Newborn babies do not get very dirty. Provided their nappy area, hands, face, neck and creases are kept clean there is no need to bath a very young baby every day. You may find, however, that your baby enjoys having a bath, in which case you can give her a bath every day.
There are some babies who really do not like being put into water when you first try to bathe them and they will scream until the whole event is over. For these babies there is really need no to worry. Simply 'top and tail' them every day and try bathing them a few weeks later, by which time they may have forgotten their dislike for water. If they still object in a few weeks, just carry on cleaning them every day and try a bath at a later date. Most babies do eventually learn to enjoy having a bath, especially once they can play with buckets, squeeze toys and splash around.
Topping and tailing
Try to make cleaning your baby a routine part of your day. Choose a time when your baby is awake, but not irritable because she is hungry, for example. It's a good idea to top and tail your baby on something that is waterproof - a changing mat is ideal - in case water drips off her.
You will need cotton wool, baby cream, a bowl of warm water, a towel, a clean nappy and clean clothes. Start by washing your baby's face. Use a separate piece of cotton wool for each eye and wipe the eyes from the inside of the eye outwards. In the first month of life, use sterile water around the eye area (a good way of getting sterile water is to boil a kettle and let it cool down). Use a clean piece of cotton wool to wash other parts of the face, including the mouth, nostrils and behind the ears. Don't forget the creases in the neck as these can often hold dirt and become red and irritated if not cleaned. Don't clean inside the ears because they are very delicate and do not get very dirty anyway. When you have finished, pat the skin dry with a soft towel. You can then wipe the arms and hands with a facecloth.
Once you have finished this area you can put a vest on your baby, but leave it undone to allow you to clean your baby's bottom. Try not to remove more clothing than is necessary at each stage so your baby doesn't get cold.
With a clean piece of cotton wool wipe around the genital area, paying particular attention to the creases in the groin and upper legs and then dry thoroughly with a towel. The foreskin in a baby boy usually cannot be pulled back over the head of the penis; pulling it by force may result in damage to the tissues. As a result it is often better to not to wash under the foreskin in a baby boy and it is not necessary to wash inside the labia in a baby girl. Lastly wash your baby's bottom and dry it thoroughly. If the skin is at all red you can rub in some cream at this stage before putting on a nappy.
How to bath your newborn baby
Bathing your baby
As with topping and tailing choose a time when your baby is likely to enjoy a bath. Bathing can be quite an activity for a young baby, after which they will enjoy a long sleep. But it can also stimulate and wake a baby up. Find out how your baby responds to a bath and then fit it in to suit their routine. For example, if a baby seems to wake up after a bath you may like to bath them in the morning. But if they are sleepy afterwards, choose a time close to bedtime.
Tips for bathtime
- Firstly, it is very important to never leave your baby alone in the bath - even for a second.
- Make sure the water is warm, but not hot enough to scald your baby. About 32ºC is ideal. If you can dip your elbow in and it does not feel hot this is about right.
- Make sure the room is warm, about 20°C.
- Soap is not really necessary as it dries the skin, but you can squeeze a few drops of liquid baby soap into the bath if you wish. If your baby's skin is dry try a few drops of pure almond oil to moisturise it.
- Have your baby's clean clothes, nappy and a large soft towel ready.
- Support your baby's head with your forearm and her bottom with your other hand as you lower her into the baby bath.
- Having the baby in the bath with you can also be enjoyable, but you will probably need help to get the baby in and out of the bath. If you are trying this for the first time, wait until someone is with you.