It dawned on me recently that bathing a newborn baby is a potential cause of stress for new parents. I’m here to give you just a few helpful hints on the what, when and how to bath that sweet, slippery little bundle of joy.
The first question when it comes to bathing is “how often?” A newborn doesn’t need to be bathed daily, especially with soap. She isn’t really doing anything to get especially dirty, and she needs all the natural oils to help protect her brand new skin. So, my advice to most parents is to do a full bath with soap no more than twice a week. Once a week is really fine. Of course, if there’s been a blown out diaper, or big brother spilled his apple juice all over her, then by all means wash the baby! Just remember that bathing daily strips baby of the precious natural barrier.
Another concern that seems to come up is choosing a soap. Is your bar of Dial okay? Does she need to have an organic, vegan, gluten-free unscented goat’s milk that is processed on the third full moon of the month and enriched with the tears of a unicorn? Okay…. that probably doesn’t exist but if it did I guarantee it would be trending!! The answer is that you should use a gentle, preferably unscented soap product that is made for babies. The brand you choose is up to you.
Finally- the biggest concern is HOW should you be bathing the baby? Once the cord stump has fallen off you can officially submerge baby in warm water. If she didn’t like the sponge baths you were giving her before, then you’re likely a little scared of approaching the subject again.
There are the tons of options floating around the internet about which method is best. Co-showering with your newborn, co-bathing, inflatable tubs, bath seats, bath slings…. the list goes on! It’s a lot to sift through, and overwhelming.
So what’s my super easy, and safe way to bathe your baby? It’s the old fashioned kitchen sink method. You can purchase big sponges and seats that fit in your kitchen sink if you’d like. I find that they can be helpful, although sometimes more headache than they are worth.
Regardless you’ll want 2 washrags, one hand towel and two bath towels. Get everything you need to use within reach well before you undress baby. You will want to fill your clean kitchen sink with warm water that is JUST warm to the touch. Likely not as warm as you’d use to shower with. Be sure to use the inside of your wrist or forearm to test the water temperature.
When the sink is about half full, take your hand towel and lay it under where baby’s back will be positioned. This will provide traction for baby’s body- so he won’t slip under the water and it will also absorb the warmth and spread it across the baby’s back where s/he may not be submerged. This helps baby stay calm and comfortable. Once you have baby in the water, be sure to keep one hand behind his neck/head to support him at all times. You’ll take one of the washrags and lay it over his front side to absorb warmth and keep the air from chilling him. (If your little boy’s penis isn’t under water, you may want to be sure to cover that with a washrag as well… just trust me.)
Use your second washrag to gently wash his face, without soap first and then you can use a little baby soap to shampoo his head, and of course the rest of his body. Water from his head may run over his ears, but it should be fine if you make sure to tip his head back a bit to keep it from going inside the ear. (For little girls- use care and don’t force any soap up into her genital area.) You don’t need to scrub his body, just a light swipe over his skin with the soap is enough. If you’re comfortable you can lift baby and try to get his back washed, however this can be awkward so just do what feels best to you.
Once baby is all clean, you’re going to spread one of the bath towels across your front. This can be tricky to do one handed, but you’re a parent now and doing things with one hand is an occupational necessity. Gently lift baby from the water with BOTH hands under his arms to keep him from slipping away and place him on the towel on your chest. Wrap him up, and then wrap the second towel around him for extra warmth.
Do not rub the baby dry, just gently pat, or you could even just snuggle for a moment while the towels do their job. Once he’s dry, you can place him on a changing table (or the floor) and dress him as usual. This is an excellent time to do a little infant massage.
The key to baths is to try to keep your baby as warm and comfortable as possible. If you’re able to have another adult nearby to help you the first few times, that would be great but it’s totally doable with just one adult. Make sure you don’t let baby’s head go under the water, and try to keep him safe from drafts or cool air. He’s going to get upset if he’s chilled, but if you can keep him warm you will find bathtime to be pretty relaxing and perhaps a bonding experience for you both.