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When your baby is born, it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of new information. You are learning how to feed them, when to change their diaper, adjusting to new schedules, and so much more. The last thing on your mind at this moment was probably how often should you bathe a newborn.
Once you get home though and start going through the eat, sleep, change diaper routine, you may start to wonder — is my baby clean? Does my baby need a bath every day? How can I bathe them safely? And finally, how often should I actually bathe my baby?
Don’t fret, mama. From soothing to safety, we’ve got you covered with these bathtime tips.
For many years, babies were given a bath within the first few hours of being born. If the baby was born in a hospital, the nurse would come and give them their first bath, either in the nursery or in the recovery room with mom. This recommendation is changing though!
Recent studies have shown that waiting until 48 hours after birth preserves the body temperature and moisture of the baby’s skin. Most hospitals will give babies their first bath near the 24-hour mark — so, if you want to wait a little longer, don’t be afraid to speak up and let the staff know!
Delaying that first bath may also benefit breastfeeding as well, because baby and mother may have more skin-to-skin time before the first bath is given. The natural smells between the mother and baby are also preserved, encouraging the baby to latch.
Depending on how long you and your baby stay at the hospital, their first bath may be there or at home. If you give your baby their first bath at home, all they will need is a light sponge bath.
For the first weeks, your baby will still have their umbilical cord stump attached. Usually, this falls off in one to three weeks. It is essential to keep this area clean and dry so the stump will dry out and fall off.
That being said, during this time, stick to sponge baths to avoid submerging the umbilical cord in water. Wipe around the area with a warm cloth, but don’t let the stump get wet.
During a sponge bath, you will wash your baby all over, just without putting them in a bathtub. Instead, you will use washcloths to clean them.
First, lay a towel down on the floor, changing table, bed, or counter by the sink—anywhere you feel comfortable laying your baby down for their sponge bath. Some baby bathtubs even come with a mesh sling that fits over the tub. This can also be used for sponge baths.
If you choose a high location, make sure to keep one hand on them for the entire bath. Lay your baby on their back and cover them with another towel to keep them nice and warm.
Next, wash your baby in sections. It is helpful to have one washcloth with a small amount of baby soap and another washcloth that is just used to rinse. You can use a large bowl of warm water so you don’t have to keep adjusting the temperature of the sink.
Be careful not to get soap in their eyes. Try to use fragrance-free soap to avoid rashes or eczema, and be mindful of your baby’s soft spots.
If your baby has hair, use a small amount of baby soap or baby shampoo to gently scrub their hair. Once you finish, you can soak the washcloth in water and carefully squeeze the excess water over their hair. The water should only fall over their scalp and not on their face.
Once you are finished bathing your baby, make sure they are fully dry before you put on a fresh diaper and clean, warm clothes.
Once your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, it is a good idea to stick with the sponge bath for a few more days. This ensures the belly button has dried out sufficiently and has healed completely. After their belly button has healed, you can begin normal baby baths.
Usually, this is done in a portable baby bath or basin. These baths are much like a sponge bath, but the baby can sit in a small amount of water. It is still important that you keep your baby warm. This can be accomplished by covering them with a warm, soft cloth. Make sure to check the temperature of the washcloth and switch it out if it gets too cold.
To help keep your baby warm during bath time, wash their body first, and finish with baby’s scalp and hair. You will be able to dry and cover their head more quickly than if you washed their hair first.
Anytime water is involved with babies, you want to make sure to be extra vigilant and focus on safety. Babies are extremely slippery when they are wet, so you may find it helpful if you have an extra set of helping hands during bathtime.
Of course, this isn’t always an option when an impromptu bath presents itself. Here are some helpful safety tips when bathing your baby.
An infant bathtub or sink insert is a great start. These bathtime essentials are especially made with the safety of your baby in mind!
There are many shapes and sizes when it comes to baby tubs too — some can grow with your baby as long as they are too small to sit in a regular tub, while others fold up, so they don’t take up much space when you need to store them between baths.
If you use a portable infant bathtub, be mindful of where you put it during bathtime. They are usually the safest when placed on the ground, so there is no chance of falling. Ensure the surface is stable and sturdy!
Babies have incredibly sensitive skin. They can be too cold or too hot in an instant. Keep their water temperature between 98.6℉ to 99.5℉ to protect them from getting a chill or from burning, and test it on the inside of your wrist first.
An easy way to check their bathwater—and the most effective—is with a bath thermometer. If you do not have a bath thermometer, you can always use your elbow or wrist to check and ensure it is not too hot or too cold. The water should feel warm to these areas and not hot.
Your baby doesn’t need a full bath of water. Two or three inches of warm water is sufficient. If the water feels like it is getting a little cold, you can add more warm water to the tub.
Babies can easily slip and slide in a bathtub, even if the tub is specially made for infants. To make sure your baby stays safely in one spot, always keep one hand on them.
Anything you need for bathtime—soap, washcloths, towels—should be within arms reach. Never leave your baby in the bath without your supervision.
When your baby is all clean, you’ll want to make sure to dry them off quickly. Being wet can make a baby feel even more cold as it is more difficult for a baby to regulate their temperature. Have a dry towel handy to wrap them up in. Hooded towels are a great option for infants.
Now that you know how to bathe your baby, how do you know how often newborns need a bath? The short answer — infants only need to be bathed one to three times a week. Bathing too often may dry out their sensitive skin.
Sometimes life happens with a newborn—an especially dirty diaper or excessive spit-up. You may need to add in an extra bath day when these days come up.
There is no “right time” to bathe your baby. Some parents prefer bathing their baby in the morning when they are alert and happy, and some use baths as a calming part of a bedtime routine.
Whatever works for you and your baby is the best time of the day.
When you choose a time to bathe your baby, make sure you are not distracted or rushing the routine. Bathtime should be a relaxing experience for the baby. You can also use this time as a bonding experience. Being distracted can cause you to not be as attentive to your baby’s needs during bathtime, leading to an unsafe bathing experience.
You may be wondering how cleaning your baby as little as once a week is sufficient? We get it. Every time you change your baby into a clean nappy and use a wipe on their diaper area, they are getting clean. Most likely, you are wiping their hands and face during the day. You may wipe them after they eat or if they get saliva or spit up on them. These little mini cleanings throughout the week are all your baby needs to stay clean between baths.
Bringing a new baby home comes with lots of learning experiences. If you’re wondering how often you should bathe your baby, the answer is — it depends!
If you baby hasn’t lost their umbilical cord stump yet, stick to sponge baths. During a sponge bath, you will wash your baby all over, just without putting them in a bathtub. Instead, you will use washcloths to clean them.
After baby loses their stump, you can transfer them to a tub or sink insert. To keep your baby’s sensitive skin happy, you only need to give your baby one to three baths a week. Be sure to keep safety in mind and always keep a watchful eye on your bathing baby.
Now that you know how to bathe your newborn before and after their umbilical cord stump falls off and tips for giving your baby a safe bath, you can feel confident during bathtime.
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