When it comes to bathing your newborn, it’s easy to feel uncertain or confused. But with a little help in the right direction, you’ll find it’s actually quite easy, and it provides a great opportunity to bond with your baby!
It’s up to you how often you bathe your baby, and it’s up to them as well. Some babies love bathing, while others make a fuss out of it. You can bath your baby every day if you choose, but realistically bathing your baby two to three time a week is enough to keep them clean.
But bear in mind, if you live in a hard water area (hard water is full of rock minerals), frequent baths can dry out your baby’s skin. If you bath your baby every day be sure to keep their skin moisturised with natural, baby-safe skin care products.
In between baths, you’ll want to wash baby’s face to keep it clean, as well as wipe any grime or dirt off their skin. Whenever you change your baby’s nappy make sure to clean their genitals and bum carefully to avoid irritation and rashes, or worse, infection.
When it comes to washing your baby’s hair, know that it’s only necessary once every one or two weeks, since your baby’s hair produces very little oil. If they get dirt or food in their hair then you can wash it. Rather use natural, baby-safe shampoo for their sensitive skin.
For baby’s with cradle cap (it appears as scaly, greasy yellow/red patches on the head), you should wash their hair more frequently with a mild shampoo specifically for cradle cap. Baby’s with eczema should have their hair washed with emollient rather than shampoo.
Where to Bath Baby
For the first 6 months, it’s likely easier to bath your baby in the kitchen sink, or in a plastic baby bath that is small and contained, making bath time easy and contained. This also means you don’t have to bend over to clean baby, as it can be placed on a table. If you want to bath with your newborn, bath support can be used so that weight is kept off baby’s neck as they lie in the bath. If they are older than 6 months their necks have developed more, and you can use ring bath seats so baby can sit in the bath with you without slipping.
If you choose to bathe baby in your bath, especially here in South Africa, you can use a bath dam to save water. The bath dam allows you to fill only a small section of the bath, meaning you don’t waste water.
Baby Bath Safety
When you’re bathing your baby, don’t under any circumstances leave your baby unattended. It takes only seconds for the unthinkable to happen, and even if an older child is present you can’t be too careful. A baby cannot save them self from drowning, and even the most responsible child can make a mistake.
Because of this, you should choose to bath your baby when you are unlikely to be distracted or called away or bath your baby at night before their bedtime. If the phone rings or someone is at the door and there is no one else to answer, scoop your baby out of the water and wrap them in a towel before bringing them with you.
If the baby is bathing with you and is free to move around, it’s beneficial to put a bath seat in the bath, or a non-slip rubber mat in the water to ensure your baby doesn’t slip. Toddlers love to play and run around, and the bottom of the bath can be slippery. A soft mat can also support your knees when cleaning the baby.
Baby Bath time Prep
While it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, you’ll quickly get into a bath time routine. Make sure you have everything you need when bath time arrives.
- A warm towel to dry baby, a hooded towel works best. Add a warm blanket if it’s particularly cold in winter.
- A thermometer for the water, so it’s not too hot or too cold. The water should be just around 37-38 Degrees Celsius or 100 Degrees Fahrenheit.
- A soft sponge and baby-safe liquid soap or emollient.
- A bowl of warm water to wash your baby’s face.
- Clean cotton pads for cleaning
- A fresh nappy and clothes, ready for when the baby is dry.
- A wipe for your baby boy. Once the diaper comes off, he will most likely pee as soon as his genitals come in contact with fresh air. You’ll want to cover him up to avoid a mess!
Next comes the bathroom prep. Be sure to close the doors and windows beforehand to warm the wind and keep the draught out (we don’t want baby to get sick!).
Then, fill the bath with cold water first. Then add the hot water and stir thoroughly till the water is comfortably warm, without any hot spots that would otherwise scold baby. Use a thermometer to test the temperature, but if you don’t have one here is a useful trick. Put your elbow in the water, and the water should feel warm. If it’s hot, the water is too hot for your baby.
Be sure not to fill the bath up to much. For newborns up to 6 months, fill the bath with 8cm to 10cm of water. This avoids dangerous situations.
How to Wash Baby
Step 1: The best method is to wash your baby’s face first, without any soup or cleanser. Wash with soft cotton pads dipped in water and squeezed out, so you don’t get water in their nose, mouth or eyes. Do this before you bath your baby, as it’s easier to wash their face before they’re in the water.
