Use discretion when obliterating germs from your newborn's surroundings. While it's true that new babies are more susceptible to illness, recent research from the University of Michigan Health System on a theory called the hygiene hypothesis suggests that exposure to normal childhood germs might actually be beneficial. If you opt to pre-wash infant toys, make sure to use baby-safe products.
Toys Purchased New with No Packaging
Any toy you buy for a newborn will eventually end up in his mouth. It's better to err on the side of caution and wash new toys before giving them to baby. Be especially cautious of toys that come unpackaged, such as balls or rattles. These items are stored in warehouses that could have rodents and travel to the store in tractor trailers that might have previously hauled pool chemicals -- contaminants you never want to introduce to a newborn.
New Toys Sealed in the Package
The jury is still out on washing new, sealed toys. You might want to consider the size and type of the toy in question. Most parents would probably opt not to wash a toy if it looks as though water could penetrate and damage it. These toys can still be wiped down with a cloth dipped in a baby-safe cleaner, however. Toys meant for your child's mouth, such as teethers, should be thoroughly pre-washed to remove any traces of chemicals lingering from the manufacturing process.
Toys Purchased Second-Hand
Surprisingly, the germs lingering on second-hand toys might not be as harmful as doctors once imagined. The hygiene hypothesis theorizes that exposure to some germs might actually be beneficial to children in preventing the onset of allergies. Doctors who subscribe to this theorize that today's cleaner lifestyles have diverted the body's immune system away from fighting infections and toward developing allergies. Most parents of newborns, however, might cringe at the thought of not pre-washing a second-hand toy.
How to Clean Newborn Toys
If you find you just can't bear to expose your newborn to a toy that hasn't been pre-washed, use a non-toxic cleaner that's safe for infants. Avoid the use of common household cleaners that contain ingredients such as bleach, ammonia or lye. Safer alternatives might include vinegar or baking soda, but even these products can be harmful if ingested. Talk with your pediatrician about which cleaners are safest for newborn toys.
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