Parenting is a rewarding experience. You live for your baby's smile and everything they do. Everything they do is a "first" for them and you as a parent.
But they are so tiny you might be scared to take the first step, even during the baby's bath time. You don't need to be afraid, as this baby bathing guide will help you with every step along the way with baby's bath tips.
Keep reading to understand why a bath is essential and how to give a baby a bath the right way. Let's start with a newborn's first bath.
The baby's first bath
Finally, your baby is home. You may feel like giving your newborn a quick bath immediately after you come home because that's what we do, right? But this is absolutely not advised!
When parents give their baby, the first bath has changed over time. The recent trend saw waiting for at least 24 to 48 hours before you bathe a baby. Many experienced parents recommend waiting a week after childbirth to give the baby their first bath.
It is always good to listen to an expert's opinion. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that a baby's first bath should be after 24 hours of childbirth. But if it is not possible to wait this long, they say you should wait for a minimum of 6 hours.
But why is it advised to delay a baby's first bath?
- If a baby is bathed right away after childbirth, there are more chances to develop hypothermia and general cold. Newborn babies are susceptible to their environment, not only physically but mentally too. So a bath can come as stress to them, and they are more prone to a drop in blood sugar, which is termed as hypoglycemia.
- According to one research, after delaying the baby's first bath till 12 hours, breastfeeding success increased in hospitals. Compared to the babies bathed in the first couple of hours, the success rate was tremendous, that too a whopping 166%. So, you don't want to hinder the mother-baby bond and breastfeeding success by bathing the baby a little too soon.
- The baby's skin is protected with a waxy substance before birth, called Vernix. It is known to act as a moisturizer, and many claim it possesses antibacterial properties. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents and caregivers to let Vernix stay on the baby's skin for a couple of hours. It helps their delicate skin against drying out and protects it from dryness and injuries.
How to give the baby the first bath?
The baby needs a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off. It takes about one to two weeks for that to happen, and until then, the baby needs to have a sponge bath exclusively. Make sure you have these bath essentials for the baby mentioned below for the newborn's first bath.
- A washcloth or a bath sponge
- A clean bath towel
- A diaper
- A clean outfit
- Warm water
Now that you have everything you need let's understand how to give the baby a sponge bath step-wise.
- To undress the baby, cradle their head in one hand and take off the clothes carefully. You would want to keep the diaper on as you would wash that area last.
- Wrap a towel around your baby and expose the areas you are washing.
- Now, take the bath sponge or washcloth and proceed to clean one section at a time. It is recommended you clean behind the ears first, followed by the neck, underarms, elbows, knees, fingers, and toes. Be careful while cleaning the crevice and the area between fingers.
- Wash the baby's hair, in the end, to protect them from getting cold. Go over their head a couple of times with the sponge or washcloth. Ensure you are just using water for a while during baths. Tilt their head back a little so the water doesn't go into their eyes.
- Finally, remove your baby's diaper and carefully clean the baby's belly, genitals, and bottom.
- When it comes to your baby girl, always wash from front to back and carefully clean the baby boy's penis. In the case of circumcision, do not touch the head of the penis until it is healed. If the boy is uncircumcised, steer clear from the foreskin.
- It's time to pat dry the baby gently. Now you are done. Carefully put on the baby's diaper and their cute little baby clothes.
How often should you sponge bathe a baby?
You don't need to continue sponge bathing your baby throughout their infanthood. As mentioned earlier, that is until your newborn's umbilical clothes fall off. But after you have given your baby their first sponge bath, you don't need to bathe them frequently.
You should clean between their crevices, like neck rolls, between fingers, and behind their knees. Moreover, make sure you are cleaning their genitals well while diapering, and the baby should smell normal. And you'll know when the next baby's bath time is.
How to prepare for baby's bath time
After your baby's umbilical cord falls off, you can give your baby a tub bath. But make sure the umbilical cord is correctly healed before you proceed.
Before giving your baby a tub bath, make sure you have these bath essentials for the baby:
- A baby bathtub
- A super gentle baby soap
- A soft baby towel
- A soft washcloth
- Baby's clean clothes
- A diaper
Three things to note before you start bathing a baby:
- While looking for a baby bathtub, make sure the bathtub is a little textured. It will ensure the baby doesn't slip.
