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Beginnings
7 Things New Parents Should Know Before Giving Their Baby a Bath
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Valerie L. Sizelove
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Freelance writer, mom of four.
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When you bring your newborn home, there will lots of firsts. The first feeding at home, first poop, first time in the swing or bouncer and more. It’s an exciting, yet overwhelming, time. One milestone you might be looking forward to is giving baby’s first bath. Follow these tips to make this exciting event go smoothly for everyone.

When should you give your baby her first bath?

Your baby can take her very first bath as soon as her umbilical cord stump completely falls off.  This usually happens anywhere from 10 days to three weeks after birth. In the meantime, you can give your baby sponge baths without submerging her in water and irritating her umbilical cord. Just use a rag soaked in warm soapy water to blot your baby’s skin as needed.

How to bathe a newborn.

It’s finally time. You might be nervous, but with practice, you’ll realize it’s not rocket science — it’s just giving a bath to a baby. Your parental instincts will guide you through the process. Here are some guidelines to make baby’s first bath a breeze:

1. Prepare in advance.

There’s a lot going on during that first bath, so get ready ahead of time. Keep it simple so you don’t get overwhelmed. Have your supplies ready next to the bathing area so you can reach them quickly and easily. When baby comes out of the bath, she’ll be freezing, so having a diaper and clothing ready is important.  It’s essential to prepare for the entire process.

Here are some items you may want to have ready:

  • Towels and rags
  • Bath seat that fits in the tub or sink
  • Baby wash
  • Baby shampoo
  • Baby lotion
  • Diaper
  • Ointments or powders
  • Clean clothes for after bath

2. Fill the bath.

Once everything is gathered, head to the tub or kitchen sink and begin filling the bath with warm water. Make sure the water is only warm — never hot — so your baby isn’t at risk of scalding. Using the back of your hand or your elbow, ensure that the water feels comfortably warm. Add padding, like towels and rags, to make the bath more comfortable for your baby.

3. Put your baby in the bath.

Wait to undress your baby until right before putting her in the bath. That way, she can stay warm for as long as possible. Then, gently ease your baby into the water, a little bit at a time, until she’s comfortably reclined. 

Always keep one hand on your child and ensure your baby’s face isn’t too close to water. Many babies feel shocked at the change in temperature and sensation when they’re submerged in water. To ease the transition, talk to your baby, smile and try to make it a bonding moment. 

Tip: If your baby seems cold, try soaking a rag in warm bath water and laying it across her belly. It will be a comfort to your newborn.

4. Scrub-a-dub-dub.

Use a baby washcloth to gently clean your baby’s entire body. Pay attention to areas like underarms, fingers and toes, the face and under the neck. Be gentle as you wash your baby — no scrubbing is necessary. Use this special time to talk or sing to your baby and play with her. Bathtime can become a routine in bonding that you both look forward to.

5. Wash baby’s hair.

If your newborn has enough hair, you can wash it gently with baby shampoo. Squeeze a rag soaked in bath water over your infant’s hair to wet it, then add just a little bit of baby shampoo. Gently use your fingers to lather the shampoo while massaging your baby’s head. Again, squeeze water out of a rag onto your child’s hair to rinse out the shampoo. 

6. Time to get out.

When it’s time to be done, use both hands to get a good grip on your baby. Gently lift her from the bath, wrap her in a towel and hug her close to your warm body. Snuggle your baby close, with skin-to-skin contact if possible, because it helps babies regulate their body temperature. Babies are slippery! Make sure you have a firm grasp on baby with both hands and the towel is within reach.

7. Get dressed.

Go to an area that you’ve prepared for diapering and dressing your baby after the bath. Lay baby down and quickly apply any lotion, ointment or powder that’s needed. Then, diaper and dress your baby, and take some time to snuggle together. 

Tip: When you apply baby lotion, squirt the product into your hands and rub them together quickly before applying. The rubbing will help warm up the lotion for baby’s skin. 

Why is bathtime beneficial?

Bathtime will no-doubt become a routine in your family, and that’s a good thing because it offers benefits to both your baby and you. Some of the benefits offered by bathtime include:

Parent and child bonding time. 

The bond between an infant and its parents grows with time and is very important for child development. Bathtime can be a great way to grow that bond with your child. It’s a good time for learning and allows you to show your child that you care.

Learning and play opportunities.

Bathtime is a great way for your baby to learn and play. The water and temperature changes create new sensory experiences for your newborn, while you teach her important communication skills.

Encouragement of sleep. 

A warm bath seems to calm babies and prepare them for sleep. Whether it’s the relaxing warm water or the excitement that knocks them out, babies often pass out after a bath. Baths are a great way to establish a bedtime routine for infants.

The next bath

Newborns only need two or three baths per week. Too many baths can dry out their skin, and they don’t get very dirty at this stage. Older babies who are a mess of food and dirt get bathed more often.  But until that stage, savor this bonding time with your tiny newborn. With time and practice, you’ll soon be a pro at bathing your baby, and bathtime will be a special routine for both of you.

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