November 07, 2022

How To Bath A New-Born

How To Bath A New-Born

Written by Pamela Lim,

Bathing your baby is a great time to bond as your tiny new family member enjoys the sensation of warm water on their skin. Yet this parenting ritual can often come with questions, and sometimes anxiety about when and how to do it well.

When should infants get their first bath?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends delaying baby's first bath until 24 hours after birth—or waiting at least 6 hours if a full day isn't possible for cultural reasons. 

Here are some reasons why it is recommended to delay baby’s first bath:

Body temperature and blood sugar - Baby who gets baths right away may be likely to become cold and develop hypothermia. The minor stress of an early bath can also make some babies more likely to have a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).

Bonding and Breastfeeding - Taking the baby away for a bath too soon can interrupt early breastfeeding success, mother and child bonding and skin-to-skin care.

Dry skin - The vernix which is a white waxy substance that coats baby’s skin before birth, acts as a natural moisturizer that may have anti-bacterial properties so it’s best to leave the vernix on a new-born’s skin for a while to prevent their delicate skin from drying out.

How often do babies need a bath once they are home?
New-born babies don't need a bath every day as long as adequate cleansing is done during diaper changes. They rarely perspire or get dirty enough to need a full bath that often.

A bath two to three times a week is enough to keep a new-born baby clean. However, if your baby really enjoys a bath, you can bathe her once a day and it should be kept from five to ten minutes. This is especially important if your baby has dry or sensitive skin.

Can my baby have a bath before the umbilical cord falls off?
Sponge bath your new-born until the stump of the umbilical cord falls off, which usually happens by about one or two weeks of age.

What is a sponge bath?
A sponge bath is like a regular bath, except you don't put your baby in the water. 

Safety tips for baby sponge bath:

How to begin - Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Postpone the bath if your baby is hungry, grumpy or has an upset tummy. Make sure the room is warm and get everything ready beforehand. You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, fresh nappy and clean clothes.

Laying your baby on a flat surface - A changing table, changing mat with a fluffy towel on the bed or floor will do. Always use a safety strap or keep your hand on baby to prevent fall if your baby is on a surface above the floor.

Start with cleaning the face first - Dampen the washcloth to clean her face first and be careful not to get water into her eyes and mouth. Then dampen the washcloth again to clean the rest of the body and finally, the diaper area.

Keeping baby warm - Wrap your baby in a dry towel during the sponge bath and uncover only parts of her body that you are cleaning. Pay more attention to creases under arms, around the neck, behind the ears and especially in the genital area.

When is baby ready for a regular bath?
Once the umbilical area is healed, you can place baby directly in the water. The first bath should be as gentle and brief as possible. If baby protest too much, you may like to go back to sponge bath for a week and then try the bath again. Most babies make it clear when they’re ready and they’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Safety tips for baby’s bath:

Check the water temperature - Fill the basin with 2 inches of water that feels warm and not hot, to the inside of your wrist or elbow. Make sure that the water is not too cold or hot by testing with your elbow.

Touch supervision - A towel and other bath supplies should be always within your reach so you can keep a hand on your baby at all times. Most child drownings inside the home occur in bathtubs and more than half of bathtub deaths involve children under 1 year of age. Never leave a baby alone in the bath, even for an instant!

Clean gently - Clean baby’s face and hair while still wrapped in a towel. Wash baby's hair two or three times a week using a mild shampoo or plain water, supporting her head over the bowl or sink. Massage her entire scalp gently, including the area over her fontanelles (soft spots). When you rinse shampoo from her head, hold in a cross-cradle position on one hand and use your other hand to swipe across her forehead so the suds run toward the back, not into her eyes. If some suds do get into her eyes, use a clean wet washcloth to wipe them with clean, lukewarm water. Once you've dried her hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess. Wash the rest of her body from the top down when you finally place baby in the tub.

Keeping baby warm - Place baby in the water immediately once the towel is removed, so she doesn't get chilled. Use one of your hands to support her head and the other to guide her in, feet first. Talk to her encouragingly, and gently lower the rest of her body until she's in the tub. Most of her body and face should be well above the water level for safety, so you'll need to pour warm water over her body frequently to keep her warm. 

Use soap sparingly - Soaps can dry out your baby's skin. If a cleanser is needed for heavily soiled areas, use only mild, neutral-pH soaps without additives. Rinse soap from the skin right away.

Scaly patches on your baby's scalp called cradle cap - This is a harmless condition that appears in many babies. It’s ok to leave it alone but you can loosen the scales with a soft-bristled brush while shampooing in the bathtub.

Fun in the tub - If your baby enjoys her bath, give her some extra time to splash and play in the water. The more fun your child has in the bath, the less she'll be afraid of the water. Bathing should be a very relaxing and soothing experience, so don't rush unless she's unhappy.

Young babies don't need bath toys - Just being in the water is usually exciting enough. Once a baby is old enough for the bathtub, however, toys become key. Containers, floating toys, even waterproof books make wonderful distractions as you cleanse your baby.

Getting out from the tub and drying off - Wrap a towel promptly around your baby's head and body after bath to help her stay warm while she is still wet. You may want to hang a towel over your shoulder to keep yourself dry. Gently pat baby dry and apply a small amount of hypoallergenic, fragrance-free moisturising lotion right after a bath to help prevent dry skin or eczema.

Bath time is always a fun time for babies and their new parents! If yours seems less than thrilled, make the bath event short and sweet. Soon enough, your baby will squeal with delight and will get the hang of it!