Bathing Your Newborn

It has been a while since I have done a post specifically aimed at new moms, so here is one just for you – tips for bathing your newborn.

As you know, a newborn is completely helpless and you have no choice but to do everything for them. Bathing is one thing you may find difficult until you figure out how to do it.

For starters, you can’t give your baby a tub bath until the cord stump has fallen off, so until that happens (anywhere between 8 and 20 days after birth – 8 to 10 days is average, but some do take longer – Scarlett’s took 17 days) you will have to make do with a sponge bath.

You may find it easiest to give a sponge bath on your bed, or perhaps on a table or changing table. I always liked the bed because then I could sit during the bath. First gather the items you will need: soap, shampoo, lotion, diapers, towel, washcloth, clothes, changing pad. Lay the changing pad down first to protect the bed from getting wet, then put the towel on top. Make sure the room is warm. Turn off the fan or close windows if there is a breeze. In winter, heat the room well before undressing your baby.

Get your water in a small basin and make sure it is not too hot. Place this basin on the bed next to the bath area, or if you are ok to bend, put it on the floor. I always found it easier to keep it on the bed, though. Undress your baby carefully. Don’t yank the clothes off, but gently remove their limbs. If you have to lift something over their head, undo the snaps or stretch it as far as it will go and carefully pull it over.

Newborns will often pee as soon as they are undressed so you may want to put a cloth diaper or a folded towel under the baby’s bottom to protect the bath towel, otherwise you can leave the diaper on until you are ready to wash their bottom.

Using a soft washcloth, wet it and gently wash your baby’s face first. Then using some soap, wash the neck, arms and torso, taking care to clean all creases and behind the ears. Newborns have lots of folds in their skin, so you have to clean between them to avoid rashes, irritation or infection. You will have to gently pry their hands open and clean between the fingers as they gather an amazing amount of lint and dirt.

Next take the diaper off. If there is doo-doo, clean it away with wet wipes, then wash with your cloth and soap. Make sure you avoid getting the cord stump wet. Last of all, wash their legs and feet. Dry your baby well, gently patting instead of rubbing. If the skin is dry, apply some baby lotion, gently massaging it in.

Once the cord stump falls off, you can use a baby bath tub for baths, or you can take your baby with you into the regular tub or shower. You may not get yourself too clean, but perhaps you could have someone there to help you and they could hand you the baby after you wash yourself.

Logan at 10 weeks – his first tub bath.

If you are using the baby bath, make sure to support their head, neck and torso the entire time, and never ever lay them down in the tub on their own. The chance of drowning is there so don’t take the risk. Get everything you need together before you put the baby in, and if you do forget something, ask someone else to get it or take baby out.

Unless you have one of these tub supports. Even then, never leave your baby alone in the tub.

For hair washing, simply use your hand to wet the hair, add a drop of baby shampoo, rub gently, then rinse. If you are giving a sponge bath, use the washcloth to wet the hair, add the shampoo and rub, then rinse with the cloth. Newborns have such thin hair that a drop of shampoo is all you need.
If you have had a cesarean delivery, I recommend that you either have the tub at a level where you don’t have to bend, such as on a table or bed, or put it on the bathroom floor and sit there. You shouldn’t be lifting after the delivery, so you will need help to fill and move the tub. Or you can use something to scoop the water in and out of the tub, or just stick with sponge baths until you can bend comfortably.
It is important to dress a newborn warmly after a bath, and wrap them in a blanket too, as they can get chilled easily. You may find they will nap right away afterwards, so it is good to plan bathtime before naptime.
Do you experienced moms have any other tips to add to this list?

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