Delaying Your Newborns First Bath Minimizes Stress And Body Temperature Loss
Adjusting to the relative harshness of the outside world is no mean feat for a newborn and after the toasty warmth of the womb and their relatively thin skin versus ours, they have to use a lot of energy just to keep warm. A bath will almost certainly involve a loss in body temperature.
Your newborns first bath can also be a little stressful although they were surrounded by fluid during pregnancy, its not quite the same as even a simple sponge bath. Remember, anything new and different can potentially stress. The stress response can lower blood sugar levels, something best avoided soon after birth.
How To Give A Happier Sponge Bath In 3 Easy Steps
Its true, most newborns dont like sponge baths, but after giving hundreds of them over the years Ive noticed that theres certain things that you can do to help make it a more pleasant experience.
What are 3 easy steps you can do to help give your baby a happier sponge bath?
1.) Gather everything you need before you begin
2.) Keep your baby warmas you go
3.) Wash your babys hair under a sink faucet
How many times youll actually have to sponge bathe your baby will depend on how long it takes for their umbilical cord stump to fall off, or if your baby has been circumcised.
The umbilical cord stump usually takes about 1-2 weeks to fall off. You shouldnt submerge your baby in a real bath before then because you want to keep the umbilical cord stump dry.
And if your baby boy has had a circumcision, youll also want to hold off on a real bath for at least 1 week while it heals. The reason? Warm water hitting a wound usually hurts.
Its ok if you accidentally get the umbilical cord stump and circumcised penis a little wet during the sponge bath. Just gently pat the area dry.
If your baby doesnt like sponge baths , it can be a stressful experience for both of you.
Read on to learn more about the three steps you can do to help give your newborn the happiest sponge bath possible.
Tips For Safely Bathing Your Newborn
Besides keeping your baby happy and getting them clean, safety should be a top concern when it comes to bathing your baby. Unfortunately, drowning is something all parents of newborns need to be aware of.
As the AAP notes, ost child drownings inside the home occur in bathtubs, and more than half of bathtub deaths involve children under 1 year of age. These are sobering statistics, but they are not meant to scare you instead, they are reminders to take safety very seriously when it comes to bathing your baby.
Here are some other safety recommendations to keep in mind:
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Have Everything You Need Before You Begin
Before you begin, decide where youre going to bathe your baby.
They will be happiest if its on a soft surface like a bed, but you can still place them on a hard surface, like the kitchen counter, but make sure you have them lie on a folded blanket or towel for comfort.
Its important to make sure you have everything you need right next to where youll be bathing your baby.
That way, you wont have to leave your babys side. Leaving their side, even for a short time to go get something or even turning your back for a moment may result in your baby falling.
And surprisingly, your baby will be much happier if they dont fall!
Having everything you need right next to you will also help make the bath go faster.
A faster sponge bath is usually a much happier one!
Washing you babys body should go pretty quickly. There really isnt that much surface area there to clean!
Newborn sponge bath supplies
- Any kind of soap that is gentle or for sensitive skin
- A bowl of warm water
- A diaper
- Wet wipes just in case
Youll also want to place these items next to the sink where youll be washing their hair:
- Baby shampoo
- A comb or brush
- A washcloth
In addition, you can set out the clothes that youll dress them in after the bath.
Ok, all set up?
Lets do it!
How To Bathe Baby In An Infant Tub
Once the baby’s umbilical cord stump has fallen off, he’s ready for a bath in his mini tub. Choose an infant tub that has a contoured design or an internal sling that prevents your baby from sliding. Never use a bath seatthese can tip over when the suction cups fail, trapping your child underwater.
Gather your supplies and fill the tub with a couple inches of warm water. It should be slightly cooler than your ideal temperature, as Baby’s skin is more sensitive . Consider setting your water heater to 120 degrees F, so if your baby turns the hot water faucet handle, she won’t get scalded.
Gently lower your baby into the tub as you support his head and neck with your arm. Clean his face just like you did when sponge-bathing him, and wash him with mild soap and a washcloth. Don’t turn your back on your baby for even a secondbabies can drown in just a few inches of water.
Making certain rituals part of bathtime can help your little one’s skin stay healthy. Scott Grant, M.D., MPH, FAAP, at Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan, recommends focusing on cleaning the “rolls” that often develop around babies’ necks, arms, and legs. Dirt and dead skin cells tend to accumulate in these areas, which can irritate skin and lead to infections like cellulitis or the worsening of conditions like eczema.
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Step : Wash Your Newborns Head And Face
In the first few weeks use cotton wool on the most sensitive areas of the eyes and face and use plain water .
HOW TO BATHE A NEWBORNS EYES
Dip the cotton w00l in the water, squeeze off the excess and wipe gently from the inner corner of the eye, across the eyelid out towards the ears. Use a fresh cotton ball for the second eye.
FACE & MOUTH
Using another fresh cotton ball wipe the face and mouth with short, gentle strokes.
The ears are slightly less delicate, so you can switch to one of those super soft washcloths now if you like. Only wash the outside of the ears and lobes, dont try to clean inside babys ears and never use a Q-tip inside either as you may damage the eardrum.
SCALP & NECK
Wash over the scalp and all around the neck, not forgetting all those little creases and folds where stray milk can fester and leave a red sore . You may find a drop of soap helpful, if your baby spits-up a lot.
Is It Better To Bathe My Newborn Baby In The Morning Or At Night
This is up to you. The most important thing is you have adequate time and dont have to rush and can avoid being interrupted.
