Bathing a baby is an important activity and one that allows a baby and
its parent(s) to spend time together and bond. However it also requires a
lot of preparation. The following are ways in which you should prepare for giving your baby a bath:
- Select a convenient place, maybe a kitchen or bathroom counter. You may also want to try a changing table or bed. Cover the area with a thick towel or waterproof pad if needed.
- Plan a special time for your baby's first bath at home. It doesn't matter what time of day it is (babies adapt well to different times of the day for baths, though many enjoy a bath right before bed), but you will want to select a time when both you and your husband are home.
- Get everything you will need ready before you start! The list includes water (of course), washcloth, alcohol pads, bath towel (with hood if you have one), clean diaper, any items you routinely use during a diaper change (for little circumcised boys this would include Vaseline and gauze squares), and fresh clothes. Do not use soap or shampoo on babies this age. Newborns do not get sweaty or dirty except in the diaper area or if they spit up. Even these messes can be easily cleaned with water, which is so much better for most babies' sensitive skin than soap.
- Babies lose body heat very quickly, so make sure the room is warm -- 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
- Gently cradle your baby's head in one hand and use the other hand to remove her clothing. Gently wash her with a soft, warm washcloth, and dry her off with a towel. Take time to admire her individual parts -- all too often we bundle up our babies and never adore those precious feet or that soft bottom. If you like, you can wash one area at a time and put a fresh item of clothing on as soon as an area is washed and dried. This is not necessary unless you are in a chilly room.
- It is a good idea to start with the "less dirty" areas first, i.e. leave the diaper area until last. As you go, be sure to gently wash behind her ears; the crevices in her neck, elbows, and knees; and in between her fingers and toes. I had a friend who would make her one-year-old giggle while bathing her by saying, "Got to wash between those digits!"
- It's a good idea to wash a newborn's hair near the end of bath time. This will help prevent him or her from losing too much body heat. Most newborns don't have much hair, so it is easy to sponge it with water much the same way you do the rest of the body. Almost all babies dislike getting their eyes wet. If you tip the head back just a bit and work your way from the front to the back, you can avoid getting water in your baby's eyes.
- When it's time to wash the diaper area, remove her diaper and sponge off the skin on her belly and bottom. Usually babies' genitals need only gentle cleansing. For little girls, wash from the front to the back. Don't be concerned if you see a white discharge or vaginal bleeding. These are both normal for newborn girls, and the discharge does not need to be wiped completely away. Leave whatever does not come off with one gentle pass. If you do have a son, do not retract or pull back the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis! Do not wash the head of a circumcised penis before it is healed.
- Before putting on a clean diaper, gently raise your daughter's umbilical stump and clean around the bottom of the stump with an alcohol swab.
- Dress your fresh, clean, and oh-so-cuddly baby.