How To Bathe A Newborn
Bathing a newborn may seem daunting at first, but with a little preparation and the right setup, babys first bath can be a stress-free, joyful experience. Yes, baby will likely cry, but it doesnt mean youre doing something wrong.
Dont worry about it so much! advises Mary F., a mom of two. We were so concerned about how to handle our first baby. She was so tiny! So breakable! And then we watched the nurse give our daughter her first bath in the hospital. You would have thought she was washing dishes! That was the moment where we were like, Ohwere not going to break her.
Here, we lay out step by step what you need to doand what you need to knowwhen it comes to bathing a newborn.
When To Give Babys First Bath
It used to be the norm at hospitals to whisk newborns away right after birth for a bath. Not anymore. Recommendations have shifted in favor of waiting at least a few hours, if not longer, for babys first bath .
Research indicates that there may be significant physical and emotional benefits to delaying that initial newborn bath. Since young babies are especially sensitive to cold, it can decrease cold stress, says Katherine Williamson, MD, a pediatrician at Childrens Hospital of Orange County in Orange, California. Cold-induced stress can cause the body to work to keep itself warm, which can cause blood sugar levels to drop, she explains, citing studies that show delaying babys first bath decreases rates of hypothermia and hypoglycemia. Plus, babies are born with a waxy, cheese-like coating on their skin, called the vernix, which you dont want to wash off, Williamson says, since it helps retain heat and can serve as an additional barrier to infections. In addition, a 2013 study found that delaying babys first bath in the hospital until at least 12 hours after birth led to an increased breastfeeding success rate, since mom can nurse more quickly and have more time for skin-to-skin bonding, Williamson adds.
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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Fill Your Babys Bathtub With Water
The second step is to fill the bathtub with water. You only need two to three inches of water to bathe your newborn.
The water temperature should be roughly the same temperature as the human body98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Anywhere between 90° F and 100° F is perfect. Use a thermometer to make sure youve got the temperature just right.
Babys First Bath: When Should It Happen
If you give birth in a hospital, nurses will probably bathe your baby within a few hours of delivery. However, the World Health Organization recommends waiting 24 hours for your newborn’s first bath. WHO claims this delay regulates blood sugar and body temperature, promotes bonding, improves breastfeeding success, and keeps Baby’s skin from drying out.
Your baby won’t be ready for the infant tub until the umbilical cord stump falls off . This usually takes about two weeks or longer. In the meantime, you’ll be giving your newborn a sponge bath.
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Cherishing Bath Time With Your Baby
Baby bath time is more than just washing your baby and keeping them clean. Its also a crucial time for bonding with your baby and helping them develop their growing minds.
While it may feel stressful at first, bath time will soon evolve into a fun experience for the both of you. Not only will your precious little one be clean and healthy, theyll be a much happier baby who has a stronger connection with you.
How To Bathe Your Baby Like A Pro
If youre feeling nervous about washing your baby for the first time, thats normal for a new parent. Who wouldnt be nervous to wash a delicate baby with little to no sleep?
Rest assured that the process is much easier than you think. Although the following steps may seem overwhelming, they will soon become second nature to you as you get the hang of baby bath time:
- Check the water temperature. Always check the water temperature before bathing your little one. You can do this by dipping your elbow in the water or by purchasing a bath thermometer .
- Gently place your baby in the tub. As you lower your baby into the tub, be sure to support their head and neck. With one arm supporting the head and neck, use your other arm to gently bathe them.
- Use cotton pads to wipe their eyes. Gently swipe a damp cotton pad across your babys eyes. Use a different cotton pad for each eye to avoid spreading a possible infection.
- Use a washcloth for their head and neck. Use a baby washcloth to clean the neck, head and behind the ears. Dont forget the creases and rolls.
- Rinse off the cleanser. Using a small cup of water, carefully pour water to remove all soap residue from your babys skin.
- Remove them from the tub. Pick your baby up from underneath their arms, making sure that their head is supported. Place them on a flat surface and gently pat them dry.
- Apply moisturizer. Before getting them dressed, slather a baby-safe moisturizer all over their skin to prevent dryness.
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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.
Topping And Tailing Tips
You may find the following step-by-step guide to washing your baby useful:
- Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
- Dip the cotton wool in the water and wipe gently around your baby’s eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don’t transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
- Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby’s ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby’s ears. Wash the rest of your baby’s face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
- Take off the nappy and wash your baby’s bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
- It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they’ll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you’re saying.
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What If My Baby Pees Or Poops In The Tub
Its very common for babies to pee and poop in the tub. If it happens, dont sweat it. Just drain the water if your little one poops.
Pee is sterile, so you can keep going and just be careful not to get any water in their mouth. If your baby is pooping in the tub regularly, there are a few tricks to work around this.
First, you can wait until theyve had a bowel movement before giving them a bath. If this is inconvenient, you can always try giving your baby food immediately after a bath so that they associate it with positive things.
Start With Your Babys Head And Face
When bathing your newborn, its best to start with their head and face because you want to wash those areas before the water gets too soapy. This reduces the chance your bundle of joy will get soap in their eyes when youre rinsing them off.
Again, you can use a washcloth or your hands. Some parents like to use cotton balls for their babys head and face, and thats also a great option!
Maybe your baby has cradle cap and youre not sure how to tackle it during bath time. First of all, cradle cap can present itself as thick and flaky skin on your babys scalp. It can be more trouble to deal with than it is harmful.
To effectively treat your babys cradle cap, try our Cradle Cap Duo. It gently exfoliates your babys scalp and rinses away flakes. It can also help reduce the chance of your babys cradle cap recurring.
This is important because cradle cap is most common in babies up to three months old but can last up to a year or longer.
To use correctly, apply a small amount to your babys wet hair and gently massage into their scalp. Let it sit for one to two minutes and then rinse it off carefully.
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Safety Tips For Bath Time
Its important to keep safety in mind at bath time. Babies and young children should never be left unattended in a bath, not even for a minute . Here are some bath time tips:
- Get everything ready ahead of your babys bath, so you have everything you need to hand.
- Make sure you always use the hot and cold taps at the same time when you run the bath.
- Check the bath water temperature first before putting your baby in. The standard way to check is to put your elbow in the water because your hand can cope with high temperatures.
- Dont be distracted away by another child, a phone call or doorbell. What feels like a couple of seconds can turn into a minute or two. Leaving your little one even for a few moments could be enough time for them to seriously hurt themselves or drown.
- If you forget anything ask your partner or another family member to grab it for you. Or take your baby with you to get what you need.
The Best Baby Bath Supplies
Before bathing your newborn, it is important to gather all of the supplies you need for the bath and place it within arms reach. This makes sure that you have everything you need and can keep a hand on your child for safety the entire time.
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When And Why Babies Should Get A Sponge Bath
The American Academy of Pediatrics says to give your baby a sponge bath until the umbilical cord stump falls away.
The average amount of time it takes for this to happen is 2 weeks, but sometimes the cord may fall off a little earlier or later. Anywhere between 5 to 15 days after your baby is born is typical, according to a 2016 study .
Your baby might also need a sponge bath if theyve had any kind of surgical procedure and have stitches or bandages on their skin.
Make a sponge bath easy and fun by having all your supplies on hand before you start. Heres a list of what youll need:
- a large bowl of warm water
- two towels
Now the fun starts. If youre in the bathroom, you can warm up the air by letting the warm water run for a few minutes.
Then, follow this step-by-step guide for a clean and happy baby: