Newborn babies rarely get very dirty. As long as the nappy area, hands, face, neck and skin folds are kept clean, there is no need to bathe your baby every day. Some newborns also dislike the feeling of being immersed in water. However, if your baby enjoys bathing and splashing, there’s no harm in giving her a daily bath.
What’s absolutely critical is bath-time safety. Experts warn that bath-time is rife with dangers for a young child — from drowning to being scalded. So although bath-time can be good fun, don’t ever take baby’s safety for granted!
The following are some helpful safety tips and bath-time guidelines.
Before you plunge in:
- Remember that bath-time needs to be made a routine part of the day. Choose a time when baby is well rested and happy. Alternatively, bath-time can also be a good way of calming baby to sleep.
- A standard bath tub requires you to kneel or lean awkwardly over your baby, giving you less control over her movements. A soapy baby can get very slippery, so it makes more sense to use a kitchen sink or a plastic baby tub.
- Prepare items like a clean wash cloth, cotton wool, a soft and hooded bath towel, nappy, moisturiser, baby powder and clean clothes before you get the bath ready so that you don’t leave baby unattended.
- Keep squeeze toys, water-proof books and splash toys handy too for baby to play with.
- Ensure that there is no draught in the kitchen or bathroom and changing room. Keep room temperatures warm if possible.
- Ask for someone to help you, especially if it’s your first time bathing a newborn.
- Never leave your baby alone in the bath! Young children can drown in as little as an inch of water in a matter of seconds. If the phone or doorbell rings and you feel that you must answer it, scoop your baby into a towel and carry her with you.
- Fill the baby tub with just five to eight centimetres (two to three inches) of water for babies up to six months old and never more than waist-height (in sitting position) for older children.
- Make sure the water is warm but not too hot that it can scald your baby. If you use a thermometer, about 32ºC is ideal. Otherwise, dip your elbow into the water — it should not feel too hot.
- Don’t put your child into a tub when the water is still running as the water temperature can change or the water can get too deep.
- Position the baby tub away from faucets. Knocking her head on the faucet or touching a hot faucet can lead to serious injury.
- Soap and shampoo is actually unnecessary for young children and can dry the skin. But if you wish, you may squeeze a few drops of liquid baby soap into the bath. To avoid your child sitting for long periods in soap-filled water, let her play and splash about first before soap is added for an actual bath. To prevent dry skin, use some moisturizer after the bath.
- Whether you use a kitchen sink, baby tub or bath tub, teach your child to sit and not stand, at all times.
- If you must use a bath tub or shower area, outfit the floor with a rubber mat for more secure seating and standing, and ensure that any sliding glass shower doors are made of safety glass.
How to bathe baby:
- Undress your baby close to the bath area.
- Test once again that the water temperature is just right.
- Support your baby’s head with your forearm and her bottom with your other hand as you slowly lower her into the bath.
- Get a good grip in case your baby struggles.
- Wash her scalp gently, or if you prefer, with a wash cloth.
- Use a moist wash cloth or cotton wool to clean the corners of her eyes and to remove dried mucus around her nostrils.
- Wash out creases of the neck gently, supporting your baby’s head at all times.
- Prevent her from getting cold by pouring cupfuls of water over her at regular intervals.
- Gently remove baby from the bath and wrap her in a hooded towel.
- Pat baby dry. Apply mild moisturizer or diaper cream. Some parents also use this time to give baby a gentle body massage. Apply a small amount of baby powder if necessary.
- Change baby into a clean nappy and clothes and finish off with a special cuddle!
Topping and tailing
Some babies dislike bath-time so much that they may scream throughout the process. You can avoid this by “topping” and “tailing” her daily till she forgets her dislike of water and gets used to being put in a bath. Topping and tailing is also useful if you feel or have been advised that a bath is not advisable, such as when baby is running a fever.
Topping-tailing how to’s:
- As with bath-time, follow a similar top-and-tail routine every day. Choose a time when baby is awake and not irritable or hungry.
- Items you will need include a waterproof changing mat, clean wash cloth, cotton wool, moisturizer, diaper cream, a bowl of warm water, a soft bath towel, nappy, baby powder and clean clothes.
- Start by undressing and placing your baby on a level surface with the changing mat under her.
- Wet a wash cloth in the warm water and use it to wipe baby’s face. Use separate pieces of cotton wool to wipe each eye from inside out. In the first month, some parents may prefer to use sterile (just boiled and cooled water) for the eyes.
- Similarly, use separate pieces of cotton wool to wipe clean the back of the ears, the corners of the nostrils and mouth, and creases of the neck. It is important to clean the neck gently but thoroughly as the folds of skin can become dirty and irritated otherwise.
- Do not clean the inside of ears. They rarely get dirty anyway.
- Pat the face dry with a soft towel and move on to wiping the hands, arms, back and chest with a clean wash cloth.
- Once you’ve finished these areas and patted baby dry, you can put on her vest to stop her from feeling cold, but leave it undone so that you can clean the diaper area easily.
- Use a clean piece of cotton wool to wipe around the genital area, ensuring that all creases in the groin and thighs are clean. Pat dry thoroughly.
- Don’t pull back the foreskin of a baby boy’s penis or clean inside the labia of a baby girl as this may damage the delicate inner tissues.
- Lastly, wipe your baby’s legs and wash her bottom. Pat dry thoroughly.
- Apply mild moisturizer or diaper cream. Dust with a small amount of baby powder if necessary.
- Change baby into a clean nappy and clothes, and don’t forget to give her that special cuddle!
Bath-time is a great time to reinforce parent-child bonding, and it can be extremely enjoyable for baby if both parents participate or take turns to give her a bath. Do not be afraid to handle your baby during her bath. As long as you have a good grip, she is in safe hands. After just a few tries, even the most wary parents become experts, making bath-time one of the most enjoyable parts of your time together.