You want a safe environment when you bring your newborn home and raise them through their early months and years. Cleaning your home well is a great achievement, but that doesn’t mean being afraid of germs – in fact, good bacteria helps build a healthy immune system. A useful way to create a space you and your baby can thrive and grow in is to take each room in turn.
1. The kitchen
When you’re cleaning, leaving windows open and keeping your baby in another room is a healthy option because it lessens their exposure to possibly harmful chemicals and sprays that can trigger asthma. Other things that can set off asthma are insect sprays, air fresheners, cigarette smoke and some perfumes. It’s wise to check what’s in your cleaners, too, because they can include corrosives and chlorine that may irritate your skin and lungs. And it’s also a good choice to use glass or stainless steel containers and bottles for baby’s food and drink, to avoid bisphenol–A (BPA). BPA can be found in baby bottles and it’s been found to disrupt hormones in some animals.
2. The lounge
We like our lounge to have just the right paint and carpet, because it’s where we entertain family and friends. But new carpets can emit toxic fumes from their backing or from adhesives, so you might want to consider wool carpet or polished wooden floors with rugs. And it’s wise to choose paint that’s low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and free from lead. Houses built before 1980 are more likely to have lead-based paint and when it’s removed the lead can be absorbed through the skin or from the air if it’s sanded away.
3. The bathroom
Most parents wash their hands more often with new babies, because nappies constantly need changing. But try to use anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners sparingly. That’s because they often have potentially harmful ingredients like triclosan that can strip your skin of its natural protective oils and leave it irritated. The bathroom is another area where leaving windows open can limited your baby’s exposure to spray cleaners with chemicals that may negatively affect them.
Also keep an eye out for products that contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and the closely related sodium laureth sulphate (SLES), often used in children’s bubble bath and washes. SLS is a potential eye, lung and skin irritant that can be absorbed through the skin and get into tissues.
Keep in mind too that skin absorption and inhaling fumes from cleaning products isn’t the only way little ones are exposed to nasty chemicals. They can also get these through traces of cleaners in food, by putting their fingers in their mouths and by swallowing toothpaste.
4. The laundry
Think about using liquid laundry detergents for your clothes and sheets, because they’re more likely to have gentler ingredients – and consider choosing laundry products that don’t contain enzymes, optical whiteners, synthetic dyes and synthetic perfumes. Enzymes can hang around in clothes and linens after you wash them, then become reactivated by sweat and any other moisture. Optical brighteners and synthetic dyes and perfumes, meanwhile, can be harsh on a baby’s delicate skin. Residues from these chemicals can also persist in linens and might cause rashes and eczema.
Did you know?
Good indoor air quality is really important - babies and young children are more vulnerable to pollutants in the air because they have narrower airways and need more oxygen relative to their size. They also breathe more rapidly, inhaling more pollutant per kg of body weight than adults do.