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Tips For Bathing Your Newborn

Updated on July 7, 2009

Coming home from the hospital is definitely overwhelming. There are a million and one things you now have to do and you are responsible for a whole new life. However, bathing your baby doesn't have to add stress to your life. It isn't hard and with some good tips you can find this a relaxing and stimulating experience with your baby.

How Often Does My Baby Need a Bath?

We know that we need a shower regularly, but how often does a brand new baby need a bath? There are several things to consider:

  1. Your baby doesn't do much that gets him or her dirty. Therefore they need a bath less then we do.
  2. If you keep them cleaned up after they spit up (use a burp cloth to wipe up any mess on their face, neck, in the creases of their neck, or behind their ears) then you won't have to worry about that mess.
  3. If you keep them cleaned up in the diaper area using wipes regularly and making sure you get everything cleaned up after a bowel movement then you won't have to worry about that mess.
  4. If you bath your baby more then three or four times a week then you will dry your baby's skin out.
  5. Your baby will be fine if you bathe them 1-4 times a week. This depends on your schedule, how messy your baby gets, and your personal preferences.

Sponge Baths

For the first few weeks of your baby's life they will get sponge baths. This is because the umbilical cord needs to stay dry and that can't happen with other types of baths. Sponge baths can continue after the umbilical cord falls off, but so can other types of baths.

Giving Your Baby a Sponge Bath

  1. Gather up all your necessities. You will need a towel laid out on a flat surface such as the changing table or the bed. You will need a wash cloth, a small bowl of water, two cotton balls, baby soap (optional), a cotton swab, rubbing alcohol, lotion (optional), a clean diaper, and a clean change of clothes. Having everything handy is important for easy bathing.
  2. Lay the baby down on the towel, remove his or her clothes and diaper, and then swaddle them with the towel. This will help make them feel safer, warmer, and more relaxed throughout the experience.
  3. Wet the cotton ball and use it to clean the baby's eye lid moving from the inside corner to the outside corner. Use the other cotton ball to do the baby's other eye.
  4. Next wash the baby's face, neck, and behind their ears. Lift the baby gently up to wash their back. Rinse out your wash cloth.
  5. Uncover the top portion of their body and wash the baby's arms, body, and arm pits. 
  6. Cover the baby back up and uncover his or her bottom half.
  7. Wash the feet, legs and then the genitals and behind.
  8. Treat the umbilical cord with rubbing alcohol using the cotton swab.
  9. Cover the baby in lotion if you want to.
  10. Put a clean diaper and clothes on the baby.

Bathing Options

After the baby's umbilical cord falls off you can start to bathe them using different options. One of the most common option is a baby bath tub, but other options include the sink, the full size tub, or taking a bath with your baby. You can choose to do the one that makes you most comfortable and works best for you and your baby.

In a Baby Bath Tub

There are a few different types of baby bath tubs out there. However they are designed as such that they fit over the kitchen sink and or they rest in the bottom of the tub. You can also put them on other flat surfaces such as the bed or the changing table. Bathing your baby this way is just a little different then with the sponge bath.

  1. Gather your supplies and lay them out. You will need the tub, water to put in the tub, a wash cloth, a towel, a clean diaper, and clean clothes. You may also want to include soap and lotion.
  2. Add two to three inches of water to the bottom of the tub. It should be warm, but never hot. Use your wrist or your elbow to test the water temperature and make sure it isn't too hot (these areas of the body are more sensitive).
  3. Wash the baby starting with his or her face and working around their body till you get to their dirtiest parts their genitals and buttocks.
  4. Take the baby out of the tub and wrap them up in a towel. Rub them dry.
  5. Apply lotion if you wish.
  6. Put a fresh diaper and clean clothes on them.
  7. Empty the tub.

In a Sink

Bathing the baby in the sink is very similar to in the baby bath tub. The only thing you need to remember is that the baby gets very slippery and this way doesn't offer you an easy way to hold the baby. It is a good idea to support his or her neck and to hold them under the arm close to the body to make sure that you don't loose them in the water. Sometimes it is easiest if there is someone there to help you so that you won't drop the baby in the water and so that you can easily get them out and onto a towel.

In a Tub

You actually have two different choices when it comes to bathing the baby in the bath tub. The first option is to fill the tub with a couple of inches of water. Place the baby in the bottom of the tub and gently support their head and neck. Then wash the baby with your other hand.

The second option is to get in the bath tub with your baby. This can be very relaxing and easy. It can also be a good bonding time for you and your baby. Don't forget the baby can get slippery. It can also be helpful to have someone who can take the baby when the bath is done. This can make it a lot easier to get out of the tub since the baby will be slippery and you will be wet.

Baby Safety

There are a few safety tips that everyone should remember when it comes to bathing a baby.

  1. Always be careful with the temperature of the water. Very warm water can burn the baby. Check the water with your wrist or elbow for temperature (or buy a safety device or thermometer). Never put the baby in the water while it is still running in case it gets too warm. And always wait till it is a good temperature to put the baby in there and start.
  2. Never leave the baby unattended. It only takes 1/2" of water and 60 seconds for a baby to drown. If you have to go somewhere to get something or to answer the door or phone then take the baby with you.
  3. Slippery when wet. There should be a warning stamped on the baby, but there isn't. Always make sure you have a secure hold on your baby so that you don't drop them in the water because they will be slippery.

After Bath Massage

While many babies don't need lotion and lotion can aid in causing rashes due to blocking of the pores, a nice massage with a little baby oil or baby lotion can be a great way to go for you and your baby. You will want to be gentle, and use circular motions on the chest and back. Use long strokes on the arms and legs, and short ones on the hands and feet. Baby oil or lotion can also be applied to the head to help take off scales from craddle cap if you are having a problem with that. This is something that can be relaxing for both you and baby, but shouldn't be done too often. Two to three times a week should be the maximum and you should discontinue if your baby has a lot of rashes.

Giving your baby a bath can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It doesn't have to be scary or tramatic. You can find the option that works best for you after the baby's umbilical cord falls off. Try them all to see which one you like best!


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  • couponalbum profile image

    couponalbum 7 years ago from Sunnyvale, CA

    Great hub, enjoyed reading it. Some very good tips, you have mentioned here.

    Liked your other hubs too. Joining your fanclub and would like to invite you to join mine. :)

  • lovelypaper profile image

    Renee S 8 years ago from Virginia

    Excellent advice for new parents. Very good hub.

  • profile image

    wendy_isaiah 8 years ago

    Nice informational hub.