The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that handwashing is "your first step in keeping your children safe," since you can easily spread bacteria to your baby from:
- dirty diapers
- raw foods
- your pets
- contaminated surfaces
Although washing your hands properly is an easy way to remove bacteria from your hands and help protect your baby, studies show that new parents often don't wash their hands after changing diapers, going to the bathroom, or preparing raw food.
Experts usually recommend that you wash your hands with warm water and soap by thoroughly scrubbing your hands for 15 to 30 seconds (the longer the better -- with 60 seconds of handwashing actually being the ideal time). Afterwards, rinse and then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel that you will not reuse.
Instead of soap and water, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be a good way to get your hands free of germs, especially if they are not heavily soiled and soap and water isn't available. Because of their high alcohol content, supervise young children who use them though, so that they don't accidentally ingest the hand sanitizer.
Good times to wash your hands include after you go to the bathroom, change your baby's diaper, cough or sneeze into your hands, touch your pet, and touching any contaminated surface. You should also wash your hands before preparing baby food and feeding your baby and both before and after you handle other food.
Also encourage guests and other caregivers to wash their hands before touching or carrying your baby.
FDA/Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition. Food Safety for Moms to Be: Once Baby Arrives.
The effectiveness of hand hygiene procedures in reducing the risks of infections... Bloomfield S - Am J Infect Control - December 1, 2007; 35(10 Suppl 1); S27-S64.