Bathing a baby is an important activity. It allows for some great bonding time but also requires a lot of preparation.
Bathing Baby Basics
- 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 partner are home.
- Get everything you will need ready before you start. The list includes water (of course), washcloth, alcohol pads, bath towel (with the hood if you have one), clean diaper, any items you routinely use during a diaper change (for newly circumcised boys this would include Vaseline and gauze squares), and fresh clothes.
- Babies lose body heat very quickly, so make sure the room is warm, about 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Use a thermometer to get the temperature right.
- Gently cradle your baby's head in one hand and use the other hand to remove the clothing. Gently wash your baby with a soft, warm washcloth, and dry off with a towel.
- It is a good idea to start with the "less dirty" areas first, meaning leave the diaper area until last. As you go, be sure to gently wash behind the ears; the crevices in the neck, elbows, and knees; and in between fingers and toes.
- It's a good idea to wash a newborn's hair near the end of bath time. This will help prevent your baby 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 the eyes.
- When it's time to wash the diaper area, remove the diaper and sponge off the skin on 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 the umbilical stump and clean around the bottom of the stump with an alcohol swab.
- Dress your fresh, clean, and oh-so-cuddly baby.
- Never leave your baby alone in a bath! Not even long enough to answer the phone or turn off the stove. If you must leave the bathroom to take care of something important always take the baby out of the bath, wrap up baby in a towel, and take take him/her with you into the kitchen to turn off the stove. On your way back to the bath, grab a dry towel to use when the bath is complete.
- Never use more than a couple of inches of water in the tub
- Use a tub that is the right size for your baby. Most baby tubs you purchase come with an insert for young babies. This makes it much easier for you to keep your child's head out of the water.
- Gentle soaps are better for baby's skin during the first year or so. (Note: Ivory is not a gentle soap. Try an unscented baby soap or Dove, Basis, or Neutrogena.) Use soap sparingly and avoid scrubbing.
- Use baby shampoo and not adult shampoo on your baby. The no-tears advertisements for baby shampoos are important.
- Make bath time fun. Use age-appropriate toys to engage baby in the whole experience. At first, this might be something as simple as giving a clean washcloth to suck on during the bath. Later, plastic cups and bowls make excellent pouring toys.