Bathing, Grooming and Dressing
What you need:
- A baby bath tub with a sling or mat to prevent the baby from being immersed in water. (Not necessary for sponge bathing, but useful.)
- A baby bath towel washed in appropriate baby detergent.
- Sterile cotton balls to clean his or her eyes.
- Two soft washcloths – one for soaping, one for rinsing.
- Baby body soap and shampoo aren’t yet necessary. Water is enough.
- Fresh diapers and ointment for diaper rash and/or circumcision if necessary.
- Rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs if needed for umbilical cord.
- Access to warm water or a filled bucket.
- Clean clothes.
How to bathe
Sponge-bathe your newborn for the first couple of weeks until the umbilical cord and possible circumcision has healed. While newborns only need to be cleaned three or four times a week (really, how dirty can they possibly get?), a nighttime bath is a good bedtime ritual to start.
- Place the baby’s bathtub anywhere that’s convenient for you (and especially somewhere that’s draft-free), whether that’s on the countertop in the kitchen, the baby’s changing table, or even your bed. If you choose not to use a tub, simply lay out a towel for the baby on a comfortable surface.
- Have all aforementioned needed items ready and within arms reach.
- Keep the baby diapered (especially boys who are known to shoot urine well across the room when uncovered) until you’re ready to wash that area.
- If the room is chilly, keep the baby covered in a towel and only expose the body parts one at a time as you wash.
- Start with the face. First, use one sterile cotton ball for each eye, gently wiping from the inner eye outward. For the rest of the face, wash clean using just water.
- Then move to the chest and neck, where you can continue to use only water unless the baby is particularly dirty for some reason. Do the same for the arms, legs and back. Make sure you clean in all of those adorable folds.
- The hands and feet will need a small dab of baby soap, but make sure to rinse thoroughly as they’ll most likely be in your baby’s mouth in no time.
- Lastly, wash the baby’s genitals. Follow the circumcision instructions for boys, but for girls, wash front to back with water. You might notice a normal vaginal discharge.
- To wash the hair, wrap your baby in a dry towel and hold him in a football hold over a sink. Use a cup to pour warm water over the scalp, and then wash the hair with just water or with a small amount of shampoo.
- Dry the baby well and apply any needed ointment before diapering, clothing and swaddling.
Newborns typically hate to be naked, but dressing them can be quite a battle, especially with their tiny, curled-up limbs.
- Find clothes with snap or zipper closures and wide openings for the neck. Now is not the time to be fumbling with buttons. Also, onesies with built-in mittens are great to protect your baby from her surprisingly sharp fingernails.
- Take the opportunity to sing and talk to your little one, both for distraction and bonding. Explain what color the shirt and pants are, count how many snaps you’re fastening, and label each body part as you kiss them.
- Instead of trying to shimmy sleeves and pants over uncooperative limbs, try reaching into the openings and pulling his or her extremities through.
- Despite all the spit-up and bowel explosions, try to keep the wardrobe changes to an absolute minimum. The laundry will pile up fast enough as it is.
- Don’t overbundle babies at night, as instinctive as that seems. Believe it or not, babies are comfortable in a 61 to 67 degrees, dressed in light pajamas and a sleeper or swaddling blanket. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overheating increases a baby’s risk of SIDS. Click here for information on dressing your baby in the winter.