Bathing and dressing your baby may not seem like a daunting task until you try it. Yes, your sweet baby can be quite a slippery wiggle worm when wet, and it may take time to feel comfortable maneuvering them during bathing. While you can and should use a product designed to make bathing a baby easier, it may be challenging to know how and when to use them and exactly what aspects you should consider when getting your baby clean. For a quick breakdown, including tips and advice, read on:
- Frequency of Bathing - You don't need to bathe your baby every day. A few times a week or every other day is probably good enough considering that your baby is getting a quick clean-up after every diaper change and feeding anyway. If your baby has any special needs, you might need to bathe them more often or pay particular attention to certain areas, so ask your pediatrician what schedule might be best for your baby.
- Time of Bath - Bath time is best when your newborn is well-fed and alert as this will increase your chances of success. We also suggest choosing a time of day where you are not rushed and can focus on your baby without distractions. As your baby gets older, a warm bath before bedtime can create a soothing routine that cues relaxation and sleeping.
- Location - Choose a safe location for bath time. This location may be a specific baby tub that is independent of your standard tub, or it could be an insert that goes inside your tub.
Avoid the countertop. Although some manufacturers market their infant tubs for countertop use, we strongly recommend that you do NOT bathe your baby on the counter or table. Countertop bathing has multiple potential safety hazards, including the tub falling off the high surface or the baby squirming out of the bathtub and falling. A 3-foot fall for a baby is like a 10-foot fall for an adult. A fall like this creates a significant risk of traumatic brain injury, skill or limb fracture, internal bleeding, or death. Given the variety of bathing options that offer a safer, more secure environment, there is no need to risk this.
Prepare the Bath
- Temperature - Choose a water temperature between 98 F - 100 F (a temp close to body temperature). You can purchase a thermometer for the water or judge based on how the water feels on your wrist (not your hand). Always check to ensure that the bath water is at a safe temperature before you place your baby in the water. Also, choosing a well-heated room is the best way to help your baby stay cozy during bath time, rather than increasing the water temperature.
- Water Level - According to Mayo Clinic, you should start with two inches or less of water. Do not overfill the bathtub or fill the tub to cover their entire body. This is not the time for your baby to enjoy a relaxing soak at the spa after a stressful day of work; they're there to get clean safely and quickly. Placing a warm washcloth on the baby's chest and tummy can help them stay warm. Gently pouring water on their body and cloth can also help.
Collect all of the supplies you'll need BEFORE getting your baby undressed. Your supplies should include a basin/tub, a washcloth, a couple of drying towels, baby soap, unscented lotion (if desired), a fresh diaper, and a clean outfit. Being prepared can reduce any stress. If you forget something and are alone, pick your baby up and take them with you. Never leave a baby unattended in or near water.
- One Hand on Baby - Be sure to support your baby's body as you slowly move them into the water, and keep one hand on your baby during bath time. This habit helps ensure that you are present and watching their every move. Bathing can be a slippery situation, so keeping a hands-on process helps avoid potential injury.
- Cleaning - Full-term newborns can have a sponge bath at home in the first weeks when the umbilical stump is intact, and you can use plain water. Undress your infant and lay them on a plush, soft cloth. Use a dry towel on their body to help them stay warm. Take a warm wet washcloth from the basin and work from head to toe, washing cleaner parts, like face and scalp, and finishing with dirty parts, like genitals and bottom. Clean small sections at a time, removing the cover towel only when you must for cleaning to prevent your little one from getting cold and distressed. Use a soap-free/new warm washcloth to rinse/wipe their body. Pay special attention to the skin folds and creases under the neck, ears, and armpits. Last, pat your baby dry with a soft towel and redress, so they don't get cold.
- A Note on Baby Shampoo and Body Wash - Once your baby is ready for a mild soap, remember their skin is sensitive, so we recommend using a shampoo and body wash designed for babies and contains no ingredients of concern or strong fragrances as this can increase the potential of skin irritations. Adult products shouldn't be used as they often contain harsh fragrances and chemicals that can irritate your baby's delicate skin.
Don't panic if the umbilical cord stump gets wet before it falls off. The important thing is to keep the umbilical cord as clean and dry as possible until it falls off; this is called "dry cord care." However, if the umbilical cord gets dirty, it's important to clean it! After you wash it, pat the cord dry with a clean, soft towel. If it needs more extensive drying, you can use a COOL hair drier (no warm or hot setting); better to air dry than to burn your baby.
- Mayo Clinic - Baby Bathing