How to Bathe a Newborn – Newborn Care Series

how to bathe a newborn
how to bathe a newborn

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Another one of the questions parents have is how to bathe a newborn.

Sure, the nurse at the hospital probably told you or showed you how to give a bath, but maybe you’re still unsure or she rushed through it and now you’re home and you have questions.

Parents have all sorts of worries: what to do with the umbilical cord during a bath; what if they get cold?; how hot should the water be?; WHEN should I give my baby a bath?

These are all normal questions, and I’ve got the answers for you!

Before we get started on HOW to bathe a newborn, there are a few key things to know about giving your baby a bath.

Be sure to check out the other posts in my Newborn Care Series!

Give your baby a bath where you’re most comfortable

Bath time shouldn’t be stressful or uncomfortable. You need to choose a place to give your baby a bath that is easily accessible and comfortable.

For me, that means not hunched over a bathtub breaking my back and making my legs go numb (which is why I normally throw my dog in the shower with me when he needs one!). 

I suggest using the kitchen sink or counter, or even just doing a sponge bath on your changing table. If you’re not comfortable putting the baby in the sink because it’s yucky, consider purchasing something to line the sink, like this cute flower bath tub that fits right in your sink!

Your baby is not that dirty

Think on this for just a second. The dirtiest place on your baby is probably his or her diaper area. Your baby isn’t playing outside, or even crawling around at this point.

So unless you yourself went outside and played in the mud and then picked up your baby and held him, he isn’t that dirty. Trust me.

This means you only need to give your baby a bath 2-3 times a week for now. Save yourself the time – don’t give your baby a bath every day!

Since your baby isn’t dirty, the bath should last less than five minutes

Are you thinking, What??? I can’t give the baby a bath that fast!!

I promise that you can! & you should, because newborns can get cold really easily and it’s not good for them. It makes them burn too many calories and could make them lethargic and not want to eat.

So try your best to do the bath fast. Try not to start until you have all the supplies you need at hand.

Supplies you need

Wash cloths
Baby soap/shampoo
Baby bath tub or other basin (you will need two basins for a sponge bath)
Baby bath thermometer (optional)
-1-2 towels 

Now, on to HOW to give your baby a bath.

How to bathe a newborn

Step One: Start with warm water

You never want to use hot water.

But like most other people, I wouldn’t suggest using lukewarm water either. Water cools fast when there isn’t much of it. & let’s face it – you shouldn’t be using much of it. You need less than a liter of water to adequately give your baby a bath.

The quick change in temperature is another reason you should be giving a bath quickly!

So, start with warm water. If you’re not sure what warm is, you can get a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. Or you can test it on your own hands. Go with warm to the touch, or just slightly cooler.

Step 2: Put the baby in the bath water

*A note about umbilical stumps: It is OKAY to get the stump a little wet, but you don’t want to submerge it into water. So make sure your water level isn’t too high! When the bath is over, just pat the stump dry. 

Some baby bath tubs have a sling to put your baby in so they never actually sit in the water. That’s OK. Either way, put your baby where they are going to be for this bath. 

Step 3: Now, add your favorite soap

If you’re choosing to do a sponge bath, add the soap directly to one of your water basins.

If you’re going to put the baby in the bathwater, put the soap on your wet wash cloth. You want it to be really soapy.

I personally loooove the smell of Johnson & Johnson’s baby soap but some families choose to use a different kind with fewer chemicals. Either way, make sure you love it because when you’re done with the bath, the best part happens – snuggling!

Step 4: Clean your baby from cleanest to dirtiest

You obviously don’t want to go washing your baby’s bum first and then using the wash cloth on his or her face! So start with the eyes and face first, then work your way down.

-Eyes and face
-Head and neck
-Chest and back
-Legs and feet
-Front diaper area
-Back diaper area

This method ensures that you not only keep things “clean” but that you don’t have to go back into the water too much to rinse, thereby adding more time.

Step 5: Rinse your baby in the same order

If you’re using a baby bath, grab a clean cloth, get it wet, and just wring water out over the baby from the top of their head down. Follow that up with a wipe down.

If you’re doing a sponge bath, use a clean cloth and your plain water basin to go back over the baby in the same order as when you were cleaning.

Step 6: Dry baby

Pro tip: recruit a second person to dry the baby off

If it’s just you, no big deal. But it’s nice for the baby if someone can begin drying while you’re rinsing. This cuts down on the amount of time they are wet and vulnerable to the cold. 

If you don’t have the second person, just dry them off when you’re done. 

Step 7: Dress them up and swaddle them and snuggle them for a while to keep their temp up.

Congrats! You are done with the bath!

As your baby gets older, you can extend the amount of time you take giving a bath.

how to bathe a newborn
How to bathe a newborn

If this was helpful to you, please share it with other parents!

Remember to check out the other posts in my newborn care series!

Happy bathing!

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