Until baby starts getting down and dirty on the ground, a daily bath isn’t needed. In fact, the baby will only really need a bath two or three times a week, at first a sponge bath, until his umbilical cord stump heals (about one to four weeks after birth), then a baby tub bath, and eventually a tub bath. But you may want to do it more because there’s nothing cuter than seeing a baby splashing in the bath, soapy suds dotting his chubby folds and dimples.
Benefits of Bath Time for Babies
- Boosts the parent-baby bond. There’s a reason why bath time quickly becomes a highlight of the day, for both of you, it’s time spent together, just the two of you. Taking care of your baby lets her know you care about him. Gaze into his eyes, kiss that yummy baby belly, count those tiny toes, coo sweet nothings, sing silly songs. Feeling your gentle touch and hearing your voice (no matter what you say or sing) will let your little one know how much he’s loved.
- Is a learning experience. Believe it or not, there’s plenty to learn in the tub. Tickle your little one’s senses by trickling water gently onto his belly he’ll probably giggle with pleasure. Pour a little water near him (his wide-eyed gaze will let you know he’s captivated), or teach him a lesson in cause-and-effect by showing him how to kick the water and create a splash. Don’t forget a play-by-play as you wash him, his little body parts as you suds them . He’ll be learning a tub-full of words before you know it!
- Soothes fussy babies. You probably already know this from your own bath-time experience, but nothing’s more calming and comforting than a soak in a tub after a long day. Up the relaxation even more by trying your hand at infant massage after bath time. While most little ones love being rubbed the right way, if your baby balks (he fusses or turns his head), don’t sweat it just cuddle instead. Pretty soon, you’ll figure out what works best.
- Induces sleep. There’s even more, reason, to love bathing a baby especially if you add it to your baby’s bedtime routine. The warm water, the warm room and the warm feeling of being safe, secure and loved work magic and will put your baby in the mood to snooze.
If your baby’s umbilical cord stump is still intact or if a circumcised newborn’s penis hasn’t healed, avoid tub baths altogether and just use your hands or a baby washcloth for cleanups. When your baby is ready to give it a go, find a flat surface bathroom or kitchen counter, bed, even the floor, and keep the using gentle and brief until he gets used to it.
Baby Bath Tips
- Establish a routine.
Whether you’re giving your baby a dunk in the tub every night or alternating tub time with sponge baths, the nightly routine will help set your baby’s body clock . Reinforce the sleepy-time message by dimming the lights and keeping the noise and activity down after the bath is over. You should, however, postpone the bath if your baby is hungry, grumpy or has an upset tummy that wouldn’t be good for anyone involved. And keep in mind that while bedtime baths are relaxing, it’s fine if another time of day works better for you and your baby.
- Gather your supplies.
Have everything you’ll need at your fingertips before you start (otherwise, you’ll have to gather up your naked newborn mid-bath to fetch whatever you’ve forgotten). The essentials include baby-safe soap and shampoo (or a product that does double duty), one or two cotton washcloths, a blanket, a couple of plush towels, a plastic basin filled with warm water– and your partner, with the camera. (You may also want a clean diaper, clean clothes and diaper ointment or cream for after the bath.).
- Keep it toasty.
Babies lose body heat very quickly, especially when they’re naked so make sure the bathing room is warm enough (75 to 80 degrees) before you get started (turn up the thermostat or steam up the room by letting the shower run on hot for a few minutes). Whether you’re using an infant tub or a sink (save the big tub for when he’s actually sitting up), fill it first (never put a baby in while the water is still running) with just enough water to cover the bottom of his body. The water should be comfortably warm, so test the temperature with your elbow or the inside of your wrist (these areas are more sensitive than your fingertips).
- Get a grip.
Gently slide your baby into the baby tub, feet first, holding him securely with one of your arms under his head (use your hand to grasp his underarm farthest away from you) and the other supporting his tush. (He may be slippery as a fish, but you’ll soon get the hang of how to hang on to him.) Once he’s in, avoid letting him sit for too long in water it can irritate his skin, plus he might get chilly.
- Soap up sparingly.
Use a mild soap on his hands and diaper area. You can just use water on the rest of his body most days unless he’s really dirty.
- Focus on his face first.
Dip a corner of a washcloth or cotton ball in the warm water, and gently wipe one eye from the inner corner outward. Using a different corner of the cloth or a clean cotton ball, clean the other eye. Wet the washcloth entirely and wash your munchkin’s mug, especially around his mouth and under his chin where milk and drool can pool, and inside and behind his ears. (Never use a cotton swab to clean inside your cutie’s ears.) It’s okay to use a little soap on your baby’s face for stubborn crud.
- Wash baby’s body.
Dip the washcloth in warm water and wash your little one’s neck and torso. Maneuver carefully around the umbilical cord if there’s still a stump; it’s okay to gently wipe away any crustiness around it. Next clean under his arms and between his fingers. Be sure to get into those little creases and skin folds.
- Go easy on the private parts.
Use a soft, clean cloth, gentle soap and lukewarm water to clean your baby’s genitals. Have a girl? Wash the area from front to back, and don’t forget to gently wipe between skin folds. (But no need to clean inside the labia.) Simply wipe your circumcised baby boy’s penis clean; if your baby boy is uncircumcised, no need to pull back his foreskin. Next up: that tiny tush (be sure to use a little soap for this part).
Once baby graduates to a baby tub:
- Shampoo his hair.
If, of course, he has any. (If he doesn’t, use a washcloth on his bald noggin.) Using water and a tiny bit of shampoo, lather your baby’s scalp. Massage it with the pads of your fingers, including the area over the fontanelles (soft spots) on the top of the head.
- Rinse and dry.
Use clean, warm water for that final rinse cycle, holding your critter football-style with his head over the basin. Fill the cup with water and gently pour it over your baby’s head. Then pat (don’t rub) your baby’s skin with a soft dry towel. Be sure to thoroughly dry his bottom and any other areas where there are folds of skin.
Don’t force it. If your baby absolutely hates being bathed in the tub, go back to sponge baths for a few days, then try again. He’ll get the hang of it eventually.
- Stay safe.
Never leave a baby alone in or near the tub, and always keep at least one hand on his body at all times.
After you’re done:
- Skip the slathering.
That beautiful (and ultrasensitive) skin doesn’t need any lotions, oils or creams. Some skin potions can lead to rashes, not to mention mask that incredible natural baby smell. Also avoid powders, which can irritate a baby’s breathing passages. However, if your practitioner has a good reason to recommend one (i.e., your baby has dry or eczema-prone skin), massage a hypoallergenic lotion into his skin.
- Diaper and dress.
Slip on a fresh diaper and dress your little one in some clean clothes. If he needs a little soothing after his sponge bath, swaddle him in a blanket, then get settled in for a snuggle with your clean, sweet-smelling sweetie.