Bathing Your Newborn Baby
Bathing your newborn baby can be a daunting task, it’s something a lot of parents worry about even before their baby is born. But fear not! Babytalk is here to guide you through it. I have personally done many a newborn baby bath and will try to make this a fun instead of a fearing experience for you.
Disclaimer: There is no one right way to clean your newborn. I will go over the basics of bathing a tiny human, but any way that works for you and your family might totally work just as well. If your baby is safe and clean after the wash, you’re doing it right!
Many parents ask how often they need to bathe their newborn. Each family will have a different routine, but I tend to remind parents that newborns are not very dirty. They usually get dirty around their mouths, bums and in and around their fat folds, if they have any. It can also dry out their skin if they are bathed too often, so try to find a routine that works well for you, but isn’t detrimental to your baby. There is no need to bathe a newborn every day.
You’ll need soap, some hand towels to wash your baby and a bigger towel for drying afterwards. You’ll need some kind of container to bathe the baby in. This can be a small tub, your kitchen sink or any kind of container that you can fill with water. Some parents like to take a bath or shower with the baby and this is perfectly ok as well, whatever works for you! Have the clothes and diaper you’ll use afterwards close by. It might also be good to have a comb handy if your baby has hair. Any creams or lotions you might want to use should be readily available as well.
#2 The Water for the Bath
Do not use too hot water or too cold. Babies typically enjoy the same temperature as older children. The best way to test the heat of the water is to dip your elbow or wrist in the water. The temperature should feel warm. This is because that is where you are most sensitive to temperature changes. Some also use a thermometer, but it is not essential. Also, make sure you check the temperature of the bath in the tub after filling, instead of the running water to accurately gauge how hot it is.
#3 Bathing Your Newborn
Typically it is best to start with your baby’s head and work your way down to the dirtiest part, the bum. It is also good practice to try to keep your baby’s head warm since they tend to lose a lot of heat from their heads. So while you’re washing your baby’s head and face, you might want to wrap them up in a swaddle, only exposing the head.
Start with a wet washcloth on the face before you start using soap, just so you prevent soap from getting in their eyes. When you wash their eyes, start from the inner corner and work your way out. Always use a clean part of the cloth for each eye as to not introduce bacteria in the eyes. Wash the rest of your baby’s face with the same cloth and without soap. Don’t forget their little ears! And especially behind their ears.
#4 Washing the Head
When washing the head and hair, keep your baby warm and snug in a swaddle and to hold them nice and close against your body. I’m right-handed and I usually hold babies in my left arm, securing them up against my body while supporting their heads. That way, my right hand is free to do the washing.
Start by generously applying water to the head. I usually do this by squeezing water from the washcloth. Then apply whatever shampoo you’d like. You don’t need a lot though! Don’t forget that babies heads are very small. Lather the head generously and then rinse with the same method as you did when wetting the hair.
If you can, dry your baby’s head thoroughly before washing the rest of their body, as mentioned before, babies lose a lot of heat through their head. Some parents like to put a hat on at this stage. If your environment is nice and warm this isn’t necessary, but it’s an option!
#5 Washing the Rest of Your Baby’s Body
Now you can unswaddle. It’s nice to have an area to lay your baby down close to the bath water. If you can, you can lather your baby with soap there first, and then put him or her in the warm bath water to be rinsed.
A good way to lather is to wet baby, and then add soap. You can use your hands to lather in every crevice on the front of their body. Once that is completed turn your baby over. A lot of babies love tummy time, and you can start it from day one. Just remember to support your baby’s head when flipping over to their tummy.
NEVER leave your baby unattended when doing tummy time. Also, never leave your baby unattended on the change table, as babies can easily fall off, even when they don’t know how to crawl or don’t move a lot.
While on his or her tummy, use water and soap to lather the backside. The bum is usually the dirtiest area, which is why we leave it for last. Make sure you get all the dirt off because it can irritate his or her skin. If your baby is a girl, remember to wipe her genitals from front to back. Also, if your boy has a foreskin, you should NOT pull it back to clean underneath. There is no need to do so until your boy is much, much older.
Once your baby is all lathered, they can be rinsed in the bath water. Support your baby’s head at all times. I like to support the baby’s head on my wrist and then hold the arm with my thumb and forefinger. That way the baby is secure in the water. I find babies typically love being submerged in the water, and I keep them there as long as they are happy and the water is warm. Make sure to rinse every crevice so that no soap is left over, soap can irritate the skin once it’s dried.
Lift your baby out of the bath and onto a dry and clean towel. Make sure to dry every crevice of your baby’s body as to not irritate the skin. Also, try to dry him or her quickly so that they don’t cool off too much. If the umbilical cord is still attached, make sure to dry well around the cord. Usually, it falls off in about a week to ten days after birth.
Now your baby should be dry and happy! This is a great time to do some skin-in-skin or breastfeeding. Babies are usually tired after the bath so he or she might have a nice long nap after the bath. This is why some parents choose to bathe their babies at bedtime as to tire them out for the night.
How do you bathe your baby? I’d love to hear some feedback from my readers. Do you do anything differently? Please share your stories with me!