I’ve worked with lots of new parents over the years and one subject that often crops up is bathing a newborn baby. ‘When can my newborn have her first bath?’ ‘How often should I bath my newborn?’ And ‘how do I give my newborn a bath?’ These are all questions that I’m often asked by new parents. Bathing your new baby is about much more than just cleanliness. Giving your baby a bath can be a lovely way to strengthen the bond between you both. Some babies enjoy being in warm water right from the start, while others need a little time to get used to these new sensations. Whatever’s right for you and your baby, I have lots of tips for keeping your baby clean and happy!
Giving your newborn her first bath
If your baby is healthy, you can give your newborn her first bath as soon as you like. It’s best to wait at least an hour after the birth and to keep the first bath short, no more than five minutes to 10 minutes. You don’t need to wait for your baby’s umbilical cord stump to dry up and fall off. A bath won’t make an infection in the stump more likely and it won’t slow down the healing process. Just make sure that you dry it off carefully afterwards.
The first few times you bath your newborn baby can be a bit scary. Try to stay calm and enjoy the experience! Keep a firm hold of your baby, they tend to be very slippery when wet, and you might like to have someone help you the first few times. It’s a great opportunity for mummy and daddy to practice some teamwork!
A bath two or three times a week is enough to keep your newborn clean. Between baths, try to wash your baby’s face regularly, clean under her nappy and wipe any grime off her skin.
How do I give my newborn a bath?
Its best if your baby is alert, contented and between feeds, so she’s not tired, hungry, or too full. It’s also best to choose a time when you aren’t expecting any interruptions so you can really focus on this special time with your baby.
Step-by-Step bathing your baby
- Make sure the room is warm and cosy, and close any doors and windows.
- Gather together all of the bath supplies you’re going to need. This might include a top-and-tail bowl, a soft sponge, a mild baby cleanser, at least one towel and a set of clean clothes and a nappy.
- Fill the bath with about 13cm of water or enough water to allow your baby to settle with her shoulders just covered.
- If you have a bath thermometer, use it to check that the water is around 37 degrees C to 38 degrees C. If you don’t have a thermometer, use your elbow to gauge the water temperature. It shouldn’t feel too hot or too cold.
- Undress your baby down to her nappy then wrap her in a towel. Keep her head uncovered so you can wash her face and hair before you put her in the bath. This way, you can give her a quick dip in the bath if she isn’t enjoying it or a bit longer if she seems to really like it.
- If you’re going to wash your baby’s hair (twice a week should be plenty), hold your baby so that her head is over the bath water and, using your hand or a sponge, massage her scalp with water. You could use a mild baby shampoo but just water is also fine. Rinse her hair carefully and dry it.
- Now take off your baby’s nappy. Gradually slip your baby into the bath feet-first, using one hand to support her neck and head. The water should just cover her shoulders so she doesn’t get cold.
- Wash your baby with water or use a gentle liquid baby cleanser. Bear in mind that using a cleanser will make your baby extra slippery!
- Use your hand or a soft, clean sponge to clean your baby from top to bottom, front and back. Leave any creamy vernix in her creases as it helps the skin barrier to develop.
- Rinse your baby thoroughly then lift her out of the bath and straight on to a dry towel.
- Wrap your baby in the towel, pat her dry then put a nappy on. Wrap her in a dry towel or blanket and give her a lovely warm cuddle for a few minutes.
- If your baby’s skin tends to be dry you could put on a mild baby lotion, cream or oil.
- Finally, get your baby dressed in some clean clothes.
It is very important that you NEVER leave your baby alone in the bath.