Another consideration is how much your newborn enjoys a sponge bath. It can be a lovely start to a bedtime routine, but only if it calms and soothes. If it upsets your newborn, rather bathe her at a different time.
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Sponge Baths Dont Always Have To Be Unhappy
Butunfortunately, they usually are.
Some babies will never like them no matter what you do,
and thats ok.
But just by trying these three easy steps of gathering everything you need before you begin, keeping them warm during the bath, and washing their hair under a faucet should definitely help your chances of your baby having a happier sponge bath.
Let me know down in the comments if youve found anything else in addition to these steps that helped your baby have a happier sponge bath!
Disclaimer:The content that I share on Purely Postpartum is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I encourage you to always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.
About The Author
Leesa Johnson, RN, BSN, RNC-Maternal Newborn Nursing
Hi, Im Leesa! Im a Postpartum Registered Nurse and mom of three from San Diego, California.
Ive worked as a Postpartum Nurse for over eleven years, and prior to that I worked in the Newborn ICU for three years. I also work as a Postpartum Expert Practice Consultant for the California State Board of Registered Nursing.
I started Purely Postpartum because Im passionate about helping new parents and caregivers after childbirth.
Between my professional experience as an RN, and my personal experience as a mom, I have a lot of helpful information to share.
California RN Licence # RN727819
How Do You Sponge A Newborn Baby
The hair comes toward the end of bath time so baby doesnt get cold. While newborns dont have much hair, you can sponge the few wisps that are there. To avoid getting eyes wet, tip the head back just a little. Theres no need for shampoo just use water. Now its time to remove the diaper and sponge babys belly, bottom, and genitals.
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Warm Or Able To Accommodate A Heater
When it comes to the step-by-step of how to bathe a newborn youll see youre not going to strip baby bare, but having said that, the warmer the room the better.
In the womb, baby was floating around in about 98 Fahrenheit/37 Celcius so anything a lot lower than that will feel cold, especially since newborns have a much thinner skin than us and a larger surface area to volume ratio.
The closer to that temperature, the less physically demanding your newborns first bath will be.
As a guide, if youre comfortable in a t-shirt, the room is probably just warm enough for your newborns first bath. Instead of cranking the temperature of the entire room up, you can of course use a space or fan heater close to where youre going to carry out the sponge bath.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Baby From Birth Through Early Childhood
One of the most common questions new parents ask has recently become the focus of an ongoing social media debate among celebrity parents, including Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, and Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell: How often should I bathe my baby?
Some parents bathe their babies daily as part of a bedtime routine or due to regular baby messes, from extra spit-up to diaper blowouts. But for most families, bathing the baby two to three times a week is plenty after the first couple of weeks of life.
In fact, we recommend delaying your newborns first full bath for at least two weeks. Newborns shed about three layers of skin within their first week, which often surprises new parents. Their skin is still adjusting to the dry air, so its perfectly normal. You can prevent further skin irritation by moisturizing your baby with chemical-free lotion and washing their clothes with a gentle, chemical-free detergent before dressing them.
After that first two-week period, its OK to bathe your baby a couple times a week. You can follow this schedule through your childs elementary school years. Of course, you should modify the bath schedule based on your babys skin health and your familys lifestyle.
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Gently Pat Your Newborn Dry
Once youve finished bathing your newborn, you can remove them from the bathtub and set them on a clean, soft towel. Use the towel to gently pat them dry, going in the same order that you washed their body.
Your baby might feel a little cold when first coming out of the bath, so it helps to dry them off quickly.
Proper Bathing And Skin Care For Your Newborn
A newborns skin is soft and delicate. Proper skin care and bathing can help maintain the health and texture of the babys skin while providing a pleasant experience for both of you.
Contrary to popular thought, most babies dont need a bath every single day. With all the diaper changes and wiping of the mouth and nose after feedings, most babies may only need to be bathed 2 or 3 times a week or every other day.
Baths can be given any time of day. Bathing before a feeding often works well. Many parents prefer to bathe their baby in the evening, as part of the bedtime ritual. This works well especially if bath time is relaxing and soothing for the baby.
Sponge baths are needed at first. To prevent infection, bathing in a tub of water should not be done until the babys umbilical cord falls off, and a baby boys circumcision heals.
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How To Clean Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord:
- Ask your healthcare provider if you should sponge bathe or tub bathe your baby while his umbilical cord is still attached.
- Wash the umbilical cord stump if it gets dirty with urine or bowel movement. Clean it with a cotton ball or cotton pad that is wet with warm water.
- Gently pat the stump dry with a clean, soft towel. Do not pull on the umbilical cord stump.
- Fold the front of the diaper below the stump so air can reach the stump and help it dry out faster. Choose clean, loose-fitting clothes for your baby to wear. Ask his healthcare provider for more information about cord care.
When Can I Put Lotion On My Newborn
Just like using soap and bathing itself, dont hurry to put any lotions or creams on your newborn. This needs to be done on an as-and-when-needed basis and is best avoided for the first month dry patches of skin may need a little moisturizer after bathing, if not then leave it.
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Delayed Bathing Also Improves Bonding And Breastfeeding Success
Time post-delivery should be spent encouraging that first breastfeed and as much skin-to-skin as possible. Both help mother-baby bonding and get breastfeeding off to a good start.
So dont rush your newborns first bath theres no harm in waiting several days, even a week after delivery a thorough clean of the diaper area and any spills and messes from the other end, will be perfectly good enough and allow that vernix to do its job.
So, the full answer to when should newborns get their first bath, is between 24 hours and 7 days after delivery.