Most new parents become all too aware of their baby’s health and how vulnerable a little immune system is. The automatic reaction from most people is to try sterilising and boiling everything in sight in case a germ dares to attack their offspring. Children’s toys are cleaned thoroughly by dry cleaning. Surfaces are doused in vast amounts of cleaning product to ensure that every germ lingering in the kitchen is dead. High chairs are swabbed with more products. And to deal with the inevitable pong from nappies, out come the air fresheners.
And if a new parent hasn’t hired one before, the arrival of a new baby often is a good excuse to hire a professional house cleaner. The need to protect babies from germs combined with the exhaustion of caring for a new baby is often the motivation.
But just wait a minute. If you get too obsessed with germs, you could actually be doing more harm than good. Most of those commercial cleaning products are poisonous – that’s why they kill germs. And once your baby gets mobile, he or she will put their hands on everything and put everything in their mouths, which means they’re getting this stuff into their systems. And let’s not even start on the hazards of having those cleaning products in the house – they all have to be stored out of reach in a high cupboard rather than being kept under the kitchen sink – the most common place to store cleaning chemicals.
If these chemicals get into their systems, it can cause developmental damage to the organs and various other systems. And even if small children don’t ingest the product you’ve used for cleaning the floor or cleaning the bathroom, an over-clean house can also be a problem, as it can lead to auto-immune problems. If a developing immune system doesn’t get a few bacteria to practice on, then it starts reacting to non-threats, leading to asthma and eczema and similar problems.
So what does a concerned parent to do in order to keep their home safe for their new baby?
* Use natural cleaning products. They are less toxic than commercial cleaning products. Older children can use these products or even make them without any hassles.
* If you have to use a commercial cleaning product, then rinse after using them. Store it up high where smalls can’t get it.
* Don’t bother dry-cleaning soft toys. Dry cleaning fluids are really nasty, and your little one will breathe them all in. If you have to clean a soft toy, do it by hand or just pop the toy in the machine – most modern soft toys can handle a trip through the tub.
* If you need to clean your carpets, book a steam cleaning or hire a professional carpet cleaner that uses chemical carpet shampoos. Regular vacuuming of carpets and sweeping of hard floors will get rid of the worst of the grub that might cause a problem for your child.
* Strengthen your child’s immune system. This is best done by a healthy diet. Breastfeeding is great for this and also means less cleaning work – no sterilising, measuring or scooping to be done, and breasts can’t be dropped onto the floor by accident mid-feed.
* Don’t panic. A happy, healthy child is reasonably resilient. As my sister-in-law said, you spend the first few months sterilising and boiling everything in sight, then as soon as they’re mobile, they’re in the garden eating slugs and coming to no harm.
But you can still hire that professional cleaner – busy new parents need all the help they can get.