- Don't use bath seats. They are prone to tipping over, and they are not recommended for infants.
- Some people like to bathe their baby in a sink. Though it’s advisable you invest in a baby bathing tub but if you are still washing your baby in a sink, ensure there isn't anything poking or the faucet isn't too close to hurt the baby while moving. Line the sink with a towel first to avoid slipping. And be super cautious.
Now let's get to baby's bath time! Follow these steps carefully, and your baby's bath schedule will be great.
- The newborn can get cold faster, so you need a warm room to bathe them. Before you take the baby for a bath, make sure the room is warm enough.
- Make sure every bathing supply mentioned above is ready.
- Fill your baby's bathtub with warm water. Do check the water yourself every time to ensure the water isn't too hot or cold. Optimally, it should be at body temperature. You can mix a tiny amount of a gentle baby soap after your baby is used to the tub bath.
- Place a towel on the floor nearby or keep the changing table ready. You can bathe the baby near the changing table too; it will be more comfortable.
- With your one hand supporting the baby's head and neck, undress the baby except for the diaper. Keep them wrapped till you are ready to put them in water.
- Keep one of your arms behind the baby's shoulder while supporting their neck, and with the same hand, you hold their hand out. On the other hand, you keep the baby's bottom. And withdraw your hand from the bottom after the baby reaches the bath's floor.
- Now carefully and slowly lower the baby into the water. The baby may not like being in the water so ensure the bath is brief at first.
- Keep your baby's head out of the water at all times. Gently take some water over their body without splashing.
- Make sure to clean the baby gently with gentle swipes from the washcloth, or you can just use your hand.
- After you are done, take the baby out of the tub by placing your second hand under their bottom.
Drying and dressing the baby is as important a part of a baby's bath schedule as bathing. You have to be gentle and do it right. Follow these steps to dry your baby and get everything in its place carefully.
- After taking the baby out of the tub and placing them on the towel, you spread it earlier. Make sure the towel is thick and soft. You can also change the baby on the floor before, to get used to it and there's no chance of the baby falling.
- Now wrap the baby's towel around them and pat dry, be super gentle while doing it. Make sure you dry any moisture between the baby's creases. Pat around the neck, behind the knees, thighs, and behind the knees.
- When your baby's skin is dry, it's time for the baby's skincare. Apply an unscented lotion or your doctor's prescribed ointment on the baby's body. This step is crucial because your baby's skin is sensitive and is prone to injury if left dry.
- To treat any diaper rashes, you can use a rash cream on the baby's bottom. Let it absorb for a minute before putting on the diaper.
- Now put on the baby's diaper and dress the baby in cute baby outfits.
- Lay down your little one in their crib or a bed now.
- It's time to empty the bath or put all the baby bath supplies in place.
How often should you bathe a baby?
You should gradually increase the frequency of a baby's bath time overtime. Usually, you should bathe your baby 2 to 3 times a week. And when you notice the baby's getting used to it, you can increase the times.
However, it isn't necessary to bathe a baby every day in the first few months of their life, as long as you are regularly cleaning their genitals and crevices clean.
Slowly start bathing your baby once a day. Also, note the effects of it. Ask yourself if this is drying your baby's skin, or are the baby's bath products doing their job fine?
Ingredients to avoid in baby bath items
You would want your baby's skin to be clean and super soft; every parent does. For that purpose, you would wish for mild products and a good moisturizer. But many baby bath items on the market may contain harsh ingredients that aren't mild on their skin.
These formulations may even cause redness, allergies, rashes, and burning sensation. To help you pick the right products, this is a list of ingredients to avoid while shopping.
- Say no to Fragrances/Perfume
Many products have undisclosed fragrances under the term fragrance or perfume. These products are filled with artificial fragrances for the "feel good" feeling and smell that you'd like for your baby. But some fragrances are known allergens that may cause redness, rashes, and burning.
And they don't even add to the moisturizing properties of the products, so steer clear from any fragrances. Or, if you'd like a fragranced product, consult your doctor first for a hypoallergenic moisturizer for a baby.
- Avoid Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is an infamous compound used as a preservative. It is a known allergen and can be very harsh on your baby's sensitive skin. It is used in many adult skincare products too, and it isn't even safe for adults, let alone your kids.
