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When to Give Newborn a Bath?

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

When to give newborn a bath

A baby's first bath can be both exciting and nerve-wracking for new parents. Handling a tiny, delicate infant while covering their body in water may feel overwhelming at first. But with time and practice, you'll become more confident and comfortable with the process. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about bathing your newborn, from when and how often to bathe them to essential supplies and techniques.

When Should You Give Your Newborn Their First Bath?

If you give birth in a hospital, nurses usually bathe your baby within a few hours of delivery, unless you request otherwise. However, recent recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest waiting 24 hours before giving your newborn their first bath. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports this delay as it helps regulate the baby's blood sugar and body temperature, promotes bonding, enhances breastfeeding success, and prevents dry skin.

Your baby will be ready for an infant tub once the umbilical cord stump falls off and, if applicable, after circumcision has healed. This typically takes about two weeks or longer. In the meantime, you can give your newborn a sponge bath.

How Often Should You Bathe Your Newborn?

It's not necessary to bathe your newborn every day since they don't sweat or get very dirty. Bathing them three times a week is usually sufficient, as excessive bathing can dry out their delicate skin.

Between baths, you can clean your baby's face, neck, hands, and diaper area daily. Check the folds of their skin, such as thighs, groin, armpits, and chin, and gently wipe these areas with a wet washcloth if necessary.

Is a Sponge Bath Good Enough?

During the period when the umbilical cord stump is still present, it's recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to give your baby sponge baths. This allows you to clean them without immersing them in water.

Here's what you'll need for a sponge bath recommended by the Mayo Clinic:

  1. A warm, flat surface: Use a bathroom or kitchen counter, changing table, or a firm bed for the bath. Ensure that hard surfaces are padded with a blanket or towel.

  2. Soft blanket, towel, or changing pad: Spread it out for your baby to lie on comfortably.

  3. A free hand: Keep one hand on your baby at all times. If you're using a changing table, use the safety strap as an additional safety measure.

  4. A sink or shallow basin: Fill it with warm water (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit). Test the water temperature with your hand to ensure it's not too hot.

  5. Essential supplies: Gather a washcloth, a towel (preferably with a built-in hood), fragrance-free baby shampoo and soap, baby wipes, a clean diaper, and a change of clothes.

To give your baby a sponge bath:

  1. Undress your baby and wrap them in a towel. Lay them on their back on the prepared area. Only expose the parts of their body you're washing to keep them warm.

  2. Start by dampening a washcloth with plain warm water and wringing out excess water. Use this to gently wipe your baby's face, starting from the inside corner of each eyelid and moving outward. Use a fresh corner of the cloth for each eye to avoid cross-contamination. Don't use soap on their face.

  3. Use a dampened washcloth dipped in plain or soapy water to clean your baby's body. Start from their ears, then their scalp and hair, and then their body (start from the top and move to the bottom). Pay special attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck, and in the diaper area. Wash between their fingers and toes as well.

What Else Should I Pay Attention To?

Below are a few other important tips recommended by Mayo Clinic.

What Type of Baby Tub Should I Use?

Once your baby is ready for a regular bath, you can use a plastic tub or the sink. Line the tub or sink with a clean towel to provide a soft surface. Before starting the bath, gather all the necessary supplies, including a cup of rinsing water and baby shampoo if needed. It's crucial to keep one hand on your baby at all times and never leave them unattended in the water.

How Much Water Should You Put in the Tub?

A general recommendation is to fill the tub with about 2 inches (around 5 centimeters) of warm water. During bath time, ensure that you give your baby your undivided attention and securely hold them. If you forget something you need for the bath, take your baby with you instead of leaving them alone, even for a moment.

What About Water Temperature?

Warm water is best for your baby's bath. Mayo Clinic recommends that to prevent scalding, set the thermostat on your water heater to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). Always check the water temperature with your hand before bathing your baby, aiming for bath water around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Also, make sure the room is comfortably warm, as a wet baby can easily get chilled.

What's the Best Way to Hold Your Newborn in the Tub?

Holding your baby securely in the tub is essential for their comfort and safety. Mayo Clinic recommends that use your non-dominant arm to support their head and neck, while the other hand holds and guides their body into the water, feet first. Continue supporting their head and back as needed, and consider holding their opposite arm throughout the bath for additional support.

What Should You Wash First?

Most parents start with washing their baby's head and face before moving on to the dirtier parts of the body. This helps prevent rinsed areas from getting soapy again. If your newborn has hair that needs washing, gently massage a drop of mild baby shampoo into their scalp using your free hand. Rinse the shampoo with a cup of water or a damp washcloth, keeping one hand across their forehead to prevent suds from getting into their eyes.

Will Lotion After a Bath Help Prevent Rashes?

Most newborns don't require lotion after a bath. If your baby has very dry skin, you can apply a small amount of unscented baby moisturizer to the dry areas. The massage can be soothing for your baby. However, if dryness persists, you might be bathing your baby too frequently.

A video tutorial that I found helpful

Check out this video if you want to know more!

Bottom Line

Mastering the art of bathing your newborn takes practice and patience. By following the guidelines provided in this comprehensive guide, you can ensure that bath time becomes a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your baby. Remember to prioritize their comfort and keep them warm throughout the process. With time, bath time will become a cherished routine where you can bond and create lasting memories with your little one.



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