How to Give your Baby a Bath

Bathing a new baby is a daunting task for many parents.  In theory, it should be so easy since your baby can’t move much.  But with all that water, soap and a sometimes fussy baby, it can be harder than you think.  Learning how to give your baby a bath is a skill you will perfect over the next few months and hopefully it becomes an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Your baby should have gotten a bath right after birth so he probably won’t need one again until you arrive home from the hospital.  It’s best to start with sponge baths on the bathroom or kitchen counter for the first week or two until the umbilical cord nub has completely fallen off.  A sponge bath simply requires you to wipe your baby down with baby soap and warm water.  Be sure to get the face first and work your way down the baby’s body leaving her diapered until the very end.  Once you’re ready to clean the genital area, remove the diaper and quickly wipe and re-diaper.

How to Give your Baby a Bath

Once your baby is a few weeks old, you can move on to your first real bath.  Most new parents use the kitchen sink or a baby bathtub for these early months since not much water is required.  Some baby tubs come with an inner sling to hold the baby up higher and ensure the head is well above the water.  Other baby tubs are inflatable, making a soft, pillowy surface for your little love.

When you give your baby a bath, the water should be warm but not hot.  Ninety degrees is about the perfect temperature.  Do not fill the tub or sink to the top, but only enough to submerge the lower part of your baby’s body.  Just like the sponge bath, use a baby-safe soap and washcloth to clean your baby.  Tear-free soaps are a good idea as we all know that getting regular soap in your eyes can really sting.  Once you’ve cleaned all body parts and the soap has been washed off, gently but security gather your wet baby’s head and body and lift her out of the tub directly into a towel and your loving arms.

Some babies love the sensation of being under water.  After all, it is much like their home for 9+ months in your womb.  Prolong the bath and let your baby enjoy splashing about as long as she is happy.  Depending on your baby’s temperament, a bath may be exhilarating and best done right after waking up and before breastfeeding to ensure your baby is very much awake for her feed.  For other babies, the warm water may be calming and a great activity to soothe your baby before bedtime.

Then there are other babies want nothing to do with taking a bath.  For this fussy set, baths can be short and sweet.  It should only take a few minutes to get your baby clean anyways.  At this young stage, bath toys are not necessary but if it distracts your baby long enough to get her clean, introduce one or two for fun.

The bath time ritual will be one that is with you for years to come.   Even if your baby isn’t very keen on it now, she will probably grow to love or at least accept that baths are necessary.  Use this time as a family bonding experience.  The stimulation from touching your baby during a bath is wonderful for a baby’s brain development, as is massaging your baby with oil or lotion and spending skin-to-skin time afterwards with your baby.  As your baby gets older, sing, play games, read stories and shower your baby with love.  The sensory experience combined with your undivided attention is a great loving moment for both of you.

Remember, when you give your baby a bath, that should be your one and only focus.  Always keep one hand on your baby and never leave the room to answer the phone or grab something you forgot.  Prepare ahead of time by having your towel, washcloth, soap and toys at arm’s length.  If an emergency causes you to need to leave the room, take your baby out of the bath and bring her with you.  Never leave the water running while your baby is in the bath as the water can become too hot very quickly.  And reset your water heater to 120 degrees to ensure the water never scalds your baby.

Also, makes sure you set yourself up for a great bathing experience by keeping your baby comfortable.  Some infants feel better with their diaper on for the first few baths.  You can remove it right at the end of the bath to clean the genitals.  Pour warm water over your baby’s body periodically during the bath to keep her warm.  And make sure the room where you are bathing your baby is not too cool.  We all know what it’s like to get out of a warm bath only to be shocked by the cold air in the bathroom.

Giving your baby a bath may seem scary at first, but with a little practice, you’ll be an old pro in no time.  Enjoy the time with your baby!