Most babies love a nice bath. It's warm, it's soothing, and it's relaxing. And because babies love skin-to-skin contact, bathing offers another great opportunity for warm interaction between you and your little one.
Ten tips for good, clean fun
1. How often should baby have a bath? Check with your doctor; more than likely, he or she won't recommend a daily bath for your newborn. The frequency depends on your climate, your baby's health, and the time of year. Sponge baths are a good idea until baby is about 6 weeks old. Use warm water and a soft cloth to clean all those baby parts that need special attention--first the face and then the neck, hands, and diaper area. Of course, bathe more often as the situation requires--after all, babies can get a bit messy. When your baby starts to eat solid foods (between 4 and 6 months), you'll need to bathe him more often.
2. TLC for all. Sponge-bathe your baby until the umbilical cord falls off. For circumcised baby boys, wait until the circumcision has healed (about 10 days) before giving him his first full bath.
3. Temperature counts. Your baby can't regulate his body temperature as well as you can, so always bathe him in a warm room. The water should be at body temperature. Always check the bath water temperature with the underside of your wrist before you place baby into the water. Also, make sure the room where you bathe the baby is warm and draft-free.
4. Get a grip. A wet baby is a slippery baby, so use both hands to bathe him. Watch for his natural startled reaction to the water, which may cause him to slip out of your grasp. To keep baby from slipping in the sink or tub, lay a towel beneath him to act as a soft bath mat.
5. Born to be mild. A newborn's skin is very sensitive, so use only mild, no-tears baby soaps and shampoos. Avoid using oils, lotions, and other toiletries on your baby unless they're recommended by a doctor.
6. Be prepared. Collect soap, towels, and other bath items so they're close at hand before you begin a bath. Never leave your baby in the tub unattended—not even for a second! If you have to answer the door or fetch a bottle no-tears shampoo, lift your baby out of the tub, wrap her in a bath towel, and take her with you. Each year, about 50 children drown in the bathtub because they were unsupervised, reports the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
7. Hair care. Until your baby is several months old, shampoo his hair about once a week. Use a mild no-tears formula, and place a washcloth on his forehead to help keep drips out of his eyes. Of course, if your baby has lots of hair, shampoo whenever necessary.
8. Stay in tune. Because some infants will become fussy when placed in water, culminating in crying jags and flailing arms, it's important to make bath time a comfortable, peaceful experience. Be sure to sing and talk when bathing your child. The gentle sound of your voice, in most cases, will have a soothing effect on your baby.
9. Cradle-cap care. For the first few months, you may notice little flakes on your baby's scalp that are caused by cradle cap. Simply remove the flakes by gently brushing his hair with a soft brush after you've lathered it with shampoo. Then rinse, repeat if necessary.
10. Pat dry. When tub time is done, bundle up baby in a clean, soft towel, and dry him off by gently patting (not rubbing) his skin and hair. Then take a deep breath and enjoy the wonderful fresh smell of your little one.
Where to bathe?
- A portable bath is ideal for your baby's first water experiences because there are no faucets for him to bump against. You can set one on the kitchen counter or on a table in a warm room. Place a towel underneath to catch any water spills, and remember to line the bath with a soft towel to prevent your baby from slipping.
- The kitchen sink will do if your baby fits in it comfortably. Watch out for the faucets, and line the sink with a towel.
- The bathtub will be your choice when baby grows too big for the sink and can sit up on his own, which will happen around 6 months old. If you can't just let the answering machine do its job, take a cordless phone into the bathing area so you can answer calls without leaving your baby's sight. (Be sure to stay away from the bathtub with the phone.) Never leave your baby in a tub unattended, regardless of how little water is in it.
The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.