Keeping your baby clean is an important part of caring for your newborn.
You don’t need to give your baby a full bath every single day, but you should top and tail your baby at least once a day. This is done by laying your baby down on the changing mat with some warm water and a gentle baby soap free wash, and simply washing your baby’s bottom and hair, very gently and rinsing off the soap. You don’t need too much soap in these early days – just enough to make sure that your baby is clean. Wash those little fingers as well very gently and softly holding them between your own. Make sure that the soap you are using does not contain strong perfumes or have a high pH. Ideally, you should stick to baby soap free wash because newborns have very sensitive skin.
Bathing Your Newborn: Step by Step
Find a warm and secure area.
In the early days you can bathe your baby either in a plastic baby bath or use the kitchen sink or laundry trough – they are at the perfect height for you not to strain your back (be mindful of the hot tap). Alternatively set the baby bath up on the kitchen table with change mat next to it so everything is at an easy level (especially after a c-section).
Before you get started make sure you have everything on hand. This might include cotton wool, washcloth, hooded towel and lotion. Also organise a nappy and clean clothes, make sure you put them in easy arms reach so you can dry and dress your baby without any dramas.
The bath should be filled with about 5 cm of water up until the baby is about 6 months.
When bath is ready, always check the water temperature. You can do this with your elbow or wrist or a bath thermometer. Bath should be warm but not too hot or too cold. The recommended bath temperature for babies is about 36°C.
Before undressing your baby, wipe her eyelids (from inner eye to outer eye) with cotton wool dipped in lukewarm water, using a different piece of cotton wool for each eye. Then wash her whole face.
To avoid over drying your baby’s skin add a bath oil to the water. Bubble baths are not necessary at this age – they remove natural oils from the skin. Moisturisers such as sorbolene and aqueous creams can help stop newborn skin drying out. If your newborn’s skin still has a coating of white, creamy vernix, don’t try to wash it off. Vernix is your baby’s natural cleanser and is very good for your baby’s skin . It will wear off naturally quite soon.
Newborn babies don’t need shampoo for their hair, and you need to wash their hair only once or twice a week.
To start, place your baby into the bath by cradling your baby’s head with one arm, supporting her head and neck with the other arm. Gently lower her into the bath, feet first, keeping a close hold at all times. Start by splashing water gently of their body and head. Gently wash your baby’s genitals and bottom last making sure you get into all the creases.
Get a good grip, bath oil can make baby slippery. Toweling gloves can be very handy and also act like a wash cloth.
Once you have finished bathing your newborn, gently lift him out of the water supporting your baby’s head and neck, then place him on his back on a clean, dry, soft towel (hooded are good) and pat dry – making sure you get into all the folds.
If your baby’s skin is dry, or if she has nappy rash, you might want to apply a mild lotion such as a barrier cream, or zinc and castor oil. Paw paw cream might also be helpful.
Baths aren’t necessary every day but can be part of a routine or to calm baby down. Followed by gentle baby massage.
Most importantly never leave your baby unattended in a bath or on the change table. Always keep a hand on them to support them.
Keeping your baby clean, changing their nappies, and feeding them well are only one part of the story. Of course, the best way to care for a newborn is give them love. Babies need love to thrive. Skin to skin contact and plenty of cuddles.