Bathing a Newborn: A Guide to Baby's First Bath
If you’re new in the parenting business, chances are you’re going crazy with countless small details that need to be considered when it comes to your little one’s well-being. Babies need constant care during the earliest years of their life - maintaining proper hygiene plays a huge role in keeping your baby’s health and development in order.
If you’re still pretty confused and curious on what’s and the how’s of baby-baths and baby-washing, you’ve got nothing to worry about cause we’ve got the essentials covered for you.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Baby
This is perhaps one of the first questions that might come to your mind, but it’s definitely an important one to consider. Bathing your baby too frequently may dry out their skin, affecting the natural oils that are secreted to protect it. That’s why it’s best to stick to baths 2-3 times a week, which will be just enough to keep your baby clean. If your baby really enjoys baths though, you can also try bathing them once a day, but keep them shorter. Baby baths should usually last for about 5-10 minutes in the earliest months, especially if your baby has super-sensitive skin.
In order to keep better hygiene of the baby’s genitals, you should wash the area separately and more frequently in between baths, using cotton wool or washcloth dipped in warm water.
When is the Best Time to Give Your Baby a Bath
Usually, any time of day would be perfectly fine for a baby bath – it all depends on your schedule and daily habits, as well as your baby’s mood. It’s good to avoid bathing your baby right after a feeding or when they’re hungry because it might make them fussier and make a bit of a mess of your bathing routine.
If your little one is one of those babies that just loves having a bath, you can also use it to settle them for the evening and help them fall asleep better.
Where to Do the Baby Bath
Because babies are such tiny beings, they can fit in a lot of places where you can do their bathing - you can do this almost everywhere in the house; as long as it’s safe, warm and clean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the bathroom. You can use a small plastic basin or even the kitchen sink, as well as the good old bathtub.
Showering with your baby is another option for a baby bath, but you have to be careful not to use hot water – keep the temperature mild and keep the spraying water away from their face.
What to Consider Before Starting the Bath
There are a couple of things you’ll want to have around you before starting the baby bath, just so you make the process easier and faster for everybody:
- Make sure you’ve got a towel, a washcloth, clean clothes, a w diaper and baby lotion next to you. It’s up to you whether you want to use special baby soap or shampoo/body wash
- It’s best to search for ones made specifically for babies and ultra-sensitive skin, and refrain from as many chemicals as possible in the earliest months of the baby’s life. Check out our article on baby shampoo ingredients you need to avoid as well as our recommendations for the best baby shampoos out there.
- Do the bath in a position comfortable for you and your little one – if you use a basin, position it somewhere stable and on a height that’s going to allow you to comfortably hold on to your baby. Kitchen tables often do the trick for this (or you can just use the kitchen sink instead).
- Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before starting to wash your baby – you don’t want to transfer some of the germs from your hands to your little one. It’s also a good idea to take off any jewelry or accessories that you have on your hands and fingers, just in case they don’t cause any allergies or irritation.
- Fill the basin with about 2 inches (5 cm) of water for babies up to six months old.
- The water temperature should be between 98 and 100 F (37-38 C); you can use a thermometer for a more precise measurement, but if you don’t have one you can easily use your hand or elbow – the water should be comfortably warm, but never hot.
Bathing Your Baby
- Undress your baby before placing them in the basin or sink.
- Pick them up and cradle their head with one arm, gently supporting their neck and head with your other arm. Then lower them in the bath with their feet first, holding them steadily the whole time.
- Support their head while letting part of their back and the back of their head get slightly submerged. Gently start pouring or splashing a small amount of water on their head and other body parts.
- For newborns, wash the face separately with a washcloth or cotton wool soaked in warm water.
- For the eyes, wipe from the inside corners (the ones that are nearer to the nose) and then gently slide towards the outer ones. Always use a clean cotton ball for each eye.
- For the ears also use a cotton ball and wipe behind the ears and on the outer shell of the ears. Be careful not to stick anything inside of the baby’s ears - this may cause an infection or hearing damage.
- There are plenty of baby shampoos with which you can wash your baby’s hair. When washing the hair moisten it with water first and then put a small amount of shampoo on it, rubbing gently. After that wash away with water again, while being careful not to get soap into the baby’s eyes.
- Wash your baby’s genitals last, using water only.
Very important notice: never leave your baby unattended during the bathing process. Babies and children can drown even in very shallow water. Also never leave siblings or other older children to supervise while you’re gone. If you suddenly have to immediately attend to another thing, make sure to first take your baby out of the bath.
Drying Your Baby after Bathing
Properly drying your baby after a bath is almost as important as the bath itself. The baby’s skin needs to be properly dried, especially in areas where creases are formed, in order to prevent fungal infections and other irritations that may occur in moist and dark spots of their body. When you take your baby out of the bath, make sure to follow these steps:
- When you’re finished bathing your baby, support their head and neck and gently lift them out of the bath and place them on their back on a dry, clean and soft towel. Make sure the room is properly warmed so the baby doesn’t feel too cold when it’s taken out of the water.
- Wrap your baby in the towel and pat dry at first. Especially pay attention to skin creases such as the neck and under the chin, behind the ears, the armpits and the groin.
- If your baby’s skin often gets dry after bathing, or if they have diaper rash, it might be a good idea to rub a mild lotion on the sensitive areas, such as zinc, castor oil or white soft paraffin.
- Put a clean diaper on the baby after you’ve properly dried their body and then continue to dress them.
It’s also important to remember that many newborns will probably find the washing part kind of distressing. That’s why sometimes it’s a good idea to calm them down by doing familiar things that you know will be effective. One of the things you can try if you’re not sure how to calm them is placing your hand very gently on their belly before preparing them to take a bath; this is said to make the baby feel safer and more secure during the washing.
Furthermore, if you’ve got one little nugget that just won’t grow to like bathing, you can try and give them the so-called ‘top and tail’ bath one day, while giving them a proper one the next day. In a couple of months, they should be able to take a regular bath without any fuss. Top and tail bath basically means cleaning the main areas of your baby’s body with a washcloth or cotton wool; the good thing about these kinds of baths is that you can do them with your baby still in its clothes.
We know it might seem as if baby-baths involve a whole lot of steps, but we’re sure that you’ll get the hang of it in no time and come to be a professional baby washer. Like everything, baby bathing also takes practice, so take your time and don’t be worried about all the things you have to consider and all the steps you have to take. If you feel overwhelmed at the start, you can always call someone - a friend, partner or another family member - to be around you and assist you in the bathing process.