The ultimate guide to giving your newborn a bath
Giving a newborn a bath for the first time can be extremely nerve wrecking. I vividly remember my own experience. When the midwife at the hospital said it was time to learn how to do it, I was apprehensive, to say the least. I had a cesarean section, for medical reasons, so my body strength wasn’t anywhere near its maximum. Plus I was a nervous first-time mum who was still learning the ropes. I was petrified I was going to hurt her in some way, even though I had a midwife, my partner and my mum right by my side. Of course, the whole thing was completely fine in the end, but I wished I was better informed at the time.
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So I’ve enlisted one of the best baby experts in the biz, Pinky McKay, to give a step-by-step guide on exactly how to bath your newborn now and beyond.
What equipment do you need to bath a newborn?
“You can use a baby bath, the family bath, laundry tub or kitchen sink,” explains Pinky McKay, lactation consultant and author of Sleeping Like a Baby and Parenting by Heart. “You can use water, a muslin washcloth, cotton balls, and a couple of soft towels specifically for your baby.”
In the beginning, Pinky says you don’t need to wash them with a cleansing product. “You can do so when your baby becomes more mobile or you need to cleanse their bottoms after a soiled nappy,” says Pinky. “A non-slip mat can also be useful to stop your baby from sliding around when bathing a mobile baby. Plus some fun bath toys for older babies”
Pinkie’s top bathing tip: “You should use a cotton wool pad for cleansing eyes – wipe from inside (near nose) outwards and use a clean cotton ball for each eye.”
Is it ok to bath with my baby?
“It’s lovely to share a bath or shower, but it’s helpful to have a partner to help get in and out with a slippery baby in your arms,” says Pinky. “Otherwise set up a baby seat with a towel in it – undress baby and place them in the seat, then get into the bath, reach out and lift baby in with you.” When you’ve finished bathing – place your baby in the baby seat, wrap the towel around him and dry yourself, pop on a gown and dry and dress your baby.
What are your tips for bathing with confidence?
“Your confidence will increase as you get to know your baby and what times work best for bathing,” says Pinky. “For instance, does he like to be bathed after a feed so he isn’t ravenous when you bath him? Does he like to be wrapped as you lower him into the bath? Is he calmer if he baths with a parent?”
Pinkie’s top bathing tip: “Newborn babies are soothed by a deep relaxation bath rather than a shallow bath, but depending on your confidence you can start with a shallow bath with enough water to immerse your baby and keep him warm, then move up to a deeper bath.”
Any ergonomic tips?
“Use a bath that’s at a comfortable height at first so you don’t have to lean over,” says Pinky. “If you’re still recovering from a cesarean, get a partner or a godparent on board to help out.” She also recommends never carrying or lifting a full baby bath at any time. “Heavy lifting while your muscles are recovering after birth can be a strain on your pelvic floor and make you prone to prolapse,” says Pinky. “You can place a baby bath in the family bath and fill it there, then leave it for a partner to empty.”
How often should you bath a newborn?
“Newborns often don't like to be bathed and it can feel like an extra chore when your baby isn’t really getting dirty,” says Pinky. “So you can just ‘top and tail’ daily - making sure you clean crevices, especially around the neck and groin areas.” When you do start bathing them regularly, start by doing it two to three times a week.
Pinkie’s top bathing tip: “Some babies find it quite relaxing, so you can do it daily if they really enjoy it.”
How do you calm a baby if they become distressed in the bath?
“Make eye contact and talk softly, or sing to your baby, as you hold them securely in the water,” advises Pinky. “Instead of quickly lifting her out, teach her that a bath is a safe place by gently lifting her out and snuggling her in a warm towel.”
Pinkie’s top bathing tip: “If your newborn hates being naked (most do at first), it can help to ‘contain’ your baby in a muslin swaddle as you lift him into the bath, keep him wrapped for a few minutes then gradually unwrap the swaddle and let him stretch his limbs.”
More top bathing tips from Pinky
-NEVER leave your baby in the bath alone even for a moment!!
-Get everything ready before you begin bathing baby.
-Switch off your phone so you focus 100% on your baby.
-Fill the bath by first running cold water then adding warm and checking the temperature. If you’re using a family bath or sink, run a bit of cold water last so the taps don't feel hot if baby bumps or touches them. If your baby is likely to bump herself on the taps, wrap a face washer around them.
-Keep the temperature of the water around 37. Test it with a thermometer if you have one or the inside of your wrist.
-Support your baby by placing your arm around the shoulders, supporting his head and grip your baby’s arm that is furthest from you.
-Wash baby’s head/hair twice a week – while there’s no need for shampoo to start with, you can use a small amount of natural baby shampoo, or all in one baby wash, to gently massage their scalp. Carefully rinse the fontanelle area to help avoid cradle cap.
-Use natural plant-based ingredients and steer clear of mineral oils and chemicals – a good rule of thumb is, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the label, give that product a miss. Don’t use aromatherapy oils/lotions (eg for massage/moisturising) on babies under three months.
-When getting your baby out of the bath, use two warmed towels. Wrap baby in the towels, cuddle him ‘dry’ then take out the towel nearest his body and dab creases dry – keeping him wrapped and warm.
-Only wash the body parts you can see – you don't need to cleanse inside baby’s ears, vagina or foreskins.
-Cleanse genital areas from front to back.
-Lock medicines, vitamins, cosmetics and cleaning products in a child-proof cabinet.
-Keep equipment such as razors, scissors, tweezers etc out of reach.
-Unplug electrical equipment such as hairdryers and store out of reach.
-Use childproof catches on all low cupboards.
-If you have a toilet in the bathroom keep the lid down and the bathroom door shut – get a catch to lock the seat down. Babies and toddlers are curious, and top heavy, so they can easily fall into a toilet or bucket and drown in a very small amount of water.
-ALWAYS empty the bath when you finish bathing.
-Keep floors dry to avoid slipping when holding your baby.
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