Bath time is a fun time for you, but in the beginning, your baby will not enjoy it. Keeping your house warm around bath time and keeping your baby warm during the bath can make the bath a bit more pleasurable for your little one.
Did you know?: Newborns don’t require a bath every day since they really don’t get that dirty and frequent bathing removes natural skin oils causing drying.
Bathe your baby two to three times a week. But be sure to clean the areas that get the most dirty each day. Your baby’s face, neck, and diaper area require daily cleansing. Most experts recommend giving a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off which usually occurs within the first two weeks of life. Once your baby’s cord has fallen off and the stump site is healed and resembles a normal belly button, you can give your baby a tub bath. Interestingly enough, recent studies have shown that tub baths do not delay cord drying nor increase infection rates. In fact, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) recommends tub bathing for all healthy newborns as this type of bathing is the most relaxing and least stressful for babies
Before putting your baby in the tub, always check the temperature of the bath water! The water should feel warm to the touch, not hot. Test the water temperature with your wrist (or forearm) before placing your baby in the tub. A bath thermometer can be used but you should continue to physically test the water temperature yourself in the event that the thermometer has malfunctioned.
The bath water should be 100°F (37.7°C). To prevent scalding, be sure to set your hot water heater to no higher than 120°F (48.8°C).
Before giving your baby a bath, wash your hands, turn up the heat in your house, and gather needed supplies. Also, choose a time when your baby is not crying. Bathing your baby before feedings will help reduce the risk of spitting up when compared to bathing on a full stomach and will help to promote sleep.
For a sponge bath, you will need:
a. Soft washcloths (I use 2: one for washing with soap and the other for rinsing with plain water.) If your washcloths are rough, use 2 cotton balls to clean the eyes.
b. Mild baby wash and shampoo- Choose a baby wash that is free of phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde.
c. Towel (2: one to dry baby after the bath and one to cover baby during the bath to avoid heat loss)
d. Warm water
e. Basin or other container to place warm water in (optional) or proximity to sink
g. Diaper cream (if desired)
h. Baby lotion (optional)
i. And a change of clothes
Now it’s time to give your baby a bath. Remember, this is just one way to give a bath. Once you’ve done it several times, you’ll come up with your own way. To prevent your baby from getting cold during the bath, cover your baby with a towel and expose only the parts that you will be cleaning. Be sure not to leave your baby unattended during the bath and always keep one hand on your baby.
When giving a bath, clean from head to toe, washing the cleanest area first and the dirtiest area last. Begin by washing baby’s face first using only plain water on the face. Do not use soap on the face as this can be drying and can get into your baby’s eyes. Make sure to clean your baby’s face with a clean washcloth to prevent any possibility of cross-contamination with poop. Use cotton balls or a soft washcloth when cleaning your baby’s eyes and clean the eyes from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner. This direction moves gunk away from the ducts. Also, use a new cotton ball or change the area of your washcloth when cleaning the other eye. This prevents the possibility of spreading possible eye infections from one eye to the other. Once the face is washed, gently pat it dry before moving on.
Now, you are ready to add soap to the washcloth and clean the rest of the body. Clean under the neck, the arms, chest, back, legs, and finally the diaper area, reserving the buttocks for last. When cleaning your little girl’s private parts, wash from front (the genitalia) to back (the rectum) to prevent urinary tract infections. Use your soapy washcloth to cleanse an area, rinse it, and then dry it before moving on to the next area. Cover each area after you clean it to help lessen heat loss and make the bath more enjoyable for your baby.
Once your baby is dry, wrap him in a warm towel. Now it’s time to shampoo your baby’s hair. Hold your baby in the football hold and use a cup or your cupped hand to pour water on your baby’s head to wet his hair. Take care to avoid water getting in your baby’s ears and eyes. Massage his scalp with baby shampoo, rinse well, and then towel dry.
To give a tub bath, fill your baby’s tub with warm water. Test the water temperature before putting your baby into the tub. A towel or blanket can be placed in the tub to prevent slipping. Support your baby’s head while she is in the tub and remember wet babies are slippery! Wash baby’s face with plain warm water as described above. Use a soapy washcloth to wash baby’s neck, arms, chest, back, legs, and diaper area, rinse, and dry in the same manner described above. To wash your baby’s back, lean your baby forward into your hand that is not currently supporting your baby. After the bath is done, wrap your baby in a warm towel and wash baby’s hair as described above.
If your baby has a circumcision, give a sponge bath until the penis is healed and do not use soap on a newly circumcised penis for about 3-4 days since this can be irritating. Q-tips should not be used in baby’s ears as this can cause damage to baby’s ear canal. In addition, baby powder should not be used. Talc is the primary ingredient in baby powder and is known to cause lung damage when inhaled. Baby powder is also linked to higher levels of phthalate exposure in infants. Phthalates are chemicals that have been linked to hormonal changes, birth defects, reproductive abnormalities in baby boys (i.e. low sperm count, testicular cancer, deformities of the penis), and damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Use lotions sparingly and as needed for dry skin.
Remember to never, ever leave your baby unattended in the bath.
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Author : Diba Tillery RN, BSN, IBCLC, CPST
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