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How to Bathe a Baby

How to Bathe a Baby
How careful should you be about giving your baby a bath?

Bath time can be a wonderful, loving experience for both you and your baby. Here is some advice for approaching the task with common sense and confidence.

How to prepare for a baby's bath

It's important to assemble everything you need beforehand since you should never leave the baby unattended. You will need a soft washcloth, a large soft towel, baby shampoo and lotion, gentle unscented soap, cotton balls and, if the navel is unhealed, rubbing alcohol or first aid ointment. Some paediatricians recommend that you shop carefully for all baby products, purchasing only those with natural ingredients. Artificial colours, preservatives and fragrances can irritate the baby's skin, so be sure to choose baby shampoo that will not irritate his eyes, and special baby soaps or a mild soap with lanolin or pure glycerine.

Sponge Bath

A sponge bath is often the recommended way to cleanse your newborn's skin until the cord falls off. To give a sponge bath, find a bathing surface that is the right height for you, such as the kitchen counter. Line up all your supplies beforehand so you don't have to leave the baby unattended. To avoid giving your baby a chill, keep him covered as much as possible. Wash his top half first, keeping his other half wrapped in a towel. Then wash his bottom half, while keeping his top half covered.

Is there any special care for the unhealed navel? You should clean the unhealed navel with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball or a mild first-aid ointment. When you give the baby her bath, make sure that this area remains dry. Therefore, tub baths are certainly out while the navel is not healed. A sponge bath can be the answer; it will give you more confidence on handling the baby, and it will take care of the baby's unhealed navel.
How do I give my baby a sponge bath

Now you are ready to start. You can do a sponge bath right there in the baby's crib. Place a large towel under her and place a bowl of warm water, about body temperature, nearby. Test the temperature with your elbow or wrist. To keep your baby from getting cold, do not undress her all at once. Wipe across her eyes first with a fresh, damp cotton ball. Wipe with a cotton cloth around the ears and clean her mouth, chin and neck.

Giving a Sponge Bath

1. Begin by washing your newborn baby's face with plain water, especially behind his ears and under his chin.

2. Wash your baby's chest, arms and hands, making sure to cleanse thoroughly between his fingers. If you use a mild soap and cotton ball or washcloth, rinse immediately to avoid drying or irritating the area.

3. Wash your baby's back. With a washcloth or towel, gently pat dry the upper half of his body. Vigorous rubbing could irritate your baby's skin.

4. Wash your baby's genital area from front to back, then the legs and feet, espeically between the toes. Gently pat dry his lower body.

5. To wash your baby's hair, squeeze a bit of water on top of his head with a washcloth. Apply a dab of baby shampoo (a no-tears formula) and gently massage the scalp. Don't worry about the soft spot; it is actually tough underneath, and you can do no harm as long as you're gentle. Remove all traces of the shampoo with a washcloth dipped in warm water.

6. When you're finished, dry your baby thoroughly with a towel and put on a fresh diaper and clean clothes.

Then take off her shirt and wash the abdomen (being careful to keep the unhealed navel dry) and arms, rinsing carefully. Support her head and gently wet her scalp with a washcloth; pat dry. After washing her back, dry and dress her upper body. Next, remove the baby's diaper, and soap the genital area, buttocks, legs and feet. Rinse her thoroughly and then dry, diaper and dress her.

As long as you clean your baby's diaper area well after each bowel movement, washing every two or three days is plenty. You may want to spot-clean daily in areas that get particularly sweaty, oily or dirty: the diaper area, face, neck and skin creases.

Before you begin, make sure you have everything you need:
  • Washcloth

  • Mild soap

  • Baby shampoo

  • Cotton balls

  • Hooded towel

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Cotton swabs

  • Diaper

  • Clean clothes
Bathing Basics

Before bathing your baby, assemble her clothes, towels and the other bathing supplies.

Don't leave her unattended for even a moment. Make sure everything you need is within arm's reach - even the phone.

Close all the windows. Your baby is extremely delicate and a draft could cause her to catch a chill. Make sure the room is warm.

