The idea of bathing newborns can make first-time mums jittery. Questions such as “am I holding the baby correctly” and “is the water too hot” can quickly lead to stress.
Any new experience can understandably scare us, parents. But once you know how to bathe your newborn, it’ll eventually be a happy routine for you and your baby.
So rather than be frantic, why not arm yourself with information? Here’s a list of facts and tips to help you get through each bath time with confidence!
1. Newborn bath time does not have to be every day.
Your baby does not need a daily bath unless he likes it a lot. But any more than this can cause dry skin.
So, limit it to 2 to 3 times a week, 5 to 10 minutes per bath time. Ideally, stick to giving a gentle sponge bath for your bub’s first 1 to 4 weeks.
Give time for the umbilical cord stump to fall off and the belly button to heal. That way, you can avoid getting it wet and risking infection.
When giving baby sponge baths, lay your newborn on a safe flat surface, and make sure the room is warm enough. Undress your little one and wrap him in a soft towel.
Then unwrap him one side at a time, and start washing his face, neck and diaper area with a damp washcloth dipped in plain or soapy water. Rinse with a clean washcloth before drying your baby off thoroughly.
2. Prep all bathing essentials before you start.
Once your bub is ready for his first bath in a baby tub, remember to have everything you need within easy reach. Leaving your baby unattended is not an option.
So, unhook the phone if you must, or ask someone to answer the door for you before you start. Your choice of baby bath products, of course, depends on you.
But basics for bathing newborns include mild baby soap and shampoo, soft washcloth, plastic baby bathtub or basin, dry towel, fresh nappy and clean clothes. I like organising these in one caddy for a faster setup.
3. Swaddle baths can calm fussy babies down.
Not all newborns love baths, though. Some would cry and flail their arms the moment their skin touches the water. Good thing a US hospital found magic in swaddle immersion baths!
Bathing newborns this way somewhat recreates the womb environment, making them feel more secure. It also keeps parents or caregivers worry-free, given that newborn bath time is like bathing an adorable slippery fish.
To do this, undress your baby and wrap him in a soft blanket. Then hold bub’s bottom and back with both hands as you gently lower him into the tub.
Let your baby get used to the water before using one hand to start washing his face with plain water. Afterwards, unwrap your baby one side at a time to clean his arms and limbs.
Wash your baby’s hair last, do the final rinse, then dry him immediately.
4. Water temperature should be at 37 to 38C.
Babies tend to lose body heat fast, especially when they are naked. So, make it your rule of thumb to prepare warm water (not hot) when bathing newborns.
The bathing area should be toasty as well. Turn up the thermostat if needed. Or run the hot shower for a few minutes to steam up the room.
Then fill your infant tub with about 5cm of warm water, or just enough to cover your baby’s lower body. Do not put your baby in the plastic basin while the water is still running.
Test the water first with your wrist or fingertips. You can also swirl the water with your hand to get rid of any hot spots.
5. Use soap for bathing sparingly.
Frequent washing with soap will only dry out your baby’s delicate skin. If you need to use it, particularly on his hands and diaper area, then choose a neutral-pH, mild soap only.
Make sure to rinse out the soap immediately as well. Plain water should be good enough for all other body parts.
As for your baby’s hair, mild baby shampoo or body wash will do. Some babies may develop scaly patches on their heads, though. It’s a condition called cradle cap.
It’s common in newborns and not itchy or painful at all. The cradle cap clears up on its own after a few weeks or months, so don’t worry about it.
You can loosen the scales with a soft brush while shampooing if you want. But if it seems to be persistent and spreading, consult your doctor right away.
6. Wash your baby’s nappy area last.
Washing his rear end last will prevent bacterial spread. So, the ideal washing sequence will be face, hair, body and bottom.
For a baby girl, wash the genital area from front to back. Pay attention to skin folds.
Do the same washing technique for your baby boy. Follow your doctor’s cleaning instructions when wiping his penis clean.
For uncircumcised boys, make sure to clean them without pulling down the foreskin.
7. Switch back to sponge baths if needed.
If your baby still cannot handle tub baths, don’t fret. Every newborn baby is different, and some need more time to get used to it.
Just continue giving him sponge baths until he’s ready. In most cases, baby bath timing is the key.
For instance, try not to bathe your bub when he’s grumpy, hungry or tired. Some babies also don’t like baths after a feed.
Also, try bathing your baby near the end of the day or at night. If this schedule works for you, make it a routine, alternating between tub and sponge baths if needed.
Nightly baths can help set your baby’s body clock and send him the message that it’s almost bedtime.
Bathing newborns should not be stressful at all. Instead, mums should see it as a chance to bond with their babies.
Remember, babies grow in the blink of an eye. So, make the most of every fleeting moment. As long as you enjoy the rollercoaster ride, your little bub will, too!