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Newborn baths can be a whole new challenge for the parents. Babies are slippery and great care should be taken during newborn baths. Initially both the mother and the babies may not feel comfortable with this.

Baby bathing during the first month

But over a period of time and with little practice they both will overcome this uncomfortable feeling and will start to have an enjoyable experience. Learning baby bathing basics is thus important to make newborn baths both safe and enjoyable.


Babies do not need daily bathing. During the first year of life, baby bathing may be done two or three times a week. In fact frequent baby bathing can dry the baby’s skin.

Newborns have a short stump of umbilical cord. This umbilical cord gets dried and shriveled and falls of in about 5-7 days. This leaves a raw surface which dries over the next few days. During this period sponge bathing the baby is ideal. This is as per the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If the baby was born premature then sponge bath is advised. For them sponge baths are better than tub baths. A clean washcloth moistened with lukewarm water should be used for sponging. The face, hands and diaper area need more sponging.

Newborn baths by sponging – the baby bathing basics to give sponge baths

The following steps may be followed while giving a sponge bath to the baby during the first month of life:

  • Sponge bath is given when the umbilical cord has still not fallen off and also when there is raw area after it had fallen off.
  • A warm room is chosen to sponge bath the baby
  • To make it comfortable a flat surface such as a changing table, kitchen counter or floor is used.
  • The baby is completely undressed.
  • A clean dry towel is spread on the flat surface and the baby is placed on the towel.
  • All essential supplies for bathing the baby should be kept ready. This includes washcloth, towel, baby shampoo, baby soap, diaper and other clothes
  • A clean wash cloth is used for sponging
  • Only water is used for sponging. Water should be lukewarm. Lukewarm water is very soothing.
  • Baby soap and shampoo are used if the baby is dirty or smelly.
  • Sponging is started from the face. In the face the eyes are wiped first. It is started with one eye. The eyelid is cleaned with a moistened cotton ball or a wet washcloth from the inner corner to outer. Then the other eye is cleaned with another portion of the washcloth/cotton ball. Mild baby soap may be used. The face is then washed and wiped with a cloth.
  • Then the ears and nose are cleaned. The washcloth is made wet before moving from area to another.
  • Similarly using the wet cloth and baby soap, the rest of the body is washed.
  • The areas that need more attention include the genitals, around the neck, behind the ears and creases under the arm.
  • These areas are then wiped with another cloth before dressing the baby.

Baby bathing  after the first month

From the second month of life tub bath may be given. The mother should make sure that the umbilical cord has fallen off and the raw area has healed well. Since the baby will be very tiny, a small tub may be used for baby bathing. If the mother feels that the baby is uncomfortable with tub bath, sponge bath may be continued for a few more weeks before switching to tub bath.

Newborn baths using tubs – the baby bathing basics to give tub baths

The following steps may be followed for baby bathing using a tub after the first month of life:

  • While bathing the baby, the baby should never be left unsupervised. If the mother needs to leave that place to attend some other work like attending a phone call, she should take the baby with her and not leave the baby in the bath tub. The one reason for this safety measure is that if the baby is left unattended in a bath tub, there are chances that the baby can get drowned even if the water level is low.
  • Plastic tubs or inflatable tubs can be used. Alternatively a clean kitchen sink or bathroom sink lined with a towel can be used for tub baths.
  • The bath tub should be filled with water to the desired level and after that the baby is placed in the tub. Keeping the baby in the tub while the water is still flowing in to it can be dangerous as the water level may reach dangerously high level. Also the temperature may change. Babies remain comfortable only with lukewarm water.
  • All the essential supplies for bathing the baby which is mentioned above should be kept ready
  • The tub is filled with lukewarm water up to 2-3 inches.
  • The mother should always check the warmth of the water with her hand before placing the baby in the tub.
  • The baby is undressed totally and placed in the tub immediately. The mother should support the baby’s head with one hand and with the other hand the baby is lowered down in to the tub with feet first.
  • Even after placing the baby in the tub, the mother should support her baby with her hand. Wrapping the hands under the baby’s back and grasping the baby under the armpit would be ideal.
  • Cupful of water is poured on the baby regularly during bath to keep the baby warm.
  • The face should be washed first. Eyes are cleaned with moist cotton balls.
  • Skin folds and genitals should be washed well as these are the areas where dirt accumulates.
  • The baby is washed with hand or a wash cloth from top to bottom and front and back.
  • Mild soap can be used sparingly. Using soap excessively can dry the baby’s skin.
  • If the scalp hair is dirty or if the scalp has scaly patches then baby shampoo can be used. While washing the head, a cupped hand should be placed on the baby’s forehead to prevent the soap water getting in to the eyes.
  • The genitals and skin folds are washed well
  • The baby is rinsed thoroughly with cupful of water.
  • The baby is wiped with a clean dry cloth.
  • The baby is lifted from the tub and wrapped with a hooded towel.
  • Then the baby is diapered and dressed.

  • www.babycenter.com/0_bathing-your-newborn_1198068.bc
  • www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00041
  • kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn/pregnancy/guide_parents.html#

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