If your newborn's umbilical cord hasn't fallen off, give her a sponge bath. You can start giving her a tub bath after the cord falls out and the navel has healed. Don't wet the umbilical cord. If it gets wet by mistake, dab some alcohol on it.

If your male baby has been circumcised, give him sponge baths till the area heals. Only after it has completely healed should you give him a tub bath.

There are lots of tubs from which to choose. Some plastic baby tubs have a built-in seat for the baby to lean against; others include a removable hammock so she won't be completely immersed in the water. There are inflatable models your baby can comfortably sink into and others that fit into the bathtub.

If you don't have a tub but have a large sink, you could bathe your baby in it. Make sure it is well cleaned and disinfected first, and that it has a stopper.

Place a towel at the bottom of the tub or sink so it is not too slippery.

Fill up the tub or sink with water and test the temperature. Never pour the water into the tub with the baby in it; there might be a sudden temperature change.
Once you have the water (at the right temperature) ready, undress your baby and gently place her into the bath. Always support her neck and back with one hand until she can sit up. With the other hand, using a soft washcloth and baby soap, wash her ears and neck, paying attention to her ever-multiplying chins. Then wash her upper body, legs, genitals and back.

Don't wash inside her ears. The area is very delicate, and you may damage it.

Use a very gentle, mild soap and shampoo made especially for babies. Don't apply soap to her face.

If you're shampooing your baby's head, wrap her up in a towel and dip her head gently in the water. Shampoo, and then dip her head again to rinse out the suds. If she has cradle cap, shampoo her hair more often. When you apply shampoo, comb her hair to loosen the scales. Cover her head with a towel after you finish shampooing her.

After your baby's fully bathed, cover her with a towel and gently clothe her. She's ready to be pampered! It's best to avoid applying any form of powder or lotion on your newborn.

Tub Baths

Some healthcare professionals suggest you wait until the umbilical cord has fallen off and the circumcision site has healed (if you have a circumcised son) to give your baby a tub bath. Fill a plastic baby tub with two to three inches of water, and then place it at a convenient height. Never leave your baby unattended in the bath.

You can also put the tub inside the sink or wash your baby in the sink without a tub. Just line the bottom of the sink with a folded towel to keep your baby from slipping, and turn the faucet away from your baby. Before you start, gather everything you'll need and be sure the water is neither too hot nor too cold. To test the water, use your elbow or the inner side of your wrist.

Try singing songs and playing while you wash your baby. This will help make bath time fun and special for both of you.

Tips for Cord Care

  • To prevent infection and speed the drying of the cord, some healthcare professionals suggest cleaning around the cord with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol several times a day.

  • To avoid irritation, don't cover the area with a diaper or plastic pants. Fold the diaper over and away from the cord area.

  • Continue this hygiene for a few days after the cord has fallen off completely. Don't be surprised if you see a few drops of blood the day the cord falls off. This is normal.

  • As the cord falls off, the center may look yellow. But if it has a puslike discharge or an offensive odor, or if the area is hot, red and swollen, call your baby's doctor.
Giving a Tub Bath

1. You might find it easier to wash your baby's hair before putting her into the tub. First, hold your baby in a football hold and squeeze a little water on top of her head with a washcloth. Then, apply a dab of baby shampoo (a no-tears formula) and gently massage the scalp. Remove all traces of the shampoo with a washcloth dipped in warm water. Dry gently but thoroughly so your baby won't feel chilled.

2. To lower your baby into the bath, support her shoulders with one hand and her legs or bottom with the other. Even if she cries-and she probably will the first few times-keep talking to her as you place her gently and confidently into the tub. (Make those early baths quick if your baby seems upset.

3. As you bathe your baby, keep one hand under her armpit so that her head stays out of the water, and use your other hand to wash, then rinse, the front of her body.

4. Now wash and rinse the back of her body.

5. After your baby is clean and rinsed, lift her gently onto a towel and dry her thoroughly. Put on a clean diaper and clothes.

TIP: Wearing a pair of white cotton gloves can help you feel more secure as you hold your baby in the water.

Copyright ©, 2006-2008: Newborn: How to Bathe a Baby