Hello there mom and dad! Are you preparing for your baby’s first bath? It may sound like a basic task, but in reality, it needs a long time of practice to master the art of bathing a baby. Not to mention that you also need to know the right time and frequency of bathing your little one.
It is quite exciting to begin bathing your baby, but there are things that you’ll need to consider. So here, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about how, when, and how often to bathe newborn and older babies.
When should you bathe your newborn for the first time?
The current recommendations from the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics state that you should wait for at least 24 hours post-delivery before giving a newborn bath.
So why do you need to wait before bathing your newborn for the first time? While bathing newborns right after delivery was traditionally practiced in the past, the latest research proves that giving enough time for the baby to adjust before his or her first bath has a number of beneficial effects.
The benefits of delaying your newborn’s first bath include:
Decreased risk of hypothermia
Babies are prone to hypothermia, or the sudden decrease in the baby’s body temperature, especially upon birth. Giving enough time for their body to adjust from the warm environment of their mother’s womb to the colder room temperature will decrease their chances of getting cold.
Lowered risk of hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is the term used for the sudden decrease in their blood sugar levels. According to experts, giving baths right after delivery may cause mild stress to the infant which in turn, lowers down their blood sugar. To help prevent this problem, bathing is delayed for a couple of hours after delivery.
Rather than giving a bath immediately, babies are now placed skin-to-skin with their mothers to initiate early breastfeeding right after birth. A study showed that delaying the newborn’s first bath for 12 hours significantly enhanced breastfeeding success.
Mother and child bonding during the first 24 hours after birth also releases healthy hormones that can reduce the stress for both the mother and her child.
Prevents newborn dry skin
A baby’s skin is very sensitive and prone to injuries, so it needs some sort of protection, especially right after birth. This protection is naturally present in the form of vernix, the white and waxy substance that comes with your baby as he is born. Vernix helps combat bacteria and keep your baby’s skin moisturized. By delaying newborn baths, vernix is left in their skin for a while, allowing it to serve its purpose. This is especially beneficial for premature babies because their skin needs special care to prevent injuries.
In some rare cases, your baby will need to be bathed immediately after birth to decrease the risk of transmitting infectious diseases from blood and bodily fluids. This includes babies born to HIV and Hepatitis B mothers.
Another consideration is cultural practices. In some countries, bathing newborns on the day of birth is already part of their beliefs and practices. If you are living in this cultural norm, the AAP still suggests to at least wait for 6 hours, if delaying baths for an entire day isn’t possible.
How to bathe a newborn baby with umbilical cord
Once you’re settled at home, the next thing to consider is if you can bathe a newborn before their umbilical cord falls off. The answer is yes, but with a modified version called sponge baths.
Why can’t you give your newborn a full bath yet? The freshly cut and clamped umbilical cord that remains attached to your baby’s navel, more properly termed as the umbilical stump, is a potential point of entry for bacteria. So, it is important to keep that area dry and disinfected with alcohol. It is advised not to fully bathe your newborn until the umbilical stump completely dries and falls off. This usually takes around one to two weeks after birth.
Take note that if your baby’s umbilical cord doesn’t fall off until he turns two months of age, or if you see redness or pus around the area, have your baby checked with a pediatrician immediately.
Click here to learn more about caring for your newborn’s umbilical cord!
How to sponge bathe a newborn
A newborn sponge bath is like a regular bath, but you will not submerge your baby in the water.
Things you need to prepare:
- Basin filled with water
- Washcloth that is rinsed without soap
- Dry towel
- Blanket or soft towels as padding
How to give a newborn a sponge bath:
- Prepare all the necessary materials within reach.
- Layer the blanket or towels on the floor or on any flat surface.
- Lay your baby on the padded surface.
- If you’re bathing anywhere above the floor, always hold your baby with one hand to prevent accidental falls.
- Use the soap-free, damp washcloth, and gently wipe your baby’s face first. Be extra cautious so that you won’t drop water into your baby’s eyes and mouth.
- Rinse your washcloth into the basin and continue washing your baby’s body. Be mindful of the creases in his or her skin where dirt can be trapped.
