As moms, we want our babies to be healthy and happy, and we strive to protect them from every harmful thing under the sun (including the sun!). But it’s easy (especially with hormones ramping up our instincts) to get a little too protective and make ourselves nuts. Especially when it comes to germs.
For new moms, germs can be a big fear. So, if you’re buying disinfectant in bulk, consider the following:
Babies have antibodies. During pregnancy and via breastmilk, babies receive maternal antibodies from mom that gives them temporary immunity until they can start making their own. So, while their immune system is delicate and growing in the first few months, you don’t need to be so germ-scared that it keeps you from getting out of the house. Of course, common sense precautions are important: it helps if guests wash their hands before holding the baby and steer clear of sick people. But getting fresh air and socializing has lots of mind-body benefits for you and your little one.
The dirt on germs. Not too far down the road, your child will enter a long-lasting phase where he’ll try to put every single item he sees in his mouth. Everything. And he will succeed, because kids are determined. Also, when you’re teething, gnawing on stuff feels really good. So no matter how hard you try, your kid is going to touch or taste germy things. It’s just inevitable. And it doesn’t mean you’re slacking off as a parent, it means it’s the perfect time to remember the “hygiene hypothesis.”
The hygiene hypothesis states that a “lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (such as gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system.” Translation: Children need exposure to germs so their body can learn how to fight them. Kids brought up in sterile environments or without opportunities to play in the sand and grass don’t get a chance to build strong immune systems.
In fact, a leading geneticist in germ studies suggested it’s not a bad idea for parents to “roll their babies around the subway floor.” Okay, that’s an extreme, but his point is valid: not all germs are bad. And seasoned parents will tell you not to panic when your baby tries tasting all manner of objects. You can buy the toy car keys, but it won’t stop your little one from trying to stick the real deal in his mouth. And if you don’t own a bottle sterilizer, don’t panic. Good, old-fashioned soap and hot water will also do the trick.