Is there anything more delightful that the smell of a clean baby? I loved to snuggle my little angel right after a scrub in the tub. I also remember how frightening it was to bathe a newborn. I had so many questions.
You may be wondering when you can bathe your newborn. Only sponge baths are permitted before the umbilical cord stump falls off. You do not need to clean the umbilical cord area. Just leave it alone and it will likely drop off around 2 weeks of age. After it drops off and the area underneath is dry, you may bathe your baby in a sink or in a tub with a reclining infant seat. If your son has been circumcised, there is no need to clean this yellowish moist area. Just apply Vaseline liberally to prevent it from sticking to the diaper. The area should be dry and crusted before two weeks of life.
You may bathe your infant daily or every other day, but over-bathing may dry out sensitive skin. Bathing every other day is quite acceptable. Gather the necessary supplies for the bath: reclining basin, wash cloth, towels, soaps, lotions, diaper, diaper cream, clothes or pajamas, and a baby brush. Dye-free and fragrance-free soaps and lotions are recommended. Avoid anti-bacterial soaps.
Water temperature is very important so as not to burn your baby. Set your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees F. Check the bath water temperature with your wrist or elbow before putting your infant in the bath. It should be warm but not hot. Start at the top and wash down. Soap one area, then rinse it with clean, warm water and dry that area before moving to the next area. To prevent the baby from getting chilled, keep the baby covered, exposing only the parts you are cleaning. Be aware that wet soapy babies are very slippery. Use of a towel is helpful. Use constant touch supervision.
The length of the bath must be considered, as babies can become chilled. Using warm water and bathing quickly (but safely) can help keep them from becoming chilled. Close the door to avoid drafts. Use two towels, one for drying and one for covering the parts that you are not washing.
Even if your child sits well, avoid using a sitting bath seat, as babies can tip over and drown. Infants and toddlers are head heavy, which means that their head is heavier than their body. Never leave an infant or child unattended in or around water. Safety MUST be the main concern. If you are concerned about missing a phone call, keep in mind that no phone call is worth your child’s life.
After bathing, dry the baby well and apply a dye-free, fragrance-free lotion to prevent dry skin. Brush the hair with a baby brush. You may brush gently over the soft spot. Some babies will get a bit of cradle cap (a crust on the scalp). Not to worry, as it resolves without treatment.
Bath time is also a nice time to begin good oral hygiene by cleansing the gums with a clean wet washcloth. Filing fingernails with an emery board or fingernail file is less traumatic than trimming (says the mother who accidentally trimmed off some skin of her youngest child’s finger). After bath time, the nails are soft and easily filed down.
Never leave a baby unattended on any surface, as falls are one of the biggest risks to infants. After dressing your baby, place him or her securely in a crib on his or her back with the siderails up so that you can tidy the bathroom. In time bathing your infant will become second nature. Have patience and make safety your first priority in the bath.