Few things can stress a new parent out as much as giving their child their first bath. When I had my son I delayed it for as long as I could, but it soon became my favorite part of the day thanks to Jen Glazer, a pregnancy and infant care specialist and the founder of Confident Mama. Glazer helped me “master” giving my then newborn a bath. Before we dive into tips, parents-to-be can take solace in the fact that you can actually delay bathing your new baby for a few days – even weeks.
“Parents may want to delay bathing their newborn to allow the vernix to be completely absorbed before cleaning them or to avoid getting the cord wet,” says Glazer. “They can delay for at least a week. Of course, you should be wiping off any part of the baby that is dirty. If they have explosive poop and you need to clean them up, or under their chins because of sweat or spit up to avoid a rash.”
Glazer goes on to explain that if the cord hasn’t fallen off yet, only opt for a sponge bath. “Parents should wipe the areas that need to be cleaned, while making sure not to get the cord stump wet or submerged in water. This can be done on the change table with a bowl of warm water and a cloth. No need for soap at this point.”
Once the cord has fallen off then you can proceed with bathing. The first step is to make sure the baby is has eaten and is full – don’t bathe them during meal time. “It will only make them more angry,” says Glazer. “Undress them and then wrap them in a loose swaddle (tetra). Put them into the bath with the tetra on, allowing it to get wet. This is to make the transition from dry to bath easier for the baby. As you clean the baby, simply move the tetra, clean them and then put it back on them. Make sure that the tetra doesn’t get too cold; you may have to dip it in water while you are washing other parts to make sure they are wrapped in a warm tetra.”
As for the temperature, she says, the bath water shouldn’t feel like anything when you put your elbow into it. “It should be the same temperature as your body. You can dip your elbow or wrist to check.” And while it may be tempting to load up on pampering beauty products, newborns and babies pre-crawling don’t need much and they don’t need to have a bath everyday, either. “Three to four times a week is enough, but if you’re set on daily bathing make sure you are using a gentle soap specific for babies. It should be free of chemicals and harsh perfumes… and make it fun! Use toys they like, get them a doll that they can bathe while they are in the bath or use bath bombs that change the color of the water. Make sure to not force them into the bath, it only makes things worse!”