Bathing your newborn – Tips for safe bathing

If you are a first-time mom, then you would have a lot of doubts regarding how to maintain your newborn’s hygiene. Well, you don’t have to worry about it any longer. In this article, I will share with you the tips and information that I know and had practiced when it comes to keeping your baby clean.

bathing your baby

When to give the first bath to the newborn and how?

Many mothers have this doubt, and the answer is – you can bath your baby a few hours after he/she is born. You just have to wait till the baby gets adapted to his new environment. Well! We don’t have to worry about all those matters as the nurses would take care of bathing the newborn till you get discharged from the hospital. So what I am going to tell is connected with the care that you give in your home.

If you are living in a place where most of the days are warm (like Chennai), you can bath your newborn every day (hair wash/head wash included). If the climate is cold, you can do the hair wash once in two or three days.  Irrespective of the weather, you have to use warm water to wash the baby.

Giving bath to a newborn baby

Most of you would have come across the traditional method of bathing the infant baby where the mother/grandmother/caretaker lays the baby on her lap and give her/him a wash. I didn’t follow the traditional way for two reasons, one – it is messy, two – you would need someone to help you (which is not always possible in today’s nuclear family set up).  You get what is called a bath sling nowadays but I was not aware of it when my daughter was a newborn. So obviously I don’t know how it works. I have a plastic teapoy at home, and I had used it as a platform to bath my baby. I am going to tell you a way to bath your newborn without using your lap or a bath sling. But I guess you can follow the below method in a bath sling too

Step 1 – Choose a flat surface or a little slanting surface to lay the baby (I used my plastic teapoy). If it is a raised platform, then the mother/caretaker can bath the baby comfortably (to avoid the risk of back pain).

bathe new born

Step 2 – Place a rubber mackintosh sheet or a plastic baby bath mat on the surface and lay the newborn on it. If you do not have any raised platform, you can wash your bathroom floor thoroughly and place the bathing mat on it (or you can simply buy a bath sling) 

baby bath - sling

Step 3 –support the baby’s head and neck with your dominant hand and hold the baby’s head a bit elevated (just to prevent water from getting into his/her nose and ears). Slowly pour the warm water over the baby’s body and gently rub her/his skin. You should use only a mild soap to clean the baby (ask your pediatrician about it). You can also use finely powdered and sifted green moon powder instead of soap (I will post an article on how to make the turmeric and moon powder mix as soon as possible).

Step 4 – when you had finished bathing the body, scoop up a hand full of water and slowly pour it over the baby’s head (so that water would not flow over his/her eyes and nose. Close the baby’s ears with your thumb and little finger to prevent water from entering the ears (the other fingers would support the head. It’s better to have someone to help you when you shampoo the baby, but if that’s impossible, you can do it alone also. Just apply a little bit (too much lather is difficult to remove, and it would be inconvenient for the baby as well) and wash it off the same way I had said at the beginning of this paragraph. Shampoo caps are available nowadays; you can put it on the baby’s head and pour water without any fear.

baby hair wash

Step 5 – pat the baby dry with a soft towel (rubbing with cloth can damage the baby’s delicate skin) and cover him/her with warm clothes.

Notes:

  • You have to bath the newborn in 5 to 10 minutes. Newborn babies cannot maintain their body temperature longer than that, and hence they may go for hypothermia (drop in body temperature), and that is not good for them.
  • Always check the temperature of the water with the back of your hand, it should be a little warm, not too cold or too hot.
  • It’s advisable to give the baby an oil massage for 5 to 10 minutes before giving him/her a bath. Coconut oil is ideal as it protects the body from almost all the skin infections. Unrefined coconut oil has more goodness in it than the refined one.
  • Always cover the baby’s body with warm clothes. Use mittens and socks to cover hands and feet. If its summer season (scorching hot like Chennai) you can wrap your baby in light cotton clothes. But if you feel that the baby’s temperature had dropped (body is cool to touch) or his/her hands and feet are cold or turning pale or blue; you have to cover the baby immediately.
  • Do not apply powder on baby’s body; it will absorb all the moisture from his/her body and leave the skin dry. If you feel the baby’s skin is dry, you can apply a baby moisturizing lotion (check with your pediatrician).
  • Once the baby gains control over his/her head, you can make the baby sit in a plastic tub and support his/her back with your hand while giving him/her a bath.

baby bath tub

  • Do not aggressively scrub the baby’s body. It can damage the baby’s skin. So be gentle while applying soap or homemade moong powder
  • If you cannot bath the baby because he/she is sick or the weather is too cold, then you can just give the baby a sponge bath. Take a bowl of warm water dip a clean and soft towel in it and wipe the baby. Next rub it slightly on the baby soap and wipe the baby again. Finally get rid of the soap from the towel or get another damp cloth n wipe the baby clean
  • Whether you are giving a bath or just wiping your baby, make sure you don’t miss the skin folds. Neck, underarm, earlobes, in-between the fingers n toes and genital area are the skin folds where the dirt gets accumulated.
  • Cleaning the genitals – if it’s a male baby you have to wash/wipe his groin, scrotum (balls), retract his foreskin and wipe/wash the penis. If it’s a female baby, then you have to separate her labia Majora ( the upper skin flap of the genitals) and labia minora ( inner skin flap) and wipe it using cotton balls or soft cloth. Residue of the white waxy covering from birth can accumulate in these areas (in case of newborn babies)
  • It’s crucial to clean your baby’s genitals as poor genital hygiene can lead to severe urinary tract infection
  • Avoid using wet wipes to clean the baby as the liquid in it can cause allergy or rashes. It is always advisable to use cloth and water

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