At first, it may be intimidating to bathe a small baby. As fragile as they look, however, they are strong and need to get used to good hygiene. Very quickly, baby bath will become your nightly (or morning) ritual and will be something both you and your baby will enjoy as a source of comfort and bonding.
First Baby Bath
Your baby will be washed soon after delivery and won’t need another bath until the umbilical cord stump dries and falls off (usually within a week or two, but could take as long as 4 weeks). So when you first bring the baby home, baths will be in the form of a simple sponge bath, which does not have to be on a daily basis.
With the baby not mobile yet, there is little that needs cleansing other than face, neck and diaper area. Starting with the face and the head, use a wet (but not soaking) wash cloth to clean the baby paying closer attention to areas that usually get dirtier than others, such as skin folds.
You should use wetted cotton balls for the face and around the ears. As you bathe the baby, make sure to keep him warm and wrapped in a towel; open one part of the body to be washed at a time as you go. Clean the diaper area towards the end to avoid getting peed on, and wash the head last and promptly cover with a hat (since babies are quick to lose heat through exposed areas and the head is one of the larger ones). You should continue these sponge baths until the cord falls off, after which you can graduate to the first water bath. It’s nice to start creating a little routine following your bath – give the baby a little massage with baby oil or baby lotion and get him ready for bed.
You can follow this with feeding, a little story or song and sleep time will get so much easier. See routine example here.
While many of these items are optional and you could manage the bath with everything you already have at home, here are a few suggestions:
- Baby towels. You will find that smaller size towels with a little hood are very convenient, as they make it easier to cover the baby without the bulk and the hood helps keep the head warm after the bath.
- Baby wash cloths. If you are already using some at home, there is no problem using them on the baby. However, a baby wash cloth set may be made of a softer fabric gentler for the baby.
- Rinsing cup. The cups with a soft spout that prevent water going in the eyes are more convenient. Get a smaller one for your future toddler to play with as you do the bathing.
- Baby bath soap and shampoo. There are many good brands that include calming solutions and there are soaps great for the little one battling a cold (such as VaporBath). However, I find the most convenient item to buy is a bath soap and shampoo in one. It will make your bathing and clean-up easier.
- Baby bath tub. You can start the bathing in a simple sink, but later on you will need the tub as the baby gets bigger than the sink but still a bit small for the adult tub. Pick one with a good recline, easy storage and a space for your wash cloth, etc. At one point you can start moving the tub into the adult tub and then slowly graduate to the big tub.
- Bath toys. While not essential, they are a lot of fun and keep your baby occupied in the bath. Simple rubber ducks, foam letters, or bath books will do.
- A small bath rug or bench to kneel on. Your legs will thank you later.
First Water Bath
Once your little one is ready for water, the routine can remain the same and you can start either in the kitchen or bath sink or in a tub. Though cost-efficient, depending on the size of your sink, it may be harder than a tub, since you will have to thoroughly clean it before use and the faucet is often in the way. A good tub can last – first, sitting on the counter and then positioned inside the adult bath tub, until you can graduate the baby directly into the water without the baby tub. Remember to keep your hand on the baby at all times. No distraction – a phone call, a door bell ring, a loud noise – should take you away from the baby. It takes mere minutes for a baby to drown without support in the tub. Even as toddlers, they may not have the caution or skills to keep afloat or avoid slipping in the tub. A clear no-slip mat inside the tub is always a good idea. You should also consider taking baby CPR classes, since it would be very helpful in case of an emergency.
And since babies love being warm and cozy, make sure the room you are bathing the little one in is warm. Turning on the warm/hot water and letting it run a few minutes with the doors closed often helps heat up the bathroom quickly without having to mess with the thermostat. That said, make sure to test the temperature of the water itself. A good way to do this is with your elbow, which is more sensitive than the palm of your hand.The very first water bath can be quite intimidating and it’s possible your little one will cry. Keeping him warm and occupied will help get the process moving. Once the baby enjoys the bath, don’t rush it, enjoy this little bonding time together. If you have twins (or other multiples), try to bathe one while the other one is sleeping.
As with the sponge bath, start with the cotton balls for face, neck and behind the ears using water only and no soap. There is no need cleaning the mouth and ears. For other areas, use a wash cloth and a mild soap, making sure you wash the creases and skin folds and rinse well. Some areas requiring special attention – arm pit, groin double chins and thigh folds. Bathing should be gentle but don’t worry if you get some water splashed in the little one’s eyes, he can blink through it. Plus, babies that are afraid of being splashed may grow up afraid of water. And finally, have all your supplies ready, including the towel, so you can wrap the bath quickly. Your arm should always be supporting the baby’s head and neck until head control is fully established.
Bath toys are very helpful in keeping the baby happy and occupied. Once your little one is over a year, you can try a bubble game in the tub. You will soon discover the magic of bubbles on babies and kids of all ages.