Splish splash, it’s baby’s first bath.
4 tips to make it safe, happy and stress-free.
Your baby’s first bath. It’s one of those milestone moments that you look forward to (and worry about). Just like everything with newborns, it’s natural to be nervous — especially if you’re a new mom or dad. But bathing baby doesn’t have to be stressful. Follow these tips to make bathtime baby care a fun experience for everyone.
1. Know when it’s time for the tub.
After you bring baby home from the hospital, there’s actually no rush for the first bath. You’ll need to wait until the umbilical cord falls off and, if you have a circumcised boy, for his penis to fully heal. Until that happens, a simple sponge bath is the best way to get them clean. Or, even easier, try fragrance-free baby wipes.
Once you get into the swing of things, remember that newborns don’t need a bath very often. One to three times a week is plenty, experts say.1 Think about it — they’re not working up a sweat on the playground or getting messy in the mud. They’re snuggling with you all day and their diaper area is getting cleaned with every change.
2. Pre-bath prep: gather all your supplies.
Round up everything you’ll need before AND after the bath. You don’t want to finish the bath and realize that you forgot to grab a towel. Or, the PJs are tucked away in a drawer out of reach. Here’s what we recommend you have ready at your fingertips:
- Baby bathtub. Contoured baby bathtubs are designed to help support baby’s head and neck while keeping your newborn in a safe, stable position. Look for a style with an anti-slip back pad for extra security.
- Baby soap. Sudsing baby up isn’t a must with every bath — warm water and a washcloth are plenty effective most of the time. But now and then, you’ll want to use a gentle baby cleanser for a more thorough clean (and to enhance that sweet baby smell). Some baby bath cleansers can also help to keep baby’s skin feeling soft and smooth.
- Two washcloths. It’s important to keep baby warm throughout the bath. Otherwise, your newborn will let you know that they’re cold — and that’s no way to wind down before bed. Use one cloth to wash baby and place the other one over their chest and tummy.
- Hooded towel. Again, warmth is important, so a hooded towel helps to keep baby toasty from head to toe. To get baby out of the bath and into the towel quickly, try draping the hooded towel over a contoured baby lounging pillow on the floor next to the tub. That way, you can simply place baby on the pillow and swaddle them in the towel right away, before they get cold.
- Lotion, diaper cream and pajamas. You’ll want to have your changing station ready to go so you can get baby quickly out of their towel, diapered and dressed for bed.
3. Mid-bath: Keep it toasty and stay close.
Now that you’re ready to fill up the tub and start washing, be sure to follow these tips to keep baby happy and safe. Give baby your full attention to avoid any slip-ups. It’s a special moment that you can’t fully appreciate until you experience it, so really soak it in.
- Warm it up. Babies are much happier if they feel cozy and comfortable. An easy way to do this is to bathe baby after you take a hot shower. Close the door to keep the steam in the bathroom so it stays nice and warm.
- Test the water. To be sure that the water is just the right temperature, touch is best. Dip your wrist into the bath to gauge whether it’s not too hot or too cold before you put baby in the tub.
- Less is more. Fill the tub only 2-3 inches. This is where that extra washcloth comes into play. Place it on baby’s tummy and pour bathwater on top of it every minute or so to keep them warm.
- Head to toe. Wash top to bottom, beginning with their face. Pay extra attention to the skin behind their ears and their neck folds where milk is likely to get trapped. Go extra easy if your baby boy has had a circumcision.
- Be hands-on. You can’t leave baby unattended — even for a second. That’s why it’s so important to gather your supplies first. And you should always keep at least one hand on baby at all times.
4. After bath: Wind down for bed.
For newborns, the purpose of their bath is not purely to get clean. It’s also to help them relax and get ready for bed. A popular nighttime pattern to follow is bath, bottle/breast and bed. Whatever routine works for you, try to stick with it to give baby a sense of comfort and consistency.
- Dry thoroughly. After you get baby out of the bath, thoroughly pat the skin dry. Be sure to pay extra attention to the folds in the baby’s neck, and under the arms and legs. If moisture gets trapped in these areas, it can irritate the skin.
- Keep that skin soft. Newborns don’t need a ton of lotion. In fact, they can feel a little dry and scaly until they shed their top layer of skin. But it doesn’t hurt to follow up the bath by massaging baby-friendly lotion into your newborn’s skin to keep it feeling soft. Your baby might also find it relaxing.
- Diaper and dress. Apply a diaper cream or protective ointment to help keep diaper rash away, especially during long overnight sleeps. Finally, get baby dressed in comfy pajamas, like footies.
When you feel prepared and focused on baby’s bath, you can be more present in this milestone moment. Baby will be safe, healthy and squeaky clean. And before long, your little newborn will be bigger than you can imagine, sitting up and splashing in the bath.