When you clean baby’s ears, use a fresh clean cotton pad, and clean AROUND, not in the ear. Clean under your baby’s chin as well, then dry their face and chin.
Sometimes your baby may have dried mucus around their eyes or nose. Gently dab the mucus first to loosen it, then wipe. When wiping the eyes, go from the nose outwards with a dampened cotton pad.
Step 2: Now you can take your baby to the bath. Undress them and remove the nappy, and if they’ve soiled the nappy clean your baby’s genitals and bottom before gently slipping them into the bath. Use one arm to support their neck and head, with your hand on their arm, while the other supports their bottom.
Step 3: If you are using bath support (which we highly recommend), you don’t have to keep supporting baby’s head. If not, keep supporting their head and neck with your arm. Your baby can become quite slippery when wet, so you don’t want them to slip onto their back. Use your free hand (or hands when using support) to wash your baby.
Step 4: You can wash your baby with water, or with a liquid, baby safe soap or emollient. If your baby’s skin is particularly dry or tender, add a little extra emollient to the bath water to help hydrate and moisturise the skin. But it will make baby slippery so keep a good hold on them.
Step 5: Use your hand or a sponge to wash your baby gently from head to toe, and for their genitals, a routine wash is all that is necessary. Too much soap can irritate that sensitive area.
Step 6: Once clean (make sure all the soap is off their skin), gently lift baby out of the water, still supporting their head and neck, and bundle them in a towel. Pat them dry rather than rubbing, before putting them in a nappy.
If your baby has a nappy rash or is prone to nappy rashes, use a gentle, mild bum balm to soothe the skin and prevent/treat rashes. If you use the right balm you won’t have to use any other products or powder to treat the rashes.
Step 7: If your baby’s skin is dry, use a mild, natural moisturiser to hydrate the skin, gently smoothing it on.
Step 8: Before dressing your baby if you want to put them to bed (bath time and the warm water is a great way to get baby ready for bed), take the time to give your little one a gentle massage. (read more on baby massages here) This will help them relax, and after a day of busy fun and stimulation is will help them wind down to get ready for sleep.
Step 9: Dress baby and get them to bed!
Bathing with Baby
You and/or your partner may want to bath with your baby. After all, it’s a great time to get skin on skin contact, bonding with baby in a warm environment. These moments are precious and make a great opportunity to spend time together as a family.
First, have a bath or shower, using the baby’s soap/emollient to clean yourself. Avoid using your own soap or shampoo, as the lingering soap, scent or treatment on your skin will be too harsh for your baby’s delicate skin. Make sure the water is warm if you’re using the same bath as your baby.
Getting in and out of the bath can be a risky business, even when it’s just you getting in! So we recommend not climbing into the bath with your baby in your arms/hands. Rather ask your partner or family member to hand the baby to you once you’re in the bath.
Or, you can place a baby car seat lined with a towel next to the bath. Place your baby in the car seat before getting in, then reach down to pick your baby up. Once bath time is over, place baby back in the towel covered car seat before getting out. If you have a support seat or ring seat in the bath, place baby in the bath first before carefully climbing in. Make sure there is space for you to sit down, and don’t sit down heavily as it can cause the water to slosh over and around your baby.
Bath Time For Toddlers
Perhaps we just have excellent memory, but we remember the fun and joy we’d have at bath time when we were toddlers. Towers of bubbles, warm water, rubber duckies and other colourful bath toys, and to our parents disdain, the back of the bath made the perfect slide. Hair shampoo was not just for washing hair, but for bunching it up into crazy patterns, shapes, and the infamous unicorn horn that would go straight up. Bubbles were castles, animals, hats, and islands in the middle of a sea of frothy water.
Bath time can be a time for fun for toddlers and children. It keeps their minds and imaginations active, and it’s also a great bonding experience for families. At least for most, bathing was a family activity, with lots of laughter, playing and family photos that would undoubtedly be whipped out of albums later for your embarrassment and reminiscence.
So be sure to make bath time equally fun for your little ones. Water toys, spouts, sprays, fishing playtime sets, and the famous sponge toys that would spring from pills in the water to make dinosaurs and other creatures, are a great addition to your bath. You can also incorporate learning into bath time with letters and numbers.
With all these toys, it’s easy to make bathtime fun for your little ones. We hope we’ve given you a helpful guide on the bath time care for your baby, and if you have any further questions feel free to contact us for help and advice. We want your baby’s bath time to be as easy and safe as possible!
Thanks for reading!