One thing to note is, formaldehyde has many names, so it can be a little tricky. You can always consult your doctor and check the ingredients of the items you buy.
- Skip Isothiazolinones
Isothiazolinones are chemicals that can be seen in the ingredient lists of many skincare ingredients. These are often used as antibacterial chemicals that avoid bacterial growth and extend your products' shelf life. Sounds good, right?
But that's not the whole picture. These chemicals can increase sensitivity and have harmful side effects on your little one's skin. Famous examples of Isothiazolinones are Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone.
- No to Coco Betaine
Cocamidopropyl betaine is used as a surfactant. It can be found in your baby's soap, body wash, or shampoo. To be honest, it is a good product as it helps you get rid of dirt and it melts right away. It is generally safe, and an adult would be okay with it. But in babies' case, low-quality coco betaine is a skin irritant, and you don't want to take a chance. Try to buy from a trusted brand or consult your pediatrician, and you'll be good to go.
How to bathe a baby with eczema?
Baby bath time is an experience that requires your care and attention, and babies with eczema should be treated with extra care during a bath. Eczema in babies is widespread, so you'll get specific products easily and a lot of tips too. Here is what you should know before bathing a baby with eczema.
- The first thing is, do not bathe your baby often. It is not a good idea to keep your baby in the bathtub for a long time, so limit their bath time. As the baby grows older, shift from a tub to shower, not to be immersed in water.
- While you are bathing a baby with eczema or any allergies, make sure you are using very little soap. Try to avoid all the ingredients mentioned above in your baby bath items. Go to your doctor and get a list of safe and mild baby bath items for your baby beforehand. It is always a good idea to be safe and sure while using anything on your baby.
- Now, let's talk about baby shampoos. Like soaps, if you use too much of the baby shampoo, it can dry the baby's scalp. A dry baby scalp in babies can often result in allergies and irritation. To save your baby's scalp's natural oils, use the shampoo only once a week, and that would be enough.
- Cradle caps are flaky and oily substances on your baby's scalp. It is common in babies with eczema. To carefully remove them, use baby oil to gently massage your baby's scalp and go in with a soft comb.
Things you don't need while bathing a baby
Now that you know the things you need to do, here are some things you don't need, or you should avoid during a baby's bathing time.
- You don't need a baby's bathing toy for your newborn. They don't understand its purpose, and they won't be entertained by it. Wait for your baby to grow up a little, and you can get all the toys you want.
- Skip baby bubble baths. First of all, it is a lot of work for a new mother, the product may cause dry skin, and a newborn hasn't learned to enjoy it.
- You don't need to get rid of the baby's cradle cap. If it isn't bothering you or the baby, let it be. It will melt and eventually go away as the child grows.
- You don't need to be perfect at it. Don't worry if you spill some water here and there or if your setup isn't the best; all that matters is that you are careful.
Safety measures to take while bathing your baby
If you're a new parent, you would want to keep your baby safe always. When it comes to newborns, little things like swaddling a baby and bathing a baby can be like walking on thin ice.
For all the parents out there who want to give a safe baby bath, here are some safety measures to take during baby's bath time and why bath time is a time to pay attention.
- The most important tip about safely bathing babies is not leaving the baby alone. Your eyes should always be on the baby while cleaning them. Leaving them unsupervised, even for 1 second, can be fatal.
- Before bathing the baby, keep all the supplies close. See if every baby bathing item is within your reach, so you don't have to turn around or get up with the baby in the water. Do not attend to any other matter during the routine.
- Please keep your phone away or switch it off during the baby's bathing routine. It will help you keep your attention on the baby only. If you are expecting an important call, keep the bath brief or bathe the baby later. But do not multitask!
- Keep any appliances or cords out of the baby's reach. You should follow this, not only during baby's bath time but in general as well. It reduces the risk of shock and anything from falling over the baby.
- Before starting the routine, take your accessories off and wash your hands. It keeps the tub, and the baby disinfected.
- If you are using a thermometer, you can check the water's temperature too. It is an optional measure as you can do the job perfectly fine with your hand also.