- Do not fully undress your baby at once. Remove only the clothing on the part that you will wash. After washing a body part, cover the clean area with a dry towel to prevent your baby from getting cold.
- Finally, wash your baby’s bottom and genital area.
- Wrap your baby with a dry towel.
When can you give your baby a regular bath?
Typically, after your baby’s umbilical cord falls off. This signals that the umbilical cord completely healed and your newborn is ready for a regular baby bath.
This is similar to giving sponge baths, but this time, you can wash your infant directly in the water. During the first few baths of your baby, remember to keep them as short and gentle as possible.
Things you need to prepare:
- Baby bath tub or bathinette (alternately, you can bathe your baby in a sink)
- A separate basin with warm water
- Blanket or fluffy towels as paddings
- Mild soap (neutral pH)
- Mild shampoo or body wash
How to bathe your baby:
- Prepare all the necessary materials within your reach.
- Layer a blanket or towel in your baby bath tub, bathinette, or sink to prevent your baby from slipping.
- Fill the tub or sink with approximately 2 inches of warm water.
- Check your baby’s diaper. If it is soiled, clean the bottom area first to prevent contaminating the water.
- Undress your baby.
- Support your baby’s back using your non-dominant arm. Your palm should support your baby’s neck and head. Your thumb and little finger must be behind the pinna of your baby’s ear and gently closing these flaps to prevent water from entering your baby’s ears.
- Carefully submerge his feet, then his body.
- Your baby’s head and most of his body are above the water. To prevent him from getting cold, pour warm water sparingly during the entire bath.
- Wash your baby’s face first using a damp washcloth.
- You can use a baby shampoo or body wash for washing your baby’s hair. You can shampoo your baby 2 to 3 times a week. Rinse your baby’s hair immediately.
- If your baby has some scaly patches on the scalp, otherwise known as cradle cap, you can use a soft-bristled hair brush to loosen the patches or simply leave them there. Cradle cap is harmless and your baby will outgrow it soon.
- Gently wash your baby’s body using a soft washcloth, being extra careful not to scrub forcefully. Your baby’s skin is delicate and can easily be injured while wet.
- Only use a mild soap as needed.
- Rinse the rest of your baby’s body with warm water.
- Wrap your baby with a dry towel immediately.
What temperature should a baby bath be?
The baby bath temperature should feel warm and not too hot. Ideally, it shouldn’t exceed 37 to 38 degrees Celsius, which is similar to our body temperature.
If you are mixing boiled water to tap water and you do not have a thermometer at hand, the best way to check for your baby bath water temperature is through your elbow or wrist. If the temperature of water is well-tolerated when you dip your wrist or elbow, then you’re good to go.
If you’re running hot water from the faucet, you can adjust the water heater setting not to exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent accidental burns.
Whether your water is from the faucet or you manually mix it, it is safer to run the cool water first before adding the hot water to prevent yourself from burns.
How often should you bathe a baby?
As you’ll notice, newborns don’t sweat that much and they rarely get dirty. So how often do you bathe a newborn? According to the AAP, newborns don’t need to take a full bath more than 3 times per week. This recommendation applies for babies up to their first year.
Bathing them too often can decrease their skin moisture and result to newborn dry skin. Dry skin is not good for babies and increases their risk of skin injuries.
For older babies, especially those who live in hot areas, bathing them once a day is usually enough to keep them clean and refreshed.
In between baths, it is also important to keep your baby’s body clean. You can use soft wash cloths and water to wipe their face and body. It is also essential to keep their diaper area clean all the time. You can wash your baby’s bottom or genitals as needed.
When is the best time to bathe a newborn?
Select the time of the day when your baby is relaxed and well-fed, and when the room temperature is not that cold. Many moms find it comforting to bathe their newborn in the morning when the sun is up, but it’s not yet hot out. This way, their baby will still feel warm after a bath.
One tip in bathing babies is that it’s better to avoid doing it when they are very hungry or have just been fully fed. Give them some time to settle for a while so that bathing will be a lot easier for both of you.
