I've a six month old baby. He's very healthy. My girlfriend (his mom) is literally terrified by the "dirt, germs, bacteria, and viruses" and any illness they could cause.

So..just to name a few, she wash child hands constantly when other adults touch them. She wash floors and baby toys after someone came into the house. And she does not allow that other babies (ie. his cousins) touch our baby...

I think that all this is a bit too exaggerated, especially the isolation from other babies - although I understand the concern. My girlfriend say that she behaves so until our baby will be one year old.

She is right, or she is following her fears?

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    I suggest that you do some research about the hygiene hypothesis and stop desinfecting all and sundry.
    – Stephie
    Nov 12, 2015 at 10:11
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    Just as a general rule, it's best not to tell someone who is suffering from unhealthy anxiety that they shouldn't worry about it. If your baby is immunocompromised, or has other special concerns, those precautions may be necessary. You two should talk to the baby's doctor about it at the next well-baby visit if one is coming up soon. Doctors are there to answer these kinds of questions for new parents.
    – McCann
    Nov 12, 2015 at 12:53
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    While a tad excessive, I don't think this is so far beyond "normal". Most new parents go to great lengths to protect their first child, attempting to take every conceivable precaution. Your second child, however... they'll eat off the floor right in front of you, and you'll just shrug it off. ;)
    – Lindsey D
    Nov 12, 2015 at 18:02
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    @LindseyD - my wife and I called it the "Binky Cleanliness Factor". With a first child, if the binky (pacifier) slips out of their mouth (even if it only touches their clothes) it gets scrubbed, bleached, and UV-sterilized before being returned to the baby. With the second child, if the binky falls to the floor the parent rinses it off under running water then returns it to the baby. Third kid: binky lands in a pile of dirt, parent wipes the obvious crud off on their pant-leg and shoves it back in the kid's face. :-) Nov 12, 2015 at 18:29
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    @BobJarvis Haha, spot on! I attribute this to a couple of things... (1) "Hey my first kid's still alive, so clearly they're not that fragile", and (2) You start to realize that there are real challenges to deal with, so you stop creating extra work for yourself.
    – Lindsey D
    Nov 12, 2015 at 18:32

4 Answers 4


Babies/children build up their immune systems by being exposed to germs and dirt. Keeping them away from germs and dirt actually gives them a weaker immune system. (http://www.webmd.com/parenting/d2n-stopping-germs-12/kids-and-dirt-germs)

This is not to say that you should bring your baby hang out with plague victims. Some germs (mold etc) can make baby really sick.

The following web page gives some sensible guidelines: http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/germs-and-babies.aspx

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    But if it survives hanging out with plague victims, it'll be one badass baby.
    – Saturn
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:00
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    My kids went to school with a couple of children who were allergic to just about everything. Their mom was a hyper-clean freak. Might just be coincidence. Our kids grew up on a farm, with the concomitant dirt, dust, pollen, and you-don't-really-want-to-know all over the place. We've got one daughter who's allergic to gluten (inherited from my wife), but other than that they're fine - they don't even get hay fever. Nov 12, 2015 at 18:21
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    I've a friend who experienced this from her mother growing up. Utter sterility, even immune system boosting drugs(!!). Said friend rarely got sick for the first few years of her life. The doctors, however, concluded that unless things changed right away she was going to die if anything significant hit, because her immune system was natively so weak and dependent on sterility and external boosters. She still has a poor immune system to this day, and doesn't even like handling coins. Meanwhile I handle dirty stuff all the time and I'm about as fine as she is. Nov 13, 2015 at 3:07
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    Typical @Voldemort - just pure evil. Nov 13, 2015 at 16:13
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    @Voldemort I really don't have anything to do with parenting, but I joined this community only to up vote your comment :D
    – user19771
    Nov 13, 2015 at 16:47

(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, your doctor or your girlfriend's doctor)

It is possible that your girlfriend is experiencing postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are associated with multiple mental health issues, most prominent postpartum depression, but also the lesser known postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD.

While the most common symptom of postpartum OCD are obsessive thoughts about harming the infant, another symptom is fear of exposing the child to something harmful, for example diseases or toxins.

If you talk to your girlfriend and get the impression that she is having intrusive thoughts, or can't stop doing what she is doing, or get the impression that she herself is suffering from her actions, try to suggest talking to her doctor (whichever doctor she trusts most - for example her gynecologist, pediatrician or GP can all refer her to a specialist) about it. While the OCD often goes away on its own, the symptoms can be treated.

Again, not saying that this is definitely the case here, but it is something to be aware of. Talking to her about why she does what she is doing (is she afraid the child will die, for example?) showing her that this is not recommended should be the first thing to do.

Estimates of how many women show postpartum OCD vary greatly - I could find estimates between 1 and 10 percent. Unfortunately, most scientific studies I could find about this are behind a pay wall.

Prenatal and Postnatal OCD

Onset and Exacerbation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

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    Talking to her about why she does this has already taken place (germs). OCD is a disorder for mental health professionals. The gynecologist is out of the picture by now. A pediatrician can make a referral, however, Nov 12, 2015 at 16:21
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    @anongoodnurse right, I meant pediatrician. Didn't think this would be read as "that doctor could treat her", more as a "talk to the doctor you are already seeing, who can refer her". But yeah, didn't really write that, edited to make that clear.
    – YviDe
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:26

Like Martin, I think Dave's answer is the correct one --too sterile an environment has been convincingly shown to be harmful. However, I think it's also important to understand this from your girlfriend's point of view. This kind of paranoia is very common among first-time parents, so try to be understanding of her, she's just doing what she thinks is best for your child. Hopefully once she sees the actual research, she'll understand that her actions are counter-productive, and change her behaviors.

You both might enjoy these "first child, second child" commercials --they show how universal this is:


On top of Dave Clarke's answer (which is the answer in my opinion), I would suggest that you and your girlfriend look at other people's kids of different ages and talk to their parents. My wife and I could tell you stories of all the disgusting things our kids licked and chewed, and they survived fine to be (so far!) well-adjusted teenagers.


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