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Germ Warfare: How Far Should You Go?

Beyond those basics, what else do you need to do to keep your baby healthy?

For babies, sterilizing bottles and nipples after you buy them -- just by dropping them in boiling water for five minutes -- is a good idea. After that, you can usually just wash them by hand or in the dishwasher.

What about disinfecting things like toys, doorknobs, telephones, and computer keyboards? Is all that necessary to keep your baby healthy?

“I really think wiping off doorknobs and stuff like that is an exercise in futility,” Frenck says. When a child is spreading germs, they get absolutely everywhere. Trying to wipe down every surface in the house will just make you crazy, he says.

As for wiping down toys, Frenck says that doing it in a daycare makes sense, because there are so many different kids using them. But in your own home, with your own kids, it’s not as important. Jana, the mother of three, puts her focus elsewhere. “I don’t clean my kids’ toys,” she says. “I clean their hands.”

In a way, it depends on your comfort level. If going the extra mile in your disinfecting makes you feel more confident, go ahead. You could conceivably prevent your kid from getting sick. But you certainly don’t need to feel like a negligent parent if you’re not cleaning your keyboard with bleach-soaked cotton swabs each night.

“Don’t let your focus on germs impair your ability to enjoy yourself,” Jana says. “You don’t want to be one of those people who’s terrified of every little germ.”

It’s also worth remembering that there may be some drawbacks to keeping a home that’s too clean. Some studies have linked the development of allergies and asthma with kids who were raised in homes that were too antiseptic. Without some exposure to antigens as babies, the body may become hypersensitive to them later -- resulting in allergies and asthma.

Help! My Baby Has Eaten Something Disgusting!

Babies will put anything in their mouths -- dirt, dusty Cheerios from under the couch, slimy dog toys, and fossilized cheese crumbs from the car seat. “I had to pull a fly out of my younger child’s mouth once,” Altmann says. “That was pretty gross.”

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