When changing your baby’s nappy carefully clean his bottom with hypo-allergenic wet wipes or a warm wet cloth. Make sure to clean the skin folds properly as these are susceptible to irritation. Gently dry the area before applying nappy barrier cream and putting on his nappy.
Ironically, the golden rule for five-star baby hygiene starts with the caregivers. They must practice the most basic of basic hygiene principles and that is to wash their hands frequently, especially before and after handing the little one.