To Wash or Not to Wash Newborn Clothing

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Washing your newborn's clothing before dressing him in it is a common safeguard measure taken by many new parents. Here's why.

Your precious little baby has soft, sensitive skin that you’ll want to protect from day one. That includes keeping an eye on what you put on your baby’s skin … including clothes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says in their online article Cleaning Baby Clothes, “It’s generally a good idea to wash all clothes prior to using them.” You may wonder about that since the new items have never been worn before, but think about it. Those items have come straight from the manufacturer and have been exposed to things you don’t know about — like formaldehyde, for instance.

Moms Weigh-In

Local mom Tara Sensing Gonzalez says she always washes newborn clothing before her baby wears them. “Clothes keep their color because they are dipped in formaldehyde,” says Gonzalez. “The same stuff that preserves bodies. Also, there’s no telling how long things sit at the store, which means tons of dust mites could be all over the clothing.” It’s true. Prior to shipping clothing from the large warehouses they are stored in, they are coated with formaldehyde to preserve a fresh look.

Local mom Sandy Yancy concurs. “It’s really not an issue of germs or dirt, new clothes are treated with preservatives to prevent mold or mildew while in storage/transport,” she adds. “These chemicals can be irritating to adult skin but much more newborn skin that’s ultra sensitive.”

The AAP says that the only clothing you don’t need to wash are coats and jackets. That’s only because those items don’t have direct contact with the skin. Use that as your guideline.

Still, many parents feel no harm will come to their child if they put new clothes straight on their child’s body without washing them first. “I have to say I’ve never made a point to wash new items that come in packages, but I can see why people do,” says local mom Samantha Downing. “Then again, I think we live in a society of germaphobes who are terrified there might be a germ on a piece of clothing, but then they’ll send their kids to day care so ‘they can build up their immune system’.”

Special Detergents

So to wash or not to wash … where do you start? Is it as simple as just tossing the newborn clothing in with the rest of the family’s items? The AAP says, “It is a common recommendation that baby clothes should be washed separately, using special ‘baby’ detergents that supposedly leave fewer residues and are therefore less likely to cause skin irritation. In reality, we’ve found that many if not most parents simply toss their baby’s clothes in with the rest of the family’s laundry without causing any problems.” However, if you have family history of sensitive skin, you might want to stick to the milder baby detergent or the plain, hypoallergenic/fragrance-free just to be on the safe side.

“I always washed my babys’ clothing items in Dreft before I’d dress them in it for the first time,” says local mom of four, Susan Day. “I didn’t want to experiment with whether or not they had sensitive skin, I just wanted to protect their skin from the start. I liked doing that little thing,” she adds. “And they never had any skin allergy issues.”



Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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