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How to Give a Baby a Bath: Our Step-By-Step Guide

by Vannessa Rhoades 07 Oct 2022
How to Give a Baby a Bath: Our Step-By-Step Guide

There is nothing sweeter than a freshly washed baby snuggled up in a towel. While the first bath is an exciting event, wrangling a small slippery newborn can be a little intimidating for new parents. The good news is that in the first few weeks, you really don’t have to dip them in the water all that often. Let’s take a look at a few tips on how to give a baby a bath, how often to bathe your newborn, and how to bathe them safely.

The First Bath

Advice regarding the timing of a newborn’s first bath has shifted in recent years. In the past, many hospitals bathed infants within just a couple of hours of birth. New recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that “Bathing should be delayed until 24 hours after birth. If this is not possible due to cultural reasons, bathing should be delayed for at least 6 hours.” This delay is recommended for a number of reasons:

      • Separating mother and baby too soon interrupts early breastfeeding. Some research shows as much as a 166% increase in successful hospital nursing after a 12-hour delay in a newborn’s first bath compared to those bathed a couple of hours after delivery. 
      • Newborns bathed immediately after delivery may be at an increased risk for hypothermia and potential drops in their blood sugar (hypoglycemia). 
      • Bathing a newborn too soon removes the vernix, a waxy white coating on the baby's skin that acts as a natural moisturizer and may have anti-bacterial properties. Leaving the vernix on a newborn’s skin a little longer helps prevent their tender skin from drying out. 

Note: According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), newborns of mothers with HIV or hepatitis should still be bathed after their first nursing session in order to reduce the risk to medical staff and family members.

Regular Bathing

Newborn infants don’t need a daily bath. Thorough, regular cleansing of the face, neck, and diaper area are all most babies need at first. It’s also a good practice to wipe down the folds of skin around the armpits, chin, thighs, and groin area with a wet washcloth. For most babies, three baths per week are plenty until they become more active and mobile. Bathing your little one too often can dry out their skin.

How to Give Baby a Sponge Bath 

Until your little one’s umbilical cord stump falls off (which might take a week or two), it’s best to just give your baby a sponge bath, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A sponge bath is similar to a regular bath except you don’t submerge your infant in a tub of water. 

1. Gather everything you’ll need within arm’s reach. 

You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a washcloth, a soft towel, and any other supplies you may need within arm’s length. 

For the ultimate in bath time fun, bundle your baby in this Baby Elephant Bath Wrap by Elegant Baby. Made of 100% cotton velour terry with a cotton terry back it will keep them cozy and warm.


2. Prepare the surface. 

Place your infant on a flat surface, like a bed, changing, table, the floor, or the bathroom counter. Put a soft towel or blanket down to keep your baby comfortable. Under no circumstances should you walk away from your baby if placing them on a surface above the floor.

3. Begin washing. 

Undress your infant, wrap them in a towel, and lay them on their back in the prepared spot. Only expose the parts of your little one’s body that you're washing so that they don’t get too cold. Dip the washcloth in warm clean water. Squeeze out the cloth and wipe your baby's face. Wipe each eyelid from the inside to the outside corner. Work your way downward, washing the diaper area last. If you use soap, be sure it's mild and moisturizing.

Bath time is a good time with Burt's Bees Shampoo and Wash. This gentle, plant-based, tear-free formula will naturally cleanse your baby's soft skin from head to tiny toe so there's no fussing—just fun.


How to Give a Baby a Bath in the Bathtub

After the umbilical cord stump has healed, you can place your infant in the water. The first tub bath should be as peaceful and quick as you’re able to manage.

1. Monitor the water temperature. 

Fill the tub or basin with only a couple of inches of water. It should feel warm (not hot) on the inside of your elbow or wrist, around 100° F. The AAP recommends that the hottest temperature at the faucet should be no more than 120° F to help avoid burns. Hot tap water can cause serious burns that require medical intervention. 

2. Use an infant tub.

Experts at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission advise using a hard plastic baby tub with a sloped, textured surface or a sling that prevents your baby from slipping. Some caregivers find it easier to simply bathe their infant in a sink lined with a clean towel.  If you do this, use caution as handles and faucets could get in the way or pose a danger if accidentally turned on. 

Stokke® Flexi Bath® is a foldable baby bath suitable from birth to four years. The space-saving design makes it easy to store and convenient to use at home or when traveling, encouraging more shared bath time moments. The optional Stokke® Flexi Bath® Newborn Support provides additional comfort for newborn babies.


3. Keep your infant warm. 

A wet baby can be easily chilled. Be sure the room is comfortably warm. Put your baby in the water as soon as they’re undressed. Lower them into the water gently, feet first. Speak to your baby in a soothing, loving tone to reassure them. Since they’ll only have a couple of inches of water in the tub, you’ll have to pour warm water over their body often to make sure they stay warm.

4. Use touch supervision.

During bath time, always give your baby full attention and hold them securely. If you forget supplies or need something from the other room, take the baby with you. Never, ever leave your baby alone in the tub, even for a second. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most child drownings inside the home occur in bathtubs, and more than half of bathtub deaths involve children under one year of age.

5. Begin washing.

Gently wipe your baby with a soft wet washcloth, from scalp to diaper area. If you use soap or shampoo, do so sparingly as it can dry out the skin. Use only gentle, hypo-allergenic soaps. Cup your hand across your baby’s forehead to prevent soap from getting in their eyes when rinsing their scalp. 

6. Make it fun!

The more enjoyable bathing is, the less your baby will fear the water. Bathtime should be a gentle, calming event, so don't hurry things along unless your baby is fussy. When it comes to bath toys, newborns don’t need them, but they’re essential in helping make bathtime a fun experience for older babies. Empty containers and toys that float are a joy for little ones. 

The FAT BRAIN Toys Pail Pals Bath Toys are two star-shaped buddies and three colorful, wavy rings are waiting for little ones to dump them out of their pail and into hours of creative exploration. Stack them, spin them, and set them adrift. Bath time instantly overflows with fun!


7. Towel off.

When you’re all finished with bathing, quickly remove your infant from the tub and wrap them in a towel, covering the top of their head to maximize warmth. Dab them dry and massage a little fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion into their skin to help it retain moisture.

Zoey Naturals Soothing Lavender Lotion provides hours of hydration to the skin. Zoey Naturals entire line of family products is free of harsh chemicals and gentle on the environment.


The Takeaway 

Understanding the fundamentals can make bath time with your baby a much more enjoyable experience. Just be sure to keep your little one safe and comfortable while bathing them – and enjoy all the laughs and snuggles that will come with it as they get a little older.

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