How to Bathe Your Baby

You've learned how to hold your beautiful baby, you've learned how to feed her, but now you're facing a new challenge: Baby needs a bath.

Some new parents find tub time a bit scary. You can overcome your initial lack of confidence, but before you do, here are some "don'ts."

Wait awhile

Don't put your baby in the tub for a few weeks after she's born: It's best to sponge-bathe her until the umbilical cord heals and falls off. After that, a couple of baths a week is usually enough until she starts crawling.

Don't bathe your baby when you're in a rush. You want to enjoy this special time with her. Don't bathe her right after she has eaten or when she's cranky--just before her nap, for example.

Don't leave your baby alone in the tub, even to answer the phone or doorbell. About 90 children under the age of 5 drown each year in bathtubs--some in as little as two inches of water, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Special inflatable or sponge bathtubs are available, but they aren't necessary. What's important is providing support for your baby's head and avoiding any chance that your child will slip.

Make a plan

Keeping a hand on the baby at all times is a good rule of thumb. Here's a seven-step plan for your infant's bathing comfort:

  • Assemble all the items needed in a warm room. A suggested "bath kit" includes a bathtub or basin; two towels and two washcloths; baby soap and shampoo; and a clean diaper, clothes, and a blanket.

  • Fill the bathtub with warm (not hot) water. To your touch, the water temperature should feel tepid.

  • Wash the baby's face first. Wet a washcloth and squeeze out any extra water, then gently wash from the nose outward, avoiding any soap near the eyes. Wipe the outer folds of your baby's ears and behind the ears with the washcloth.

  • Unless an infant tub is used, wash the head and shampoo the scalp before putting the baby into a tub. This can be done while the infant is still bundled in a towel. Wet her head with water, add a small amount of shampoo and massage her head. No damage can be done to the "soft spot" when handled with gentleness. Rinse and pat dry.

  • Lay the baby on the counter and unbundle her. 

  • Once your baby is in the tub, hold her head in one hand. Wash her body with soap on a washcloth. Clean the diaper area last. Rinse with a second clean washcloth. What if your baby has a hard time getting used to the bath? Bundle her in a towel and place her, with the towel, into the bathtub. Remove the towel after a few minutes.

  • Dry your baby well. Baby lotions should be used only when the baby is on a secure surface. After dressing her, bundle her in a blanket.

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