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9 Tips to Help You Bathe Your Newborn Baby

One of the scariest things you’ll have to do as a new parent is to give your baby a bath. When I was pregnant, I was so nervous at the thought of bathing my newborn baby girl because I knew I would have to be careful of the umbilical cord stump. I was scared thinking it would get infected or I would clean it wrong.

Turns out, bathing a baby isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Before we even left the hospital, the nurses demonstrated how to clean a newborn. Therefore, I could ask questions in person, and my worries diminished.

Initial Tips

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The first couple of baths you will give your baby will be a sponge bath. Your newborn needs to be bathed with a simple sponge bath until the umbilical cord stump falls off, which happens 1-2 weeks after birth. It is essential that you keep the area around the stump clean and dry, which is why a sponge bath is necessary. The stump should not be submerged at all. Gently wash your baby’s body with a damp cloth and a tiny amount of soap.

Your newborn is not very dirty, so it is unnecessary to use a lot of soap. Use a second damp cloth to rinse the soap off. Dry and rewrap your baby with a towel as you move from body part to body part. Wash the head last, since it will most likely make your newborn cold and perhaps cause some crying. Do not try to wash the stump area at all, just pat around it and dry the area.

If you are bathing your newborn baby boy, be careful around his genitals. This area could be sensitive from the circumcision. Gently wipe around it and follow any specific instructions you may have been given at the hospital. Do not submerge the area until it has fully healed. It is essential to keep this area cleaned as well.

Once the umbilical cord stump falls off and the area appears (and smells) healthy, you are clear to start bathing your baby in a baby tub. As exciting as it may be to move away from the sponge baths, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. Here are several tips I learned from bathing my newborn girl.

Be Prepared

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Supporting your newborn’s head while washing is plenty enough to do, so you don’t need to add to it by not having everything ready to go. Keep all items within arm’s length as you should never leave your baby alone, even for a second. Set the towel and washcloths next to you, as well as the already opened baby shampoo bottle. It is also helpful to have a little cup to use to pour water on your baby as you rinse off the soap. I would try to push my daughter’s front hairs back while covering her eyes so that I did not get any shampoo in them.

Choose The Best Time For Baby

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Many parents enjoy bathing their baby in the evening and choose to do it about an hour after a feeding (to avoid spit-ups). Babies tend to relax in the bath, which is perfect to do right before they fall asleep.

At first, I personally gave my daughter her baths in the morning because I noticed she cried less and enjoyed them more when I bathed her in the AM. However, after my mom explained how much her children would settle down for the night after a bath, I decided to give evening baths another try. Once I tried them again at night, I noticed she did seem to handle them way better than before. I believe that bathing her in the morning was the perfect way to introduce her to the joy of baths which led her to enjoy them at night.

There is no “right time” to bathe your newborn. Every baby is different. Some children love taking a bath from the get-go. Others need to get used to it, while still others never fully enjoy them as a baby. Find what works for you and your child. But don’t be afraid to try something new. Your child is changing and growing faster than he/she ever will again. His/her likes and dislikes are going to change as well.

It used to be the norm for babies to be bathed every night before bed. Now, however, it is recommended to bathe your baby every few days to avoid drying out their skin.

Be Comfortable

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Some parents put the baby bath into their kitchen sink and like to bathe their newborn there. For some reason, I never liked the idea of bathing my child in the sink. So, I didn’t. I put the baby bath in our real tub and have loved bathing her in the real bathroom. I bought a special baby knee pad to kneel on, which allows me to comfortably lean over my daughter while I bathe her. Because I feel comfortable and relaxed, I can focus more on my daughter and her needs. Plus, I am a big believer that our demeanors impact the way our children act, to a certain degree. So if you enjoy bath time, it is possible that your child will too.

Be Wise With Baby Shampoo & Wash and Water

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I’m not saying you must choose an organic kind of shampoo, but I do think that it is worth noting that a lot of baby products have harsh chemicals in them. Choose a tear-free shampoo that will be gentle on the skin. It does not need to be loaded with fragrances. When using the bottles, remember that less is more. Since your baby isn’t sweating up a storm, only a little is necessary. Too much shampoo can dry out their skin.

You also do not need a lot of water. An inch or two is plenty of water, even when moved into the big tub. But, since your baby will not be covered with warm water, he or she is more likely to get cold. Be sure to frequently pour water on your little one to keep their body temperature up.

Don’t Do It Alone

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If possible, have someone there with you the first several times you bathe your newborn. It can be so helpful to have a companion as you figure out what you’re doing. This can be especially helpful in case you did forget something and needed to leave your baby because a second person will be there.

Get the Baby Gear

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One must have baby item is a water thermometer. Some bathtubs have a thermometer attached, but most do not. You can find cute little ones like a whale that floats around or one that sticks to the tub. Whatever the kind, it is necessary to ensure the water temperature is not too warm (or too cold!). The thermometer should read 90 degrees or below. Remember that babies’ skin is more sensitive than ours is and they can feel hot and get burned rather quickly.  Another way to check the water temperature is to use your elbow or the inside of your wrist. The water should feel warm, but not hot.

Additional baby bath gear you could use is a bathing pad, pillow, or extra towel. These can come in handy when your wet, soapy baby feels a little too slippery. You can put these in the tub to keep your baby in one spot, so they don’t end up sliding everywhere else. I personally enjoyed using the 4Moms bathtub because it had a thermometer installed. It also had several drains to allow new water to flow in while the faucet was running, replacing the dirty water that may have some urine in it.

Don’t Dawdle

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Once you pull your baby out of the tub, dry him or her while using the towel you placed nearby. Be sure to dry softly but sufficiently, so they do not feel cold! Don’t forget to dry their head thoroughly. Some families even turn up their thermostat before bathing a baby.

Do Not Ever Leave Your Child Alone

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This seems unnecessary to say, but children have died in tiny amounts of water while unattended. Do not ever leave your child alone in water, no matter how many inches he/she is in. For example, if the doorbell rings and you feel you must answer it, simply pick up your child to take with you. The same goes for answering your telephone.

Focus on your child and forget about other duties going on. If you have something else that needs to be attended to, ask your partner to help.

Enjoy it!

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Our children are only little for so long, meaning that there will only be so many baby baths where each new trick is exciting to watch in the tub. Relax and take note of the memories. Before you know it, they will be older, and you will not be needed nor wanted during bath time. Sing and play with your child.

I personally think bath pictures are so cute and special, but it may be safest for your partner to be the one taking the pictures so you can continue to support your newborn’s head and observe him/her.

Also, be wary of what you post on social media. Pictures with exposed areas can be embarrassing for the child as he grows. And once you put the picture online, it is always there…for anyone to see.

If your child hates the sponge bath, do not be alarmed. My baby girl did not enjoy her first couple of baths, but now she is my water loving girl. Some children never like bath time, and if that is the case, find some way to make it more enjoyable.

Are there any other tips you would like to add? Feel free to comment in the section below!

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