A newborn's skin is soft and delicate. Proper skin care and bathing can help maintain the health and texture of your baby's skin while providing a pleasant experience for both of you.
Contrary to popular belief, most babies do not need a bath every single day. With all the diaper changes and wiping of the mouth and nose after feedings, most babies only need to be bathed 2 or 3 times a week.
Baths can be given any time of day. Bathing before a feeding often works well. Many parents prefer to bathe their baby in the evening as part of the bedtime ritual. This works well especially if bath time is relaxing and soothing for the baby.
Your baby’s first baths will need to be sponge baths. You should not bathe your baby in a tub of water until his or her umbilical cord falls off. And if you have a circumcised boy, you should not put him in a tub of water until his circumcision heals in order to prevent infection.
What equipment is needed for bathing newborns?
- thick towels or a sponge-type bath cushion
- soft washcloths
- basin or clean sink
- cotton balls
- baby shampoo and baby soap (make sure they are gentle and non-irritating)
- hooded baby towel
- clean diaper and clothing
How to give a sponge bath
- Make sure the room is warm, without drafts (about 75 F).
- Gather all equipment and supplies in advance.
- Add warm water to a clean sink or basin. (Make sure the water is warm but not hot to the inside of your wrist or elbow.)
- Place your baby on a bath cushion or thick towels on a surface that is waist high for you.
- Keep your baby covered with a towel or blanket.
- NEVER take your hands off your baby, even for a moment. If you have forgotten something, wrap your baby up in a towel, and take him or her with you.
- Start with your baby's face. Use one moistened, clean cotton ball to wipe each eye, starting at the bridge of the nose then wiping out to the corner of the eye.
- Wash the rest of your baby's face with a soft, moist washcloth that doesn’t have soap on it.
- Clean the outside folds of the ears with a soft washcloth. DO NOT insert a cotton swab into your baby's ear canal because it can damage the ear drum.
- Add a small amount of baby soap to the water or washcloth, and gently bathe the rest of the baby from the neck down. Uncover only one area at a time. Rinse with a clean washcloth or a small cup of water. Be sure to avoid getting the umbilical cord wet.
- Wash your baby's head last with shampoo on a washcloth. Rinse, being careful not to let water run over your baby's face. Holding your baby firmly, with your arm under his or her back and your wrist and hand supporting his or her neck, you can use a high faucet to rinse the hair.
- Scrubbing is not necessary, but most babies enjoy having their arms and legs massaged with gentle strokes during a bath.
- Wrap your baby in a hooded bath towel, and cuddle your clean baby close.
- Make sure you follow the cord care instructions given to you by your baby's doctor.
- Use a soft baby brush to comb out your baby's hair. DO NOT use a hair dryer on hot or warm settings to dry a baby's hair because of the risk of burns.
- Expect your baby to cry the first few times you bathe him or her. Usually, this is just because a bath is a new experience. However, be sure to check that the water is not too warm or too cold and that soap has not gotten in your baby's eyes.
How to give your newborn a tub bath
Once your baby's umbilical cord has fallen off and the stump is healed, and after a boy's circumcision has healed, you can give your baby a tub bath. This can be a pleasurable experience for you and your baby. However, some babies may not like to be bathed, especially the first few times. Talk softly or sing, and try to play with some bath toys if your baby protests.
WHAT EQUIPMENT IS NEEDED FOR A TUB BATH?
- baby bathtub (preferably with a bottom drain plug)
- nonslip mat or pad
- bath thermometer (these often have safe bath temperature ranges marked on them)
WHEN BATHING YOUR BABY IN A TUB:
- Clear the counter or table top of breakable objects and electrical appliances to prevent injury.
- Fill the tub with warm water using a bath thermometer to check for proper temperature.
- Follow the same general bathing instructions that you would for a sponge bath.
- NEVER take your hands off your baby, or walk away, even for a moment.
- Be sure to clean the bathtub after each use.
Providing proper skin care for your newborn
Your baby's soft and delicate skin needs special care. Generally it is best to use products made especially for babies, but your baby's doctor can advise you about other products available and safe for your baby. Products for adults may be too harsh for a baby and may contain irritants or allergens. Many parents like to use lotions for the sweet baby smell. However, unless your baby has dry skin, lotions really are not needed. Avoid powders as they do not provide adequate protection, can be abrasive and may cause breathing issues. If the doctor recommends powder, put the powder in your hand and then apply it to your baby's skin. Shaking powder into the air releases dust and talc, which can make it hard for your baby to breathe.
Many babies have rashes and bumps that are normal. Some rashes may be a sign of a problem or infection. Diaper rash can be irritating to your baby and needs to be treated. If you have concerns about a rash, or your baby is uncomfortable or has a fever, call your baby's doctor.
Laundry detergents may cause irritation to your baby's delicate skin. Even if you use a detergent marketed for baby laundry, it is a good idea to rinse the laundry an extra time to remove residues from detergents.