Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 11:43 am

If there was ever a sign that you need to mop your floors, it’s seeing the colour of your baby’s knees after a day spent crawling around. But should you shrug your shoulders or reach for the bleach? Read these baby hygiene rules before you decide.

“Your baby’s immune system actually builds by fighting germs,” says UK-based health visitor Anne White. Studies prove that exposure to germs ‘teaches’ your baby’s body how to fend off disease and reduces the risk of him developing allergies. “If your body didn’t have germs to fight, it could start reacting to essentially harmless things like dust mites and pollen instead,” says Lindsey McManus from Allergy UK. Obviously where hygiene standards are low, the risk of illness – particularly to babies – is much higher, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to household cleaner.

ALSO SEE: How clean is too clean?

Here are the parts of your home you really need to keep clean:

Kitchen surfaces

Be scrupulous about the areas where you prepare food and the place where your baby eats. “Use an antibacterial spray and dry the area with kitchen paper as germs thrive in a damp environment,” says Iain Stewart, a preschool hygiene expert.

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Baby bottles should be sterilised until your baby is a year old, to kill all germs. Milk is particularly good for growing bacteria: “So thoroughly scrub your baby’s feeding equipment with a bottle brush before sterilising,” says Anne. “You should also sterilise baby cutlery, plates, cups and dummies up to one year.”

Living room floor

“Babies are born with a natural sucking reflex and a heightened oral sense, so will often ‘test’ objects with their mouth,” says Anne. And that means anything from toy cars to coins, so vacuum regularly.

Changing mat

Wipe your baby’s changing mat after each change with antibacterial spray, and keep all dirty nappies in a nappy bin. Alternatively, place dirty nappies in bags, tie securely and put in your household bin.

ALSO SEE: 5 things you should be cleaning, but probably aren’t

The bath

After bath time, leave the bath upturned so it can dry properly. “Bath toys, especially those that squirt water, can get really germy because they can stay damp,” says Anne. “Scrub bath toys with a brush every few weeks and replace every six months.”

The garden

“UV rays from the sun destroy germs, so letting your baby crawl around on a dry patch of ground should be fine,” says Iain. If you have a sandpit, make sure it’s been raked to remove any bacteria-laden mouldy twigs or leaves and cover it up when not in use.

Your hands

Your hands are a superhighway for germs so make sure you wash them regularly, and always after nappy changes and before handling food. “Nothing beats soap and water for cutting through grime and stickiness,” says Iain. Encourage your toddler to wash hands, too – Iain recommends you hold your baby’s hands in your own, rubbing soap between the fingers for 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly. Then he can run off and get filthy all over again.

ALSO SEE: 5 important hygiene rules to follow with a newborn in the house

Five ways to boost your immunity

Paediatrician Martin Ward-Platt’s top tips to keep your baby strong:

  • Stay up to date with your baby’s immunisations. Babies are born with little natural immunity, so making sure you go for jabs gives considerable extra protection against serious illness.
  • Let your baby mix with other babies. Coming into contact with coughs and colds will test and actually strengthen his immune system.
  • Exposing your baby to sunshine helps to make vitamin D, which is needed for a healthy immune system.
  • The nutrients in breast milk help to strengthen and develop your baby’s immune system for the first six months of his life. Even if you only manage a few weeks, it will be beneficial.
  • Children who live with pets are less likely to suffer from asthma and eczema. Just keep litter trays out of reach.