Step-by-Step Guide to Bathing Your Newborn

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Bathing a newborn is something many new parents eagerly look forward to. After all, there is nothing sweeter than a little baby being gently kicked by soap and splashed in the water. However, you may also have questions and concerns about bathing your baby.

Maybe you have a young child who doesn’t seem to like bathing. Or maybe you’re not sure how to find the right water temperature. Rest assured, bathing your baby is not complicated at all. A few basic tips can help you feel confident with this parenting task.

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Step by step to know how to bathe a newborn

The bath in the first weeks of life will be different than the tub you would give your newborn when they are a little older.

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The first 24 hours after birth are the only time in a baby’s life. They are just learning about the world around them, adjusting to life outside the womb, and perhaps learning to breastfeed.

To make this transition as smooth as possible, experts recommend delaying your baby’s first bath. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends against bathing babies for the first 24 hours, if possible. If 24 hours is not possible, WHO recommends a delay of at least six hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also advises parents to delay the first bath as recommended by the WHO.

Your baby is born with a waxy coating called vernix, which is a natural humectant and also antibacterial. While it may seem counterintuitive, delaying the first bath will help keep your baby’s skin soft, healthy, and clean. Bathing right after giving birth can also lower body temperature and can cause low blood sugar.

Bathing your baby too soon after birth can also unnecessarily interfere with an important parent-child bonding time. In addition, studies show that delaying the first bath increases the odds of exclusive breastfeeding after birth as well as the chances of successful continuation of breastfeeding.

Before the umbilical cord falls off

Florencia Segura, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Einstein Pediatrics in Vienna, VA, notes that the AAP recommends sponge baths until the belly button falls off and heals, known as dry navel care. “Keeping the navel as clean and dry as possible to allow it to heal quickly to minimize infection is optimal,” she says.

How to give your baby a sponge bath?

The AAP recommends following these steps to sponge bath your newborn:

  1. Gather all your supplies, including baby wipes or sponges, a basin of water, and towels.
  2. Clean your baby on a safe surface like a changing table or bed. You can also spread a towel or blanket on the floor to soften or lay your baby on your lap. If your infant is on a high surface, make sure to always keep one hand on the baby so he or she doesn’t fall.
  3. Be careful not to get water into the baby’s eyes and do not directly use the sponge to heal the baby’s umbilical cord wound.
  4. Make sure you keep your baby warm during this process, as babies can catch a cold quickly. One way to do this is to wrap them in a towel, exposing each body part as you clean.

After the umbilical cord falls off

Your baby’s umbilical cord will fall off within the first three weeks after birth. After this point, you can start giving them a bath. Experts recommend using an infant bath with a non-slip inner surface to keep your baby safe.

How to give your baby a bath?

Follow these steps to bathe your newborn after the umbilical cord falls off:

  1. Gather your supplies, including new diapers, change of clothes, towels, and baby laundry detergent.
  2. Place the infant tub on a flat, flat surface or inside the sink or tub.
  3. Fill a few inches of warm water into the infant tub. Check the temperature with your forearm or elbow to make sure it’s not too hot.
  4. Undress your baby and gently place him in the water, making sure the back of his head and neck are supported by your hands. Use your other hand to wash.
  5. Wet the towel and add a small amount of detergent if needed. First, gently clean the child’s face, then work your way down to the child’s body. Secure into all folds and folds.
  6. Rinse thoroughly, making sure to remove all soap.
  7. Lift your baby out of the tub and wrap him in a towel to keep him warm. Gently pat your baby’s skin dry.
  8. Apply a little baby lotion, if needed, and end bath time with a fresh diaper and clothes.

Make sure to keep a baby’s hand at all times. If you need to leave for even a second, grab them wrapped in a towel and take them with you. Newborns can quickly drown in just a few inches of water.

Verywell / Caitlin Rogers

How often do babies need a bath?

Growing up, you may have heard that babies and children must be bathed every day. However, this is not the case according to current recommendations.

Florencia Segura, MD

Your newborn doesn’t need a bath every day if you wipe and wash the diaper area thoroughly during diaper changes.

– Florencia Segura, MD

Dr Segura explains: “Two to four baths per week with mild unscented detergents/soaps for the first few months is a good range as babies rarely sweat or get dirty enough to need to be bathed. quite often.”

Dr. Segura also warns that bathing too often can dry out a newborn’s skin. You can clean any areas of concern — such as hands, face, and genitals — between full baths.

As your child enters the toddler years and begins to explore and play outside, they will definitely need more baths! Until then, a few times a week is plenty.