The older your baby, the messier he gets. If you feel that your baby needs an evening bath, it’s typically fine as long as he is relaxed and comfortable. Warm baths in the evening can help settle babies for the night.
Can you a give a bath to baby after they have a vaccination?
Vaccinations sometimes have mild side effects that include rash, swelling, or discomfort on the site of injection. If this happens, placing a cool, damp washcloth over the injection site is typically advised as a relief.
In some cases, like the shots containing DPT (Diptheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus), your baby may experience mild fever as a normal body reaction to the vaccine. As you wait for this reaction to fade, the CDC recommends sponge baths to keep your baby comfortable.
So if you want to give your baby a full bath, it is best to bathe her right before you go to your doctor’s clinic. Observe your baby right after the vaccination and settle for a sponge bath for a while if he is still not comfortable. After all, the side effects should go away in a day or two and you can resume your usual bathing routine soon.
Listen to your doctor. If there are any special considerations with regards to your baby’s vaccination site, he is the most appropriate person to follow.
Can I give my baby a bath with a fever?
Fever is a sign that your baby’s body is fighting an infection and proves that he’s immune system is developing. It could be a mild reaction, but it can also be a sign of a serious infection.
Before you actually worry about bathing your baby, assess his condition and temperature first. Use a thermometer to check for his body temperature. For newborns and very young babies, it is best to call your doctor for advice once their body temperature reaches 38 degrees Celsius. Your doctor will most likely tell you what to do, including when to take the medications and when you need to give your baby a sponge bath.
According to the AAP, tepid sponging can be done in combination with medications for fever if your baby is extremely uncomfortable or if your baby’s stomach is not tolerating the medication well.
How to do a tepid sponge bath for a baby with fever
- Make sure that the room temperature is around 23.9 degrees Celsius or 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fill a baby bathtub or basin with 2 inches of tepid water.
- Tepid bath temperature should be somewhere between 29.4–32.2 degrees Celsius or 85–90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use your wrist or the back of your hand to test. It should be slightly warm and not cold. Cold water can make your baby shiver and this will further increase his temperature.
- Let your baby assume a sitting position in the tub. Support your baby as needed.
- Use a washcloth or sponge and gently squeeze out some water all over your baby’s body.
- Allow the water to dry with air. This will help lower down your baby’s temperature.
- Do this for around 30 to 45 minutes. However, if your baby seems to resist, you can get him out of the water even if her temperature has not changed.
- Remember, do not use alcohol for your baby’s skin. This outdated practice is found to be toxic for babies and can cause serious health issues, such as coma.
How to bathe a newborn baby boy with circumcision
Experts suggest that it is best to stick with sponge baths until your baby’s umbilical cord falls off and the circumcision site is healed. This usually takes around 7 to 10 days.
Even if regular bathing is delayed, it is important to keep your baby’s penis clean and free from dirt to prevent infection. If your baby’s stool reaches the penis, simply wipe it with soap and water.
How to bathe baby with eczema
Eczema worsens with dry skin and irritants so it is best to keep your baby’s bath as gentle as possible. Here’s the recommendation from the American Academy of Dermatology Association with regards to bathing babies with eczema:
- Prepare lukewarm water for bathing your baby. Hot water may cause eczema to flare up.
- Gently apply a mild cleanser on the soiled and dirty areas.
- Do not scrub your baby’s skin.
- Avoid touching the skin surfaces with eczema.
- Bubble baths or bath oils are not advised for babies with this skin condition.
- Allow your baby to soak in water for around 5 to 10 minutes. When bathing, make sure that your baby doesn’t exceed 20 minutes because it will already cause his skin to become dry, worsening eczema.
- Apply a gentle moisturizer that your doctor has recommended for your baby after every bath.
Bathing your baby is a delightful experience, especially if it’s your first time. It may not be that easy at first, but with proper guidance, you’re sure to master this skill soon. If your baby is not feeling well and you’re in doubt whether to bathe him or not, don’t hesitate to call your doctor for advice.