If you’ve suddenly started washing your hands like a doctor prepping for surgery, you’re not alone—I never realised how long 20 seconds could actually feel until this week. Making sure our kids wash or sanitise their hands (and don’t cough all over creation) is also key to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. But what about a baby’s hands?
Babies and hand sanitiser
First, you might be wondering whether the type of hand sanitiser that’s recommended by the CDC to kill the coronavirus—alcohol-based with at least 60% alcohol—is safe for babies. While kids over the age of one should be able to use these hand sanitisers (as long as they’re supervised and their hands are allowed to dry completely before touching food or their mouths), most labels will say they’re not recommended for use on infants.
There are some alcohol-free hand sanitisers marketed for use on babies, but they won’t be as effective and thorough as the alcohol-based variety—and hand-washing is still the best way to kill germs. This poster, from the North Carolina Child Care Health & Safety Resource Centre, gives great tips and visuals for how to wash your baby’s hands, depending on their developmental stage.
Washing tiny babies’ hands
For our littlest babies (of the can’t-support-their-own-heads variety), the best method for washing their hands is the three-towel method. You’ll need:
One damp, soapy cloth, rag or towel to wash their hands
One damp cloth to rinse off the soap
And one clean, dry cloth to dry them off
Washing young infants’ hands
For infants who are still young but can now control their heads, you can move to the sink. Hold your infant up at the sink, being careful not to push their belly into the sink or counter. Propping your leg up on a stool can help you brace them.
Next, run their hands under warm water, testing it first to ensure it’s not hot. Lather up your hands and then gently work the soap over their hands for the necessary 20 seconds—go ahead and sing the Happy Birthday song (twice), “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the Alphabet song. Get every nook and cranny on their hands, including palms, fingertips and in between the fingers. Rinse hands in warm water and dry on a clean towel.
Washing older infants’ hands
Once infants are able to stand at a toddler-height sink or on a stool at a regular sink, you can stand with them and assist them with lathering up and washing for 20 seconds.
How often should you wash them? It’s best to be safe right now and wash them under the same circumstances you’d wash your own hands, such as when you’ve returned home from being out in public, before bottle feedings or eating food, when they’ve come into contact with bodily fluids, and when they’re visibly dirty.
And each time you wash their hands, you should end the session by washing your own hands.