Childcare can get busy, and it may be tempting to just quickly wipe off or lick your child’s dropped pacifier or bottle when you’re on the go. However, a baby’s immune system needs time to mature, and it is critical they be protected from germs as much as possible. That’s why proper cleaning and sanitation is important to keeping your baby safe and healthy.
Babies are susceptible to many health challenges when exposed to germs, even if those germs come from their own parent. For instance, parents can pass cavity-causing germs to their child through saliva, which is why the traditional “spit-cleaning” method is neither ideal nor sufficient for properly sanitizing a child’s items.
Special care should be taken to keep baby accessories like pacifiers, bottles and teething toys properly sanitized, and it can be simple. Here are a few easy steps to ensure your child’s accessories are clean and safe.
Sterilization is critical to keeping your child’s accessories safe. It is recommended that pacifiers are fully sterilized before a new pacifier is used for the first time, after your child has been sick and as frequently as possible until the child is 6 months in age. Extreme heat is needed to fully sterilize the accessory. A few methods include:
- Boiling on the stove for about 5 minutes.
- Placing in a vaporizer or sterilization box in a microwave.
- Running through the dishwasher, preferably on the top shelf, as the bottom shelf may be too hot and damage the pacifier.
No matter which sterilization method you choose, be sure to handle the accessory carefully, as it will be very hot after cleaning. It is recommended to use tongs or another tool to reduce contact with the item being sterilized for both protection against the heat and prevention of contamination.
Between sterilizations, it is important to hand wash your baby’s pacifiers, bottles and toys. Running them under water may remove surface dirt, but washing with hot water and soap is necessary for a deeper clean.
Wash the pacifier, bottle or toy in hot, soapy water after each use to prevent the buildup of dirt and germs. Head to the nearest restroom any time your child’s pacifier or other item is dropped, as you never know what mystery contaminants lurk on the ground.
Washing with hot water and soap may be sufficient cleaning for babies 6 months and over, but it is still recommended that you sterilize your child’s accessories regularly.
Cooling and drying
Be sure to leave time for your baby’s sterilized and/or washed item to cool before use. During the process, water will likely get trapped in the nipples of pacifiers or bottles. You can squeeze the nipple to expel any liquid. Then, lay it down on a dry paper towel to dry completely.
Preventing contamination and storage
To prevent contamination between sterilization and use, place your baby’s accessory in a clean container and set aside. Take care not to touch the pacifier or bottle nipple after it has been sterilized because you may pass germs to your child this way.
Inspect for imperfections
Regularly inspect pacifiers and bottles before use, as damaged items have greater potential for hidden germs and dirt. Perform a pull test before each use and inspect for damage or tears. A pull test can be conducted by pinching the nipple of the pacifier or bottle with one hand and holding the base with the other. Pull in opposite directions and look for imperfections or damage. Discard damaged items immediately and replace.
These easy steps can make all the difference in protecting your baby’s immune system. Be sure to properly sterilize and wash your child’s accessories frequently.