Handling a wet, soapy baby takes practice and you might feel a bit nervous at first. But with practice, you’ll find bathing your baby is a wonderful bonding experience.
For some babies, a bath before feedings is relaxing since most babies fall asleep shortly after eating. If your baby is not a good feeder, it may be better to wait and bathe him between feedings when he wakes up.
It's not necessary to bathe your baby daily. But you'll want to keep his diaper area and skin folds clean, and clean his hair and scalp every day. For the first week or two you'll probably give your baby sponge baths. Once his umbilical cord falls off and the navel (belly button) and circumcised penis are healed, you can start giving your newborn tub baths.
Gather all the items for the bath and place them within easy reach. You'll 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
Keep the room warm so your baby does not become chilled. Wrap him in a towel and expose only the body 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.
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 eye to the other. Continue with plain water on the rest of the face, 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 swabs.
Shampoo his 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 and may burn his skin.
Use mild soap on the rest of his 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 completely dry.
Babies do not need additional lotion, oil, cream or powders on their skin. Powder can easily get into your baby’s breathing passages and 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 it 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 keep him from scratching his face. You may use an emery board to file the nails.
Use a washcloth (not cotton swabs-or “Q-tips,”) to clean your baby’s ears. Never insert a cotton swab into the ear canal.