Bathtime is a wonderful way for parents to bond with their baby and become familiar with their little one’s body. Babies love to be bathed, as the warm water reminds them of the womb and may even make them drowsy and contented.
Many newborns will have their first bath at the hospital or birthing centre before going home with their somewhat shell-shocked parents. While the nurse, midwife, or LMC will show you the best techniques and perhaps even encourage you to take over, repeating the occasion at home for the first time can be nerve-wracking. For the first week or so, consider a sponge-bath rather than trying to wrestle the baby bathtub or crouching over the tub in the bathroom. It’ll be far less stressful for everyone and you’ll feel more in control as you learn to handle your baby.
HOW TO BATHE YOUR BABY
While your newborn is very small, it is usually easiest to bath them in a baby bath placed on a towel on the table or on the floor (where you can easily reach them). You don’t need much time – about five minutes is long enough to get your baby clean before the water cools down too much for them.
- Gather everything you will need for bathtime, including a clean nappy and clean clothing for after the bath.
- Prepare your baby’s towel – lay it on the floor unfolded, so you can place your baby straight into it.
- Fill the tub with only about 8-10cm of water – your baby should not be submerged or immersed.
- Put your baby into the bath feet-first, so he can get used to the sensation. Gradually lay him in the tub, using one hand to support his head and neck. If you have an infant bath support which holds your baby on a slightly angled position, be aware that he can gradually slip down, so keep repositioning him as needed.
- Use a cup or small pitcher to pour cupfuls of warm water over your baby’s exposed skin.
- Wash your baby from top to bottom and from front to back. Start with mild baby shampoo to wash his hair, then use baby soap or baby body wash to clean the rest of his body. It may be easier to wash your baby’s hair with a wet, soapy face cloth rather than trying to lather with shampoo like an adult. Also, you only need the tiniest amount of shampoo or soap – about the size ofa 10-cent piece.
- Rinse your baby with cupfuls of water to ensure all the soap bubbles are washed off.
- Carefully lift your baby from the bath – babies are slippery, so ensure you have a good grip! – and place him on the towel which you laid out ahead of time. It may be easier if another adult waits with the towel in their arms, to receive your baby and wrap her up straightaway.
- Pat your baby’s skin dry with a soft towel (do not rub). Then put a nappy on him and dress him.
- Never, ever leave your baby unattended in the bath, not even for a moment. If you must step away to answer the door or phone, wrap your baby in a towel and take him with you.
- Don’t put your baby in the bath while the water is still running, as it can quickly get too hot and too deep – wait until the tub is filled to the right level.
- Only use infant-formulated products. Adult shampoos and soaps are too strong and sometimes too astringent.
- One hand should be on your baby at all times, supporting her head and neck
How often do I need to bathe my baby?
You can bathe your baby every day if you wish, but until they’re crawling and/or eating solid foods at 6 months of age, you really only need to bathe them about three times a week. Bathing your baby too often can dry out their skin.
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