If there’s one thing that sends new parents into convulsions of concern, it is bathing. The idea of trying to bathe and clean that wet, squiggly little baby can be intimidating to say the very least. When faced with the task of giving baby a bath, shampooing her little head, or looking after nails, ears and navel, take a deep breath and try some of these tips…
First of all, unless your baby gets particularly mess, he or she doesn’t need to be bathed every day in the first few months. You will need to wash the baby’s genital region a couple times a day, but this is possible when you change diapers. And, you’ll want to keep the baby’s face clean using a warm washcloth and very mild soap, if necessary. When it is bath time, assemble everything you’ll need in advance to make for a smoother operation (towels, soap, shampoo, washcloth, etc.).
There are a variety of infant tubs on the market, or you may choose to use a large plastic tub or even the kitchen sink. Save the adult tub bath for when your baby can sit up on his own. If you do use a dishpan or sink, place a folded towel in the bottom to provide a soft resting place and prevent slipping. Fill the tub about ½ to 2/3 full with warm water. Test the water to make sure it is the right temperature. Undress the baby at the last minute (top to bottom) and place her in the bath. Many babies love the water and bath time, but some do not. Support your babies head and neck with one hand and do the washing with your other. You might even want to make this a two-adult job, if possible, the first few times just to help build your confidence.
To wash your babies hair, hold the baby’s head over the bath (in a modified football hold) with his face up and wet the hair with a damp washcloth. Massage the shampoo into the scalp and rinse either by gently ringing warm water out of the washcloth over the baby’s head or by gently scooping water with your hand over the baby’s head. Even if you use tear-free shampoo, be careful not to get soap into the baby’s face and eyes.
As you bathe the baby, pay close attention to cracks and creases and make sure you thoroughly clean the genital area last. Remove the baby from the bath, and dry thoroughly. This is a fun time to let the baby frolic on a warm towel or blanket diaper-free if he or she enjoys it. Some babies (especially newborns) are eager to get back into the safety of their warm clothes and blankets.
Periodically, you will need to clean your baby’s ears and clip her nails. Use a cotton swab to clean around the outside of the ear, but it is ill-advised to put a swab inside your baby’s ear. Babies are far too wiggly and it is difficult to gauge, so it is best to avoid using a swab anywhere but around the outside.
Although new parents may opt for mittens in the first few days, baby’s nails will need to be trimmed. They grow rather quickly, so you’ll have to keep an eye on them or the baby will scratch himself. There are clippers and scissors made especially for babies that are good for this task. I prefer the scissors, but you will need to find which works best for you and your baby. In my experience, the scissors are easier for my adult hands to grasp and I can see what I’m doing better. Cut the baby’s nails straight across. Some parents prefer to do this while their baby is sleeping because he is still and less likely to jump. Either way, hold the baby’s hand and finger with one hand while you trim the nail with the other.
With a newborn, until the tiny “stump” of the umbilical cord falls off, it is recommended that the area remain dry. This usually takes about a week. After that, you can bathe normally, making sure to keep the navel area clean and rinsed of any soap, powder, etc.
There you have it! That’s really all there is to bathing and looking after baby’s hygiene needs in the early days, weeks and months. Like all parents who have gone before, you’ll get the hang of it – and if you’re lucky, you’re baby will love bath time so much as to make it one of the most pleasurable parts of