Babies can be messy, but they’re generally messy in an obvious way – if Baby has spit-up on their shirt, it’s time for a new shirt. If they have dirt smeared on their face, it’s probably time to grab a washcloth (and check to make sure they hasn’t managed to slip anything they shouldn’t into their mouth. With some of the stuff that babies come with, though, the answer to the question of when to clean up can be a little less clear cut.
- Bottles: Like all dishware, baby bottles are routinely cleaned after every use. What’s trickier is how often they should be sterilized. In the past, experts recommended sterilizing bottles before each use, or before each use for babies under a certain age. As water quality has improved, though, recommendations have evolved, and current recommendations from both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mayo Clinic say that, after sterilizing new bottles before first using them, washing them with soap and hot water, and rinsing thoroughly, should keep baby bottles as clean as they need to be, unless there are concerns about water quality in your area.
- Pacifier: Anything that spends as much time in Baby’s mouth as their pacifier does, if they're a binky-fan, should probably be pretty clean. The Mayo Clinic recommends sterilizing pacifiers for under-6-month-olds before each use, and cleaning with hot, soapy water before each use for children older than 6 months. Other experts feel less strongly about sterilizing pacifiers, but still recommend cleaning with hot, soapy water before each use. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to clean pacifiers in the same way and with the same intensity as you clean bottles, if you use bottles. The one exception to this is that latex pacifiers often aren’t dishwasher-safe, and may need to be cleaned by hand, even if hand-cleaning isn’t how you clean bottles.
- Crib sheets: Babies can be a little accident-prone, so any unexpected messes are good reasons for a sheet-change, but neat babies probably don’t need new sheets much more often than the rest of the family. If you’re more comfortable changing them more often, it’s certainly not going to hurt, but once a week or so should be fine to keep your little one in sweet dreams.
- Baby gym: Even though Baby isn’t exactly working up a sweat in their play area, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a good scrub-down now and then. On the other hand, it does mean that Baby’s gym (or exersaucer, play-pen, or other large play area) probably doesn’t need to be added to any kind of regular cleaning list. Spot-cleaning messes, and more thorough cleanings after an illness, or after Baby has been sharing their toys, or whenever something is used often enough to start to look dirty, should be plenty to keep Baby’s environment clean. Detachable cloth can go in the washing machine, and detachable plastic parts can generally either go in the dishwasher or be washed by hand in hot, soapy water.
- Strollers and car seats: Strollers and car seats come with instruction booklets that generally have sections detailing how to clean them, but the answer to the question of how often to clean strollers and car seats really just comes down to how often, and how hard, they’re used. Spot cleaning of the fabric and periodic wipe-downs of plastic or metal should keep both car seats and strollers in fairly good condition, so aside from special case big messes, really frequently used car seats or strollers getting the clean treatment about once a month, or even once every few months, unless they start to look dirty sooner, should be plenty.
- Comfort object: If Baby has attached themself to a very special toy, blanket, or other object, that object probably manages to get dirty more often than most of the things in Baby’s life. On the other hand, though, taking this object away for long enough to get it clean can be a treacherous adventure. Aside from obvious, unsanitary dirtiness, though, when to clean your little one’s comfort object is really up to you. Day to day, deciding whether it’s more important for teddy to look a bit less grimy, or more important to stave off a meltdown is really a call that only a parent can make, in the moment. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if Baby gets used to their comfort object going through periodical transformations when going through the washing machine, it may be a bit easier to make the transition to a new comfort object if the unthinkable happens, and the old blankie gets lost.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Infant formula: 7 steps to prepare it safely.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 24 2016. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pacifiers: Are they good for your baby?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, September 25 2014. Web.
- Taylor Wolfram. “How to Safely Clean Baby Bottles.” eat right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, February 16 2017 Web.
- “Sterilizing baby bottles.” NHS Choices. Gov.UK, October 2 2016. Web.
- “Sterilizing and warming bottles.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.