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Personal hygiene for breastfeeding mothers

It's important to take care of your personal hygiene after having a baby. Washing your hands frequently helps to stop germs from passing between you and your baby.

Breastfeeding takes less effort than bottle-feeding when it comes to hygiene. This is because there is no need to wash bottles or sterilise items. Your milk also has infection-fighting properties. This helps protect your baby from illness. But good hygiene is still important.

Wash your hands before breastfeeding your baby, especially after nappy changes. 

You do not need to wash your breasts. You can use water to clean your nipples when you have a shower. You do not need to use soap on your nipples.

Good hygiene while breastfeeding

Tips to help reduce discomfort and prevent infection while breastfeeding:

  • Rub a small amount of breast milk into your nipples after breastfeeding and let it dry in the air.
  • Keep your nipples clean and dry.
  • If you use breast pads, change them often or when wet.
  • Do not use breast pads with plastic on the back.
  • Wear loose clothing in a breathable fabric such as cotton - avoid wearing padded bras.

Hand washing

Proper hand washing is one of the best ways to stop illness from spreading. Hand washing stops the spread of colds, flu and stomach problems. Even though it seems simple, hand washing is often overlooked or not done right.

When to wash your hands

Around baby

Always wash your hands:

  • before breast or bottle-feeding
  • after changing your baby’s nappy
  • after contact with blood or other body fluids (vomit, mucus, saliva)
  • before picking up your baby

At home

Always wash your hands:

  • before you eat
  • before, during, and after you handle food
  • before and after changing maternity or sanitary products
  • before giving or taking medicine
  • before and after putting in contact lenses
  • before and after you use the toilet
  • after handling animals or their food, toys, leashes, or waste
  • after touching anything that might be soiled
  • more often when someone in your home is sick
  • whenever your hands look dirty

How to wash your hands properly

  1. Remove all rings and wet your hands with warm running water.
  2. Put on soap and rub your hands together to make a lather.
  3. Continue to wash for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Scrub between your fingers, under the nails, on the back of hands and on your wrists.
  5. Wash your hands longer, as needed, to get rid of all dirt you can see on your hands.
  6. Rinse your hands well under running water and use a clean towel or your sleeve to turn off the taps.
  7. Dry your hands completely with a paper towel, hand dryer or clean towel.
  8. Replace hand towels with clean ones often.

Watch a video on how to wash your hands

When soap and water are not available

When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. These come in gels or wipes. They are a good thing to add to your changing bag when you are out and about.

Use the gel or wipes as directed on the product label.

Alcohol-based hand sanitisers

Alcohol-based hand sanitisers work well unless you have a lot of dirt or grease on your hands.

You can give alcohol-based hand sanitisers to children aged 1 and over. Help them to apply it and supervise them carefully.

Do not allow children to swallow the sanitiser. Do not let them touch their mouth, eyes, or nose before the alcohol has evaporated from their hands.

Page last reviewed: 20 August 2022
Next review due: 20 August 2025