A baby’s first bath is an exciting milestone for parents. However, if you’re feeling anxious and unprepared, don’t worry. Although it may take a few baths to get the hang of how your little one responds to handling soap and water, you’ll soon be a pro at bathing a baby. If you’re eager to learn a few tips on when and how to bathe a newborn, keep reading.
When Should Baby Get Their First Bath at Home?
Generally, pediatricians recommend that you delay the very first at-home bath for a few days. This is due to the fact that newborns are born covered in vernix, which is a thin, waxy substance that helps protect babies from germs and bacteria in their new environment outside the womb.
Not only that, you should wait to give your baby a proper bath until their umbilical cord stump falls off, which usually takes one to three weeks after birth. Until then, it’s recommended that you give your baby sponge baths to keep them clean. The same is true if your newborn boy had a circumcised penis right after birth; you’ll want to wait until this has healed before you give him a full bath. Once their umbilical cord stump has fallen off, you’re ready to give them their first real bath!
How Often Should I Bathe My Baby?
Daily baths aren’t needed for newborns since they haven’t reached a point yet where they’re crawling around on the ground or getting very dirty. Plus, daily baths can actually be quite drying for a baby’s sensitive and delicate skin. With this in mind, bathing your baby two to three times per week is the sweet spot. Of course, if your baby’s face or booty gets extra dirty between those baths, then a sponge bath is the perfect supplement to keep those areas clean.
Prepping for baby bath time
- Create a bath time routine. The sooner you can set some sort of bath time routine, the more it will help set your baby’s clock. Babies are generally more alert in the morning, so you could choose to incorporate a bath into your waking up routine. Or, because the warm water of a bath is soothing, you could use a bath to signal that you’re winding down for the day and getting ready for bed. Whatever you choose, keeping your bath time consistent is a great way to start building a routine for your baby.
- Choose a safe washing station. There are plenty of options out there when it comes to a washing station. Companies make baby-sized plastic tubs, slings that you can place inside an adult-size bath time, or you can always opt for the sink that’s lined with a soft surface. Regardless of what you choose, you want to make sure that the spot is safe for your baby. This means making sure there’s no hard surface (like a sink faucet) that your baby could accidentally knock against.
- Keep things warm. Because babies lose body heat really quickly, you’ll want to make sure that both the bath water and the temperature of the bathroom is warm enough to keep them feeling comfortable. When filling up the bathtub, fill it with about two to three inches of water—and be sure not to place your baby in the tub while the water is still running. Because the water won’t cover your baby’s entire body, keep your bath quick. If you sense that your baby is getting cold, you can also use a warm washcloth to place on their exposed skin (such as their tummy) to keep them more comfortable.
- Likewise, when you take your baby out of the bath, the surrounding room temperature should be warm. If it’s too cold, it can act as a shock to your baby’s system, and it will be harder for them to regulate their own body temperature. Keeping the room temperature at about 75 to 80 degrees should keep them feeling comfortable as they’re removed from the bathtub.
- Use less soap than you’d think. Although some parents prefer to forgo soap completely and only use water on their newborns, the accumulation of dead skin cells and sweat on your baby’s skin need to be properly cleaned. This is where soap can come in handy. Because a baby's skin is so sensitive, operate with the “less is more” mentality when using soap. Too much soap can dry out a baby’s skin. Likewise, you’ll want to select a soap that is mild, fragrance-free and dye free.
How to Bathe Your Baby: Step-by-Step
- Start with the face first. You’ll generally want to bathe your baby from the top down, meaning you’ll start with their face. Whether you’re using a washcloth or baby sponge or cotton ball, dip it in warm water and wipe one one eye around the inner corner. Use a different edge of the washcloth to wash the other eye. Then, use the washcloth to wash the rest of Baby’s face, making sure to clean around their mouth and under their chin. Finish washing the face by cleaning inside and behind their ears.
- If they have hair at this stage, lather your baby’s scalp with a little bit of water and a tiny bit of baby shampoo. Be incredibly gentle as you massage their scalp to wash their hair. If they don’t yet have hair, you can still wipe their head with a washcloth and baby soap.
- Then, wash your baby’s body. Rinse the washcloth in warm water before washing your baby’s neck and torso. If there’s still crustiness from their umbilical cord stump, it’s okay to wash around it—just be extra careful around that area. As you wash their body, pay special attention to cleaning in between their skin folds.
- Be gentle when cleaning private parts. If you have a girl, be sure to wash their privates from front to back, and make sure that you’re using a mild, gentle soap. If you have a baby boy who’s been circumcised, make sure you clean his penis. If your baby is uncircumcised, you don’t need to pull back the foreskin to clean it. Instead, just give the area a general, gentle wash.
How to Dry a Newborn
Once you’ve finished washing your baby, the hardest part is behind you! Give them a good rinse all over their body, making sure you support their head as you rinse all areas of their body with warm water. Then, lay your baby on a soft, dry towel and pat (not rub) your baby’s skin gently, making sure to thoroughly dry in between areas of skin folds. Continue this until they’re fully dry.
Although it’s not always needed, you can add baby lotion once they’re completely dry. If you choose to moisturize, warm up the lotion in your hands first before rubbing it onto your baby’s skin.
Lastly, add a fresh diaper and dress your baby in clean clothes of your choosing. Voila! Your baby is clean!
Bathing a Baby: Final Takeaways
Although it may be nerve-wracking to figure out how to bathe your newborn baby at first, you’ll soon realize that bath time can be a fun time for both you and your baby. Plus, although baths ensure that your baby stays clean, there are also so many additional benefits to a bath.
Baths provide babies with another bonding experience since they’ll get to watch you take care of them and be gentle with them. They’re also great learning opportunities; as your baby splashes around, they’ll learn about the cause-and-effect of water. Plus, you can start teaching them the names of their body parts. Likewise, just like you probably feel relaxed by a soak in the tub, baths can serve as a soothing experience for your baby, and even as a sleep-inducer.
As you can see, baths can be so much more than an opportunity to clean your baby. Soon enough, both you and your baby will welcome bath time with open arms.