Bathing a newborn baby

Babies don’t come with instruction manuals, unfortunately, and no matter how many parenting books we read, or how much advice we’re given from well meaning friends and families, there can be times where it all seems a little daunting. Caring for a tiny, helpless human being can be overwhelming sometimes! Remember that we all feel that way now and then, whether this is your first baby or your third. And often it is the smaller tasks that can seem the most tricky when you’re tired and emotional. One such task is the newborn bath. It’s not always as easy as it looks, but there are steps you can take to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. Here is our very quick guide to bathing a newborn baby- we hope it helps!

How often to bath?

There are mixed opinions on this. Officially, newborn babies do not need to be bathed every day, and it’s recommended that you wait until they are at least a few days old before giving them their first one. If you have your baby in hospital, the staff there might help you with the first bath, or you may prefer to wait until you get home. Either way, for the first week or so you can just ‘top and tail’ (we’ll explain more in a moment) before moving on to bathing. And then it is up to you, and your baby. Some families use bath time as an essential part of their bedtime routine so they bathe baby every day, some families prefer to alternate with every other day. If your baby loves the warm water and finds it soothing etc then there is no reason at all why you can’t make a bath part of your daily routine too. Remember that newborn babies do not get ‘dirty’ in the same way as toddlers so a daily bath is not a necessity if you don’t have time, or prefer to simply wash baby in between baths.

Top and Tail

So called because you are simply washing baby from top to tail, without the need for a bath. Here’s how to do it:

  • Prepare everything before you start. Make sure you have a warm towel and nappy changing items to hand, plus all you need to dress and feed baby afterwards.
  • Make sure the temperature of the room is warm so that baby doesn’t get cold.
  • Fill a bowl or sink with clean, warm water. Check the temperature to make sure that it isn’t too hot or too cold.
  • Undress baby and place her on a warm, dry towel. Some babies will protest at this point, so be as reassuring as you can- and work as quickly as you can without appearing rushed or frantic. Your baby will pick up on any urgency you project so keep calm and composed!
  • Topping: wash baby’s face gently with cotton wool dipped in the warm water. Start with the eyes, wiping once from the corner of the eye near the nose, outwards. Always use just one piece of cotton wool for one wipe, to prevent potentially spreading infections. Next, move on to the ears- wipe gently with cotton wool, and then around the outside of the ears. Don’t wipe inside the ears. Use new pieces of cotton wool to then clean baby’s face, neck creases and hands.
  • Tail: Baby’s genitals and bottom need to be thoroughly cleaned. Do this by using a very mild organic liquid soap in the water, and cotton wool.

It’s a good idea to top and tail baby daily if you aren’t bathing her daily, or just on the days in between. Baby’s bottom and genitals will need cleaning after every nappy change.

Bathing your baby

Again, it is up to you how often you bathe your baby and as long as you are both comfortable with it there is no reason why it can’t be daily. There is no need to wait for baby’s umbilical cord stump to dry and fall off; but you do need to let it dry properly after the bath. Here are some tips to make bath time easier:

  • Get everything prepared. Place a towel on the floor for baby to lie on as you undress her, and for afterwards. Have clothes, nappy changing items and everything you need for a feed to hand. It’s also a good idea to have a folded towel or a kneeler for you too.
  • Make sure the temperature of the room is warm.
  • Fill a baby bath with warm water and use your soothing and settling baby bedtime bath wash too if you like.
  • Ask someone to help you if you’re feeling nervous, especially at first. Babies can be wriggly and slippery when wet!
  • Undress your baby, and wrap her in the towel while you clean the face, as you would in a top and tail.
  • You will need two hands to lower baby into the bath. Place one arm around the shoulders and neck, holding baby’s outside arm with your hand. Then place your other hand under the bottom and lower her gently into the bath.
  • When baby is securely resting on the bottom of the bath, remove that hand and use if for washing.
  • Using your hands, scoop warm water onto your baby’s body slowly, ensuring that she is warm at all times.
  • When baby is ready (and it may only be a five minute affair at first) gently lift her out and wrap her in your towel. Don’t rub her dry, gently pat her body and hold her close until she is warm, dry and ready to be dressed.

Lots of babies enjoy a feed straight after the bath so now is the time for you to both sit back, relax and spend time together. Hopefully baby will be nicely relaxed, clean and happy. Good luck!

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