Best time of day to take a bath

What time of day you bathe your baby is really up to you. Many families adopt the “bath before bed” routine, as bathing can help your child relax before bed, signaling that sleep is coming.

Evening is also a time when many parents and caregivers have more time to spend on bathing their babies. However, if you prefer to bathe your baby in the morning or during the day, that’s perfectly acceptable.

When considering what time of day to bathe your baby, also think about when you will be most alert. Bathing babies, and especially babies, requires good hand-eye coordination, patience, and vigilance on the part of the caregiver.

If you think you’ll be distracted by other responsibilities or your other kids, it’s best to choose a different time to bathe your baby.

Safety precautions

Besides keeping your babies happy and making them clean, safety should be a top concern when bathing.

Danger of drowning

The AAP notes that most child drownings in the home occur in bathtubs, and more than half of bathtub deaths involve children under the age of 1. These are serious stats, but they’re not meant to scare you. Instead, they are reminders to take the safety of your baby’s bath seriously.

To help ensure your baby’s safety, the AAP recommends against using an infant bath chair that allows your baby to sit upright in the tub. Since these seats can easily tip over, your baby’s nose and mouth can get wet, making it impossible for her to breathe.

The AAP also advises caregivers to use baby tubs that are manufactured with a non-slip surface. Make sure the bathtub has not been recalled and is manufactured to meet applicable safety standards, especially if used or second-hand product is used.

You can also make a simple pot less slippery by lining it with a towel. Alternatively, you can bathe your baby in the tub. If you’re using the sink, be sure to keep your baby away from the faucet and consider lining the sink with a towel to prevent slipping.

Always keep one hand on your child and do not take your eyes off your child, even for a short time. If you need to get out of the tub, take your baby with you. Never leave them in the bath unattended.

And lastly, keep a towel next to you. That way, you’ll be ready when it’s time to get your baby out of the tub.

Water temperature

You can experiment to see which temperature your baby likes best. In general, warm temperatures are ideal. You don’t want the bath to be too cold, but you also don’t want it to be too hot.

Some parents make the mistake of heating the bath water too much, risking burning their child. The AAP recommends setting the water heater so that the water at the faucet is never more than 120 degrees F.

It’s also helpful to fill the tub or sink a few inches before giving your baby a dip in it. Test the water first to see if the temperature is right. If it feels hot to the touch, add cold water until it is slightly warm.

Bath products

Newborns don’t need a lot of soap and it’s not necessary to wash their baby’s hair. Doctors recommend using the mildest soap you can find, as baby skin tends to be very sensitive.

Unscented soaps are the best choice for babies. The AAP also recommends avoiding antibacterial soaps or products with chemical additives.

Remember to read the label: If your soap has a long list of ingredients, it’s probably best to try something simpler. After bathing your baby, it can be helpful to apply a lotion that is suitable for your baby, especially if your baby tends to have dry skin.

If your newborn hates bathing

You may think you are doing something wrong if your child cries or protests during bath time. However, many babies don’t like being bathed at first.

One reason some kids resist bath time is that they don’t like sudden temperature changes. You can ease this transition by slowly introducing your baby into the water. Initially, wrap them in a towel and gradually dip them in the water, holding the towel until they are completely absorbed.

You can also experiment with the water temperature to see what your baby likes best. And always have a warm towel ready when they go out so the air on their damp skin doesn’t feel too jarring.

Some babies tolerate bathing better if you hold them. Therefore, many parents decide to bathe their newborn in their arms. This can be a great bonding experience, but remember to stay safe. Only bathe your baby when you’re fully awake, make sure you have a towel ready and maybe another adult to take him when you’re done. And do not use soaps and other bath products intended for adult skin.

Finally, keep baby bath time happy! Newborns can’t play with toys in the bathroom yet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun with them. Funny faces and peek-a-boo games can also be very helpful.

If bathing continues to be difficult for your baby, talk to your pediatrician for tips and advice specific to your child. Also, remember that if you need to reduce the frequency of your baby’s bath because he’s too cranky at bath time, that’s okay too.

A very good word

Taking care of a newborn comes with challenges — some of which may surprise you. The good news is that there aren’t many rules when it comes to bathing your baby.

If you find that bathing makes your baby’s skin dry or irritated, try adjusting your schedule and looking for more gentle products. Remember that babies don’t need baths more than about three times per week.

Safety should be a top priority when bathing your child. Choose a safe bathing position, use a small amount of mild soap, keep the water warm, and most importantly, never take your eyes off your baby in the tub.

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