Your baby's first bath is a real milestone. But when to give it, not to mention how and where, are questions every new parent has. Cleaning a slippery, squirming – and sometimes screaming – infant takes practice. So relax; it will get easier every time, and your baby will soon come to love splashing in the water.
How often do you need to bathe your baby?
For a newborn, two or three times a week is probably enough, as long as you keep her nappy area well-cleaned and wash her hands and face several times a day (top and tail). Unless they've been sick or soiled themselves, newborns just don't get that dirty.
For older babies, it can be as much as every day as bath time often becomes part of the bedtime routine. It can be a great way to help your baby relax and wind down for the night.
Sponge Bathing your Newborn Baby
Before your baby's umbilical cord stump falls off (between 10 days and three weeks after birth), it's best to sponge-bathe her to avoid getting the cord stump wet. Here's how:
- Lay your baby on a soft, flat surface (on top of a clean towel works well). Have a basin of warm water and a sponge or flannel handy.
- Keeping your baby warmly wrapped, expose one limb at a time and gently wash it.
- Pat the area dry and start on the next limb.
- If you accidentally get the cord stump wet, simply use the towel to gently pat it dry.
The Big Bath
Once the cord stump has fallen off, your baby is ready for a real bath in the sink or a baby bath tub. Whichever you use, pad the bottom with a towel to make it softer. You also might want to have a partner nearby to help you hold on to your slippery little one. Assemble everything you'll need beforehand so you won't have to scramble during the bath.
Here's a sample list:
- A large, hooded towel
- A soft flannel or sponge
- Cotton balls
- Baby soap or bath wash
- A baby brush or comb
You'll only need about 5 cm (2 inches) of warm water to give your baby an effective bath. Try placing a warm flannel over her belly to keep her from getting chilled.
These early baths don't need to be long or involved, but they do need to get the job done. Hold your baby firmly and gently wash away any debris or loose skin that's accumulated. You'll have to cradle her head and back as you wash her. As you wash her, pay particular attention to:
- The genital and nappy areas.
- The hands and feet. Check between the fingers and toes as well.
- The folds at the backs of the knees, the neck and the thighs.
- The face. If debris has accumulated around her eyes, use a cotton ball to swab it away.
- Armpits – fuzz from sleep-suits can accumulate here.
- Behind the ears.
Newborn Hair and Cradle Care
Not every baby is blessed with a full head of hair at birth, but if your baby was, wash it with a gentle baby shampoo as needed. Simply apply a dab of shampoo to her hair, gently massage it in and let it sit for a short while before rinsing it out. Wash your baby's hair last so she doesn't have to sit in soapy water.
Baby Bath Water Temperature
Your baby's skin is more sensitive than yours. As a result, bath water that feels comfortable to you will be too hot for her. Before you put your baby anywhere near the water, test it with the back of your wrist or your elbow: These areas are more sensitive to heat than your hand. The water should feel warm – but not hot!
Finally, don't be surprised if your baby cries during her first few baths. She's just reacting to an unfamiliar sensation. Keep the room temperature warm, the bath water comfortable and soothe her by caressing and singing to her. She'll soon learn to love bath time.