It’s finally time to take your premature baby home after weeks in the NICU, but is your home ready?
Annette Devenish, marketing manager of the Infection Protection Product says that premature babies don’t have as many antibodies as a full-term baby, which makes them more prone to infection. “Just a little cold can really set a prem baby back a huge amount, so it is important that your home is as germ free as possible before you bring your baby home.”
She adds that it’s equally important for friends and family to respect the fact that your baby is not a normal full-term healthy baby. “Yes, a premie will catch up, but it takes a little time. It pays to be cautious in the beginning, so it is important to sterilise your home, and particularly, your baby’s environment.”
While it is easy to sanitise your environment before you bring your baby home, it’s very important to maintain a high level of hygiene during those first few weeks, so try develop a routine and stick to it.
The bottom line is that while your prem baby needs time to catch up and develop a healthy immune system, good hygiene and cleaning practises are vital. “As your baby gets older and stronger, he will need to develop a resistance to germs and should, therefore, not be kept in a sterile environment forever,” says Annette.
Tips for preparing your home (and yourself)
- Wash all your new baby clothes and linen with a mild soap and hot water.
- Clean down all surfaces in your baby’s room and wipe down the furniture in the rest of the house. Use a pre-saturated disposable wipe as an improperly cleaned cloth can harbour germs.
- Keep animals away from your premature baby for at least a few weeks, until your newborn’s immature immune system has had time to catch up.
- Vacuum all carpets and rugs.
- Sterilise your home with a high alcohol spray or household bleach, like Jik. “Chlorine bleach is one of the cheapest and most effective sanitisers available,” says Annette.
- Sterlise all baby bottles and dummies using heat and a bleach sanitiser, like Milton.
- Use a high alcohol sanitiser, like Sanispray, to spray down new toys and gifts from friends and family. “This will quickly kill any bugs, and dries quickly without bleaching or destroying the toys. All gifts should also be subjected to a quick spray, suggests Annette.
- Handwashing is essential. Ensure all guests sanitise their hands before coming near your baby. A pre-saturated sanitising wipe is a convenient way to make sure sanitisers are easily accessible. An even easier solution is to ask guests to sanitise their hands at the door as soon as they enter your home.
- Don’t forget to regularly wipe down “high-touch zones”, like door knobs, toilet handles, fridge doors, cellphones and tablets.
Your cleaning toolkit:
- Gel hand sanitiser. This is absorbed into the skin like a hand cream and has a higher residual lasting effect. “Our research has found that most people (more especially men) don’t take time to rub the gel into their hands until properly absorbed and dry, so I recommend a spray as it is quick and easy and can be done more frequently. Make sure it is a good-quality product with more than 70% alcohol as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” says Annette.
- There are a number of effective alcohol-free sanitisers available. “Most of them need long contact times, so the surface needs to remain wet for two to five minutes to make sure all germs are killed,” adds Annette. The reason WHO recommends a 70% alcohol sanitiser, is that this is able to kill germs within seconds.
- While alcohol sanitisers are great, they do have a strong smell. Don’t spray them near your baby. The smell dissipates quickly.
- Pre-saturated or disinfectant wet wipes are disposable and convenient. They can wipe almost all surfaces quickly and effectively, without spreading germs around. Plus, they pick up dirt and bacteria through simple friction, while the fluid helps clean the surface.
- A good disinfectant or household bleach. Make sure this, and all other cleaning products and medicines, are securely packed away and out of harms reach.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.