Lax hygiene putting babies at risk, says report

Britain’s “too clean” attitude is putting babies at risk of infection and illness, says hygiene company Milton following a study.

Professor Chris Griffith, who carried out the research, said, “Changes in attitudes and lifestyle may have contributed to the spread of organisms in the home. One particular problem has been the hypothesis suggesting we have become too clean and that this has contributed to an increase in childhood allergies. What is not realised is that this theory has very little supporting evidence and the risk to infant health from bad hygiene practices could be far greater and is particularly worrying at a time of a flu pandemic.”

In other words, we have a view that an obsession with cleaning is bad because it doesn’t expose our children to bacteria that will help them build up their immune system, so we are cleaning less than we ought to.

The research revealed 71% of common baby items had high levels of bacteria present, with pushchair seats, bibs, blankets, baby gros and plastic feeding spoons the worst offenders.

“People often underestimate the importance of home hygiene and this can be compounded by the lack of knowledge and awareness as well as decreased time available to families for cleaning and hygiene practices,” said Professor Griffith.

The study, which microbiologically tested 10 common baby items from homes and nurseries, found 90% of baby gros and vests had a high level of bacteria present, 80% of blankets and bibs were found to have higher than desirable levels of contamination, of which 20% were deemed to be at a very high level. Around 40% of push chair seats and 30% of plastic feeding spoons had high contamination levels. All items were tested for Aerobic Colony Count (ACC), Enterobacteriaceae, Staphylococci and yeasts and moulds. Some of the bacteria recovered could  lead to infections such as impetigo (a skin infection), food poisoning, and even pneumonia.

“Milton commissioned this research to discover whether parents are following correct hygiene procedures. The results are worrying,” said Steve Riley, Technical Director of Milton. “During the first 12 months, a baby’s immune system is still developing and as such they have little protection against germs. Hand hygiene, surface and fabric cleaning, alongside the sterilising of all feeding utensils, dummies and plastic toys in contact with infants should be adopted as a matter of routine by parents.”

In response to the findings, Milton has developed a free ‘Guide to Keeping your Home Baby Friendly and Germ Free’ which can be requested by calling 01202 780558. Further information and tips on cleaning baby items can be found at


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