Practical advice for new parents

Bathing your Baby

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For the first week or so after your newborn baby arrives home, bathing your baby should be limited to simply wiping down with a warm, damp, soft sponge. Once the umbilical cord falls off, then you can start to give your baby regular baths (although there is nothing inherently wrong with bathing your baby in a tub before the umbilical cord drops off). How often you should bath your baby is a point that is often disputed, but generally speaking bathing every other day, or even just twice a week, is fine.

Like most things for new parents with a newborn, even the simplest of tasks takes on whole new proportions, and so it will be with bathing your baby. As such, make sure you have all the items you need ready beforehand (especially if you are bathing your baby by yourself). The number one rule is to never leave your baby unattended to go and fetch something that you have forgotten, not even for a few seconds.

Some babies will take to bathing, and some won't. One of the most important things to remember when bathing your baby is to talk to them and interact with them during the process. Try to make bathing your baby as stimulating and enjoyable for your baby as possible and bathing will, in turn, be a more enjoyable experience for you also. If you have room, hang a brightly colored toy or other object nearby for your baby to look at and concentrate on. This will help distract him/her if the baby is not in a bathing mood, and don't forget to remove watches, rings and other items that might scratch your baby during bathing.

Items that you will need:

  • Easy access to a sink or a tub/bucket of warm water
  • Water thermometer to get the right water temperature
  • Get a complete change of clothes ready for your baby
  • Clean diaper
  • Big, soft, clean towel (hooded baby bath towels are perfect)
  • Something to lie your baby on, if not on a changing table or changing mat (thick towels are good)
  • Soft sponge or cloth

Before you get started bathing your baby, make sure that the water is a comfortable temperature for him/her, and that the room you are bathing your baby in is also a comfortable temperature (you might want to consider installing overhead heaters if your bathroom is particularly big or draughty). To check the temperature of the water, use a thermometer (the water should be around 22-23 degrees C or 90-100 degrees F.)

To sponge bath your baby, start by having the baby wrapped up in a towel or blanket to begin with and then expose portions of the body at a time as you clean them. This helps to keep the baby warm and calm. Begin with the face and head area but do not use soap on the face. Using a clean, damp sponge or cloth, gently wipe the babies face, remembering to clean the areas around the eyes, nose, and the folds of the ears (don't insert anything into your baby's ear canal such as cotton buds or the like). For the rest of your baby's body you can use small amounts of baby soap on the sponge, but you must rinse off all soapy residue with a clean, moist, non-soapy cloth. Expose small areas of the body at a time and gently wipe the area clean, remembering to get into all the wrinkles and folds in your baby's skin. Once done, you can then pad dry that section and then move on to the next.

If your baby has hair, you can apply a small amount of baby shampoo onto the washcloth or sponge and gently massage the head and hair with the cloth. You can support your baby by resting their neck on your wrist or forearm area, while holding the baby's arm that's farthest away from you. This keeps the baby in a firm position and you still have one arm free to wash your baby. Use a clean, wet washcloth to remove any shampoo residue if you don't have a flexible faucet you can use. Be careful not to let any water, particularly shampooed water, into your baby's eyes. When drying your baby's hair, simply massage the hair gently with a soft, dry towel and then comb or brush through. Do not use hair dryers or similar products on your baby.

Bathing your baby in a tub:

Bathing your baby in a tub is essentially the same as giving your baby a sponge bath, but the most important thing here is to make sure the temperature of the water is correct. Use a thermometer where possible to get the correct temperature. It is possible to buy non-slip bath mats for babies that have an inbuilt temperature gauge in them - these are perfect and inexpensive, and will ensure your baby enjoys bath time as much as possible.

The other important point to remember when bathing your baby in a tub is to keep a firm grip and support your baby (particularly the head) at all times. Babies will wriggle and writhe, and when your hands and arms are wet it can be difficult to hang on.

Toward the end of the bathing session, you might want to try a few drops of baby oil in the water and then gently lap the water over your baby's body. Be careful not to get any in your baby's eyes, and be extra careful when removing the baby from the bath tub to the drying area.

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