If you’re an expectant parent, chances are you have a laundry list of baby-raising fears (it’s totally normal, we promise!) — and if you’re like most people, figuring out how to bathe a newborn baby is on that list.
But according to Dr. Payal Adhikari, it doesn’t have to be. “It’s a pretty simple and straightforward process,” Dr. Adhikari, who is a pediatrician, assured us.
Will it be a little intimidating the first few times you do it? Sure, but it’s important to remember that if you take the right precautions, everything will be just fine. And who knows? Your little one just may take to bath time like a fish to water (no pun intended).
Nervous? You’re not alone
If you’re terrified of giving Baby his or her first bath, know you’re not alone — according to Dr. Adhikari, most new parents tend to be nervous about the process. “[Newborns are] not fragile but they seem very fragile at that age,” she said. “[Bathing involves] a lot of maneuvering the baby into position, which might not seem natural.”
Dr. Adhikari added that your baby may fuss a bit when naked (infants get cold!).”That makes parents nervous,” she said. “But some babies love it once they’re under that tepid water. Parents say newborns sleep much better after they’ve had a bath. That’s worth thinking about — but if you don’t feel comfortable with it or baby doesn’t like it, it doesn’t have to be done very often.”
How often should you bathe a newborn?
According to Dr. Adhikari, parents who don’t love bathing their newborns can just do it about once a week — and bath time really doesn’t have to be a huge production, especially in the earliest days.
“The main thing to remember in the beginning is that you should sponge bathe until the umbilical cord falls off and the skin underneath it dries up,” the pediatrician explained. “Take a warm wet washcloth and gently squeeze it over the baby and gently wipe it down. There’s no need to use soap [but] if you want you can use a very mild soap. I like Dove sensitive bar soap. Use tepid water and sort of lather up, wipe up and dry with a towel.”
Sponge bath vs. Submerged baths
Once your little one’s umbilical cord has fallen off and the skin underneath has healed, you can move on to submerged baths. In order to do this, you simply fill up a bathing unit with a bit of tepid water before adding your baby to the bath. After that, the process is pretty much the same as the one you mastered during the sponge bath stage.
Which soap is best for bathing a newborn?
New parents tend to make a few rookie mistakes — according to Dr. Adhikari, the most common are overthinking the process and using too many products. “The main area that gets dirty is the diaper area, and you’re generally cleaning that ten times a day,” she said. “The rest of the body doesn’t get too dirty, so even just plain water is ok to use.”
But while you shouldn’t be worried you’re going to “break your baby,” you should be super cautious during bath time. Dr. Adhikari’s advice? You should absolutely be vigilant about checking the temperature of your bath water, and you should also keep in mind that wet, slippery babies are vulnerable to falls. “Have a towel really close by,” she advised. “I get on the floor on my hands and knees in the bathtub to bathe and have the towel right near me ready and sort of lay the baby in the towel and wrap them up so they’re not slippery anymore. When you’re maneuvering the baby, you’re actually dripping water all over the floor too, so you should be making sure you yourself don’t slip.”
The bottom line
Overall the whole process should only take about five to 10 minutes, and it definitely does feel easier and more natural over time. So take a deep breath, use caution, have your whole set up ready to go ahead of bath time, and learn to love bathing your newborn. You’ve got this!