Bathing an infant might seem like a daunting task, especially for first-time parents. But it can be a fun and enjoyable task by following these simple steps and tips.
Get everything ready in advance. Once the baby's in the bath, you will never leave him or her for even a moment. (See "Things You Need" below). This will also alleviate the need to run around with a wet baby in a towel while gathering all the gear together once you are done.
Be sure you're dressed in appropriate clothes--you will get splashed and/or soapy. Roll up long sleeves, remove jewelery like watches, rings, and bracelets. Many caregivers like wearing a terrycloth bathrobe while bathing a baby.
If you will be in a kneeling position, you may like to use a folded towel to cushion your knees.
You can use a special baby tub, or your clean kitchen sink until your newborn is several months old (depending on the size of your sink).
Run the water and check the temperature. You can use your elbow, wrist or a special bath thermometer available in many places. Always test before placing baby in the tub. The water should be comfortably warm to touch but not hot enough to scald the baby.
Line the sink or bath (if necessary--many baby tubs are already lined). If using the sink, place a towel or washcloth in the bottom. This keeps baby from slipping around. It is also handy to do this in a bath if it is slippery. Have a cup handy so that you can have something to rinse off any soap.
Keep baby's head out of the water. If you have a child that cannot hold up his or her own head, place your left hand on baby's back and gently use this hand to grasp the baby's left upper arm to keep him/her steady. Babies can be wriggly and slippery! Use a cup or your cupped hands to get baby wet.
Use a soft washcloth and begin washing baby. If you wish, you can use a safe baby soap that is very neutral, but it isn't necessary; a gentle scrub and wash down are adequate to keep babies clean. Don't forget to get between all the little creases and behind the ears and under the neck where spit-up and moisture seem to collect. Don't forget to gently clean the genitalia, too.
Wash the hair. If washing hair, lean baby back and gently massage water into hair and scalp. Use cup to pour water over baby's head. You can use baby shampoo if desired but there is really no need. Baby is born with all the natural oils needed to keep the scalp beautiful and shampoos can easily spoil this balance.
If you use baby shampoo, use your hand to create a "visor" to protect the baby's eyes from the soap.
Before rinsing, be certain that the temperature of the incoming water is not too hot!
Make sure any soap used is off baby before finishing the bath. Place baby in a towel being careful to cover baby's head. When drying, make sure to dry gently behind the ears and in the skin folds, so that no excess moisture is left there.
Towel-dry the hair as much as possible. The fine hair of a baby will dry quickly. Do not use a hairdryer, as it is unnecessary and potentially dangerous.
Only apply creams, lotions, powders, or oils if directed by a doctor.
Replace diaper (nappie) and dress baby in clean clothes.
Bath time is more than a utilitarian chore--it's a wonderful playtime for baby and caregiver, too! Relax, take your time when possible, and let everyone enjoy the experience. It's a great time to sing, talk, and touch your child. The baby will enjoy a great sensory experience, some attention, splashing, and more.
A bath before bedtime helps soothe the transition to sleep.
Make sure the area in which you are bathing baby is warm.
Shampoos and soaps are not necessary for a baby, especially young babies. They can strip the gentle oils a baby's skin comes equipped with.
Be careful with the products you choose to use on baby. Although there are a lot of "Baby Bath" and "Baby Shampoos" commercially available, and heavily marketed, these can still be very harsh on delicate baby skin and even cause rashes. Use soothing, soft and harsh chemical-free products only. This means read the label - if the product is one you do not understand, do not use it on baby.
Still want to use baby bath? Try castile soaps, which are commonly available in natural foods or camping supply stores. These soaps are great for parents, too, are gentle on the skin, often organic, use all natural ingredients, and are useful for all sorts of household tasks.
For a real indulgence, warm the towels in the dryer. Ohhhh....nice....!
These directions are for infants older than two weeks. Younger infants should be sponge-bathed with water only.
Never leave baby unattended in any amount of water.
Always keep a hand on baby to steady him/her and to keep head from going under water.
Make sure to test the temperature of the water before you put the infant in.
If using the sink, make sure you don't accidentally bump the garbage disposal button, and put a plug in the garbage disposal.
Do some research on chemicals in your baby's bathing and toiletry products. (See "Tips" Above). Be an informed consumer and not put baby at risk.
Never use adult bar soap on a baby--it is too drying.
When washing the baby's scalp with soap or shampoo, always remember to keep a hand in front of the baby's eyes so that no soap gets in. Baby's eyes are very sensitive.