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Pregnancy & ChildbirthWellness & PreventionTreatment & Care

Baby Care: Bath Time

Never take your hands off your baby during the bath.
Never leave your baby unattended on a raised flat surface or alone in the tub.

There is no best time to bathe the baby. Any time that is convenient for you is fine. For some babies, a bath before feedings is relaxing since most babies fall asleep shortly after eating. If your baby is a poor feeder it may be better to wait and bathe him between his feedings when he wakes up.

While it is not necessary to bathe your baby every day, you will want to keep the diaper area and skin folds clean, and to clean the hair and scalp every day. Sponge baths are usually given until the umbilical cord comes off, the navel (belly button) heals, and the circumcised penis is healed.

  • Gather all the items you will need for the bath and place them within easy reach. You will need:
  • Plastic basin or large sink
  • Soft washcloth and 2 or 3 towels (large towel to place baby on and for drying baby)
  • Mild soap and baby shampoo
  • 2 or 3 cotton balls
  • 70 percent rubbing alcohol for cord care, if necessary
  • Baby hair brush
  • Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) for circumcision care, if necessary
  • Clothes and diaper

Be sure the room is warm so your baby does not become cool. Keep your baby wrapped in a towel and expose only the areas you are actively washing.

Water should be about body temperature (90° - 100°F). Test the water with your elbow or wrist. It should feel comfortably warm. Bathe your baby either from head to toes or from clean to dirty.

To wash your baby’s eyes, dip the corner of the washcloth or a cotton ball in clear warm water and wash from the nose out toward the ears. Use a different cotton ball or corner of the washcloth for each eye to prevent the possibility of transferring infection from one e ye into the other. Continue with plain water on the rest of the face and the outer ear and the entrance to the ear, not inside. Wax is formed in the ear to protect and clean it. Do not clean nostrils or ear canals with cotton-tip swabs.

Shampoo the hair using a brush to help stimulate the scalp and remove dead skin cells. Rinse the hair well and dry with a soft towel. Do not use a blow dryer to dry your baby’s hair. The air from the dryer is too hot for a baby’s skin.

Mild soap can be used on the rest of the body. Make sure you wash all creases and rinse well. Wash the genital area last. For girls, separate the folds of the labia and wash from the front to the back using a clean part of the cloth for each wipe. For boys, gently wash the penis and under the scrotum. Pat all areas dry.

Lotions and Powders
Babies do not need additional lotion, oil, cream, or powders on their skin. Powder can easily get into your baby’s breathing passages and can cause severe breathing problems. Lotions and cream products often cause rashes. Oil should not be placed on the hair and scalp because it frequently leads to seborrhea - a dandruff-like condition. If your baby has cradle cap (red, scaly patches on the scalp), apply an unscented, hypoallergenic lotion, such as Lubriderm, to the scalp. Use a fine tooth comb to clean the scalp, then shampoo and rinse scalp thoroughly. Brush the scalp daily with a baby brush.

Do not cut or bite your baby’s nails off. Use mittens or baby booties to cover baby’s hands to prevent scratching of the face. You may use an emery board to file the nails.

Ear Care
Use a wash cloth, not cotton swabs-or “Q-tips,” to clean your baby’s ears. Never insert a cotton swab into the ear canal.