baby care

Bonding over Baby Baths

Bathing a newborn is one of the highlights of motherhood. It is an intimate affirmation of the bond you share as mother and child. While fathers may bathe their babies, too, there is just something special about a new mother wiping her child with a cool cloth, or dipping her baby for the first time in a shallow tub; but just how do you bathe someone so small and fragile? And when do you give baby her first bath?

Some mothers prefer bathing their newborn a week after coming home. This means that they do not expose their child to the baby tub right away. Instead, they use a damp, warm cloth to wipe their child from head to toe at night, and a cool cloth every morning and afternoon. Only after the newborn has adjusted to breastfeeding, and sleeping in her crib do these mothers introduce her to the experience of being bathed in a shallow tub with warm water.

On the other hand, there are also mothers who wipe their newborns two hours after coming home from the hospital, then give them a quick bath the very next day. When and how often you bathe your baby is completely up to you, though there are a few things you will need to remember every time you prepare a baby for a wipe down or a bath. In general, though, newborns need to be bathed two to three times a week, after a week or two of sponge baths only. You can give them sponge baths and head-to-toe wipe downs every so often to keep them refreshed.

Baby Bath Tips

1. Newborns don’t get dirty often. They only really need to be cleaned up every time you change their diapers. On the baby’s first day at home, you can simply give her a sponge bath, and save the full bath for the following day, the next week, or until the umbilical stump falls off.

3. Keep a dedicated place for all of your baby’s bath items. During her first month, you won’t have to use baby shampoo and soap as often as you think. Be sure to check the labels of every brand you use. Ingredients in baby shampoos and soaps should be mild on the skin, and be especially formulated for sensitive eyes, nose and ears.

4. It is best to purchase a baby tub that has a wide, soft mesh hanging from the sides of the tub, an inch or two above the water. You can lay your baby on the mesh so that your hands are free to scoop or spread water, or lather soap and shampoo on her. The mesh will also allow your baby to feel the warm water against her back without taking her by surprise. Once she is old enough to sit up by herself, you can remove the mesh, and let your baby play in the tub.

5. Never leave your baby in the tub unattended. Always make sure that someone is looking after her when she is in the tub, or even if she is just about to be undressed.

6. Protect your baby’s umbilical stump until it dries and falls off. This is another reason why some mothers postpone their baby’s first bath for at least five days. They want to give the child’s umbilical stump the chance to dry before they soak their baby in the tub.

7. If you really have to give your baby an early bath, cover the umbilical stump with water-resistant gauze or bandages, and take extra care not to get the area wet.

8. Some babies naturally love warm water. They will often relax when placed in a tub or when wiped with a warm cloth. Others though, are not as eager to get wet. They will cry or squirm all throughout the bath. The best way to deal with this is to introduce your baby to the sensation of warm water slowly. Place a small amount of warm water on her neck and chest. If she is startled, soothe her with your voice, or give her a toy to look at. Gradually move down to her tummy, arms, hands, legs and feet. Your baby will eventually get used to the feeling of water on her body, and with time, bath sessions will be more pleasant for both of you.

Step-by-Step Sponge Bath

1. Be sure that the room is warm enough before you undress your baby. Switch off the air-conditioning unit for the time being, and make sure that the electric fan is not pointed directly at your child. 

2. Carefully remove your baby’s clothes, leaving the protective gauze around her umbilical cord. Lay your child on a water-resistant pad, or on a pile of soft towels on a changing table. Make sure her head is well supported, and that there are no breakable objects beside her.

3. Soak a small, soft towel in a basin of warm water.

4. Spread the towel over your baby’s stomach and gently massage her skin. Gradually move to her arms, hands, legs and feet.

5. Check in between your baby’s fingers and toes for any signs of dirt or dried skin. At this point, you can also put a small amount of baby soap onto the towel, and massage it on her stomach, neck, arms and legs.

6. Rinse the towel, and then soak it again in warm water. Use this to remove the soap from your baby’s body.

7. Have someone lift your baby so that her back is facing you. Gently wipe the skin of her back with the towel.

8. Lay her back down onto the pile of towels, and get ready to clean her face.

9. Start with her eyes. If you notice any discharge from her tear ducts, wipe them away with baby tissue. Do the same with her nose and mouth.

10. Check her ears. If there is no apparent sign of dirt or discharge, wipe the outer ear gently with baby tissue.

11. Apply soothing lotion all over your baby’s body before dressing her in fresh clothes.

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