Who said newborn babies have to have a bath every day – I’d like to see where that is written. I’m sure that in some very cold countries, a newborn baby would very rarely come anywhere near bath water!!
New born babies aren’t dirty – you do need to keep wee (urine) and pooh (faeces) off their skin, and keep their eyes clean (because their tear ducts don’t work too well straight off – they can develop sticky/ or mucky looking eyes). You also need to be sure they are not lying in wet or dirty clothes.
That is the purpose of the bath – but in real terms you can keep a baby clean without ever bathing your newborn baby!
Bathing your baby – if you choose to bath your newborn baby – should be pleasurable for you and your baby. Dads can get to be really good at this.
There are very few rules when it comes to bathing your newborn baby – but some universal principles apply:
Don’t let your baby come to any harm during the bath; hopefully your baby will enjoy the bath – if he/she is not – make it short and quick, and hopefully at the end of it – your baby will be clean too!
Really – you can do it! Can you bath yourself???? It’s when people, often professionals make it all too fancy that things start to go wrong, and the whole thing ends up more like a possible sinking of the Titanic!!
Everybody has their own style when it comes to baby baths.
If you asked say six midwives on a ward to show you how to bath your baby, chances are that they will all have their own variations on how to do it – depending on where they did their training – unless it is the hospital policy to offer only one method. This outdated practice does not happen much any more, as who is to say which method is “the correct way”?
What I consider are my helpful tips, are as follows (take only what feels right for you).
If you are going to bath your newborn baby – choose a time which will suit you and your baby best.
If you live in a very cold house – choose a time of day when the house is warmer, or try to warm the room you are working in.
Choose a time when you are least likely to be interrupted – take the phone off the hook, or turn the answering machine on.
Do it at a time when you won’t have people criticising you – or if you feel unsure and would prefer to have an experienced baby-bather present – wait until you can organise this.
Organise yourself for the bath before you start – this can save a lot of trouble later, and trying to reach for things with the baby doing early unscheduled swimming lessons in the bath – is not a good idea.
Set up an area where you can work easily – in other words so that you are not straining your back.
Make sure you have everything at hand: clean clothes, singlets, diapers, clean towels, cleaning items such as wash clothes and baby soap. A clean baby bath, and the ability to fill the bath, without breaking your back, to a suitable temperature – luke warm is too cold, as the water will be cold after the baby has been in it for a few minutes. Make the water warm enough so that it is pleasant when tested on a sensitive part of your skin – but not burning hot. You don’t get into a bath and scald yourself – so why should you now suddenly do that to your precious baby? Of course you’re not going to do that – and if you do particularly like very hot baths, you would know that your baby wouldn’t be ready for that! If you like, you can add a drop or two of lavender oil to the bath water – this is the only aromatherapy oil that you can use safely on your newborn baby. Also, don’t be too skimpy with the water – how would you like to sit in an inch of luke warm water? Remove any jewellery that might scratch or injure your baby.
It’s not a great idea to put the baby’s poohy-bottom in the water, and then clean his/her eyes with the same water – so — if your baby has a poohy – bottom, use your wipes, or other disposable method of getting rid of the pooh, before placing the baby in the water.
A good tip is: take the dirty nappy/diaper off last thing, and put the clean one on first – this way you don’t get wee or pooh all over your nice clean towels or baby clothes.
Also, it’s a good idea to clean the baby’s eyes and face first – while your water is really clean. You usually wipe the baby’s eye from the inside corner to the outside corner – preferably with wet cotton-wool or a clean cloth, and use a separate clean swab/cotton wool to clean the other eye, using the same method.
If one eye is “sticky”, clean the clean eye first, so that you do not spread germs (if there are any) from the mucky eye to the clean eye.
For the rest of it – remember that babies try to catch you out by hiding bits of pooh and vomit in their body creases – so make sure you clean well in those areas.
Also, like you, they don’t like soap in their eyes.
If you are going to wash your newborn baby’s hair, you may like to do this at the beginning of the bath – with the baby tucked firmly under your arm, and baby’s head positioned over the bath – in a slightly downwards direction – so that the water/soap does not run into their eyes. It is not necessary to wash the babies hair every time they have a bath. Some people like to try and avoid getting water in the baby’s ears, as they worry that it might increase the baby’s tendency to get ear infections. Other people just wash the baby’s hair while it is in the bath – using their free hand to wet their baby’s hair. Nowadays there are baby bath solutions that you add to the water – which means you don’t need a separate baby soap or shampoo.
Most important though – don’t go poking cotton buds up baby’s nostrils or in their ears -the membranes inside both ears and nostrils are very fragile, and can be damaged if the baby sneezes etc. Just use a wet cotton ball or wet face cloth – that way you can do no harm.
Make sure you have a good grip on the baby, so that he/she does not slip out of your hands, and keep your newborn baby’s head above water at all times. It’s a good idea to remove any jewellery that might scratch your baby and cause an injury..
If your baby is enjoying the bath – keep going – as long as the water is still warm.
Make sure you have a good grip on the baby when lifting him/her out – a wet baby is very slippery!
New born babies have trouble maintaining their body temperature – this is one time when you need to dry them quickly, try keeping the towel over your baby’s body while you are drying them, so that very little of their body is exposed at any one time. If you have a nice warm room – obviously this is not really a problem, though I would still get the baby dressed as soon as possible.
Nice warm clothes to put on are a great touch, if you are in a cold climate – be careful about what you use to warm them – don’t cause any fire hazards, or expose your baby to any burning!!! Just a reminder – I know you’re beginning to think like a new Momm/Dad/Carer now!!!
One other thing about bathing your baby – if you have a “vomiter” – that is, a little darling who throws up regularly, don’t bath them immediately after a feed, but wait about an hour after the feed.
If the umbilical cord hasn’t dropped off from the “belly button” – just ensure it is clean and dry. Fashions come and go with regard to “cord care” – using a little alcohol – only on the cord area, not directly on the skin, can speed up the drying out process, and destroy any germs in the area. However, if it looks fine – just ensure that it is clean and dry.
Some Mums/Dads like to apply a baby lotion or cream to the baby’s skin – that’s your choice, and it’s a good idea to choose natural vegetable or plant ingredients, don’t use too much of “petroleum” or vaseline based products as they can disturb the mineral balance in your baby’s body, if used for prolonged periods of time.
I used to love the smell of baby powder – it doesn’t really do any particular good though – but cause I really loved the smell, I would sprinkle a little on my baby’s clothes. Goodness sakes! If it’s not going to harm the baby, it is OUR baby after all, and why should we not do something that gives us a little pleasure???
If you would like a Midwife to give you a practical demonstration on how to bath your newborn safely – visit the “www.newparentsvideos.tv ” section and watch “Newborn Parenting for a New World: A practical guide for Mom and Dad”. This dvd guides you through all aspects of newborn care.
I hope my tips make the bathing experience more pleasurable for you and your baby – they are a guide only.