- For dressing the baby, try to get a changing table with buckles. If you don't find one and you feel nervous, you can try two things. Either you can put a towel on the floor and change the baby, or you can do it on the bed with a towel under the baby.
We have gone through every baby bath essential, from your baby's first sponge bath to drying and dressing them. But still, some questions may come up in your mind, and here are the frequently asked questions answered to help you out.
- What type of baby tub should I get?
There are no hard and fast rules for choosing a baby tub for your baby. Many people bathe their baby in a sink, and many prefer a plastic tub. One piece of advice you should know is, no matter which tub you pick, you have to ensure it isn't slippery.
You can either buy a bathtub with a little texture or line your sink or tub with a towel. The most important thing is you want to keep the baby safe, so support their neck and don't get distracted.
- How much should I fill the tub?
Generally, a common trend is to fill the tub to almost 5 centimeters. You can adjust the water level according to your tub but keep holding your baby's head out of the water.
Another thing to note is to keep the water warm, neither hot nor cold. And you can pour some warm water over the baby's body to keep them warm.
- Which hand should I use to support my baby in the tub?
Holding your baby while bathing them is crucial. It supports their fragile neck and head, makes them feel comfortable, and reduces the fear of drowning. So you need to have a good grip on your child at all times in the tub.
Place your non-dominant to support the baby's neck and extend your hand to hold the baby's hand. Then with your dominant hand, you help your baby bottom as you slowly descend the baby in the water. As the baby is in a comfortable position, use your dominant hand to wash the baby.
- In what sequence should I bathe the baby?
If you are using a washcloth or a sponge, you must start with the face. Or you can start with the neck, arms, hands, belly, legs, and genitals.
Be gentle during the process, and make sure you clean all the crevices. But wash the baby's hair in the end so that they don't get cold.
- How to wash my newborn's hair?
When you start washing your baby's hair, just use water. At the end of the baby's bathing routine, gently run your wet hand on their scalp in circular motions and wipe the water. You can also run the washcloth gently over their head, but please be extra soft.
After your baby gets used to bathing, you can use baby shampoo for your newborn's hair. Take not more than a drop of mild baby shampoo on their head and massage it.
After it lathers, go for a rinse and or use the washcloth. While doing this, keep your baby's head a little tilted to the back, so you don't get anything in the baby's eyes.
- Why is my baby's skin getting dry?
Baby's skin is susceptible, and it needs to be moisturized so that it doesn't go dry. Dryness may cause cracks in their skin, and these cracks can lead to injuries because your baby's skin isn't developed to protect themselves. So dryness is a no-no.
If your baby's skin is getting dry, you may be bathing them too often. Try to reduce the baby's bathing time and frequency and follow a good, unscented moisturizer. If the issue persists, please consult your pediatrician.
- When should I bathe my baby, morning or night?
Your baby's bath time should be when you are free. Pick a time with no interruptions and go for it.
A morning bath refreshes the baby while a night bath acts as a good sleep ritual, and you can choose what you like. But if you want to bathe your baby after feeding, it is recommended you wait a while before your start.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that a baby's first bath should be after 24 hours of childbirth. If it is not possible you should at least wait for 6 hours.
How to give a baby the first bath?
- Cradle the baby’s head for undressing and keep the diaper on for last.
- Wrap the baby in a towel and only keep the washing area exposed.
- Clean one section at a time with a sponge/washcloth. Start from behind the ears first, followed by the neck, underarms, elbows, knees, fingers, and toes.
- Wash the baby's hair and bottom in the end with just water.
- Pat dry the baby gently.
Ingredients to avoid in baby bath items
- Say no to Fragrances/Perfume
- Avoid Formaldehyde
- Skip Isothiazolinones
- No to Coco Betaine
What are some safety measures to take while bathing your baby?
- Do not leave the baby alone.
- Keep all the supplies close, so you don't have to turn around or get up.
- Keep any appliances or cords out of the baby's reach.
- Before starting, take your accessories off and wash your hands.
- For dressing up the baby, try a broad changing table or use the floor.
Hope this article helped you understand the importance of a baby's bath time and how to do it gently. You have to start by choosing mild baby bath items and knowing the right technique.
This time will be an excellent way to increase your bonding with the baby and give them all the care they need. Just be confident, and you'll be a great parent.
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