It’s natural to feel a bit worried about bathing your newborn if you are a first-time parent. Soaping down an already wiggling infant when you didn’t have enough sleep can be a nerve-wracking task. Still, it should not have to be anxiety-filled event, as bathing your baby is a lovely way to spend time together and bond with your little one, a way to calm them, and, eventually, even a time of learning and play.
A common question from many first-time parents is how often should I bathe my baby? Should I bathe my baby in the sink or a bathtub? And the most common and important question is when I can bathe my newborn baby?
Read on to learn all about when to give your little one a bath, how to bathe your newborn, and how often your little one may need to be bathed during these first few months.
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When to give your little one the first bath:
The World Health Organization recommends delaying the first bath until at least 24 hours after birth. Others suggest waiting up to 48 hours or more. The longer you wait on the first bath, the better. There are a few reasons why it is now recommended to delay baby’s first bath.
Body temperature and blood sugar:
One main reason to wait on that first bath is that babies are less capable of controlling their body temperature. It’s essential to keep them warm because babies who get baths right away may be more likely to get cold and develop hypothermia. The minor stress of an early bath can also make some babies more likely to have a drop in blood sugar. When the time does come, make sure you have enough layers to wrap them up immediately afterward.
Bonding and breastfeeding:
Another of the most important reasons for delaying your baby’s first bath is that it allows more time for mother and baby to bond, especially via skin-to-skin contact. Taking the baby away for a bath too soon can interrupt skin-to-skin care, mother-child bonding, and early breastfeeding success. One study showed a 166% increase in hospital breastfeeding success after implementing a 12-hour delay in the baby’s first bath compared to those bathed within the first couple hours.
Vernix is a waxy white substance that coats a baby’s skin before birth. Vernix is the covering that babies develop in the womb, and it remains with them after birth. It originally protected the baby from the amniotic fluid, but once delivered, it helps regulate warmth and moisture, and contains antioxidant and antibiotic properties. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is best to leave vernix on a newborn’s skin for a while to help prevent their delicate skin from drying out. This is especially important for premature babies as their skin is highly prone to injury.
How often should your newborn get a bath?
Newborn babies do not need a daily bath. Your newborn will only really need a bath two or three times a week. You should only give your baby a sponge bathe until their umbilical cord stump heals, which typically happens within 1 to 4 weeks after birth, but you must keep the face, hands, and genitals clean with regular wipe downs. This is often called “topping and tailing.” You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh diaper, and clean clothes for this method. Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, and wrap them in a towel. Dip the cotton wool in the water and wipe gently around your baby’s eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye, so you don’t transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another. Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby’s ears, but not inside them. Wash the rest of your baby’s face, neck, and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel. Wash your baby’s bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water, dry very carefully, and put on a clean diaper.
Once they become a little older, you can increase the frequency of baths, and you can also introduce them to the bathtub.
How to bath your newborn:
1. Make sure the room is warm before undressing your baby.
2. Have everything you need at hand like shampoo, soap, a hooded towel, a cup for rinsing, and your baby’s new change of clothes.
3. Line a sink or baby bathtub with a towel, and fill it about 2 inches full of warm water; test it with your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot.
4. While supporting your baby’s head with your non-dominant hand, use your other hand to guide them into the water feet first.
5. Wash their body from top to bottom with clear water with mild baby soap, and if they have hair, shampoo once or twice a week.
6. Keep them warm by pouring warm water over their body using a cup.
7. Rinse and towel off your baby.