The first time we bathe our baby can be terrifying. Many of us won’t have had the chance to practice bathing a baby before we’re sent home from the hospital with our own brand-new little person and no instruction manual on how to proceed.
So for the uninitiated, paediatric nurse and Director of Baby Bliss, Jo Ryan, has reassuring words: “People are terrified of babies because they think they’re going to break them, or they’re very delicate, but in fact babies are very robust and sturdy. As long as we follow sensible bath safety steps, having a bath is something most babies really enjoy.”
You may find your baby takes to the water like a little duck and finds the water invigorating, or you might discover that the bath has a calming effect on your newborn. Either way, by taking some simple steps to be prepared, you can make baby’s bath time an enjoyable experience.
Steps to prepare for baby’s first bath
You will need:
- A baby bath – look for one that has rubberised side grips and no sharp edges. As an added bonus, the Big Softies Baby Bath Tub has a removable plug so you can easily drain the water out after the bath.
- 2 towels
- 1 or 2 washcloths – choose a soft terry cloth like the Little Haven Elephant Washcloth that are the perfect size for baby.
- Baby bath wash (optional)
- Clean nappy and a fresh change of clothes
Preparation is key: Setting up the bath
- Place the bath on a stable flat surface that’s easy to reach like the kitchen counter, the floor, or if you’re using a baby bath and stand, set it up with easy access to kitchen or bathroom taps so you don’t have to carry the water too far.
- Fill the bath with warm, not hot water. Check the temperature with the inside of your wrist or with a bath thermometer. You don’t want the bath to be too hot or too cold.
- To undress baby, lay him on a flat surface with a towel under him. Have another towel ready to wrap him up so he doesn’t get cold.
The tricky part: Getting baby into the bath
- When you’re ready, unwrap your baby and place him in the bath making sure you’re supporting his back, neck and head.
- Rest him on your arm, with your other arm free to wash him.
- You can keep him warm by putting a washcloth over his little tummy.
The fun part: Baby’s in! What do I do?
- Start with his face and use the washcloth to wash from the inside, to the outside of his eyes.
- Wash all his nooks and crannies, like behind the knees, and inside the folds of his chubby neck.
- The nappy area is washed last.
- Once he is clean and ready to come out of the bath, carefully lift him out, supporting his head at all times.
After you’ve taken him out of the bath and laid him back down on a towel, gently dry the folds of his skin thoroughly, so it doesn’t get irritated, and dress him in his fresh nappy and clothes.
The first time you bathe your baby it can be helpful to have someone else on hand. If you have the luxury of having a partner standing by ready to assist, you can bathe your baby together to help each other out.
Baby bath safety tips
- Remember to always support baby’s head and keep his face clear of water.
- Your baby needs you by his side at all times when he’s in the bath so limiting distractions, like phones, at this time is important.
- If you need to attend to something away from the bath, bring your baby with you.
Use bath time to diffuse a difficult day
There’s a reason that most families choose to do bath time at the end of the day – no matter what kind of day your baby has had, bath time can serve as a signal to him that it’s time to relax, wind down and get ready for bed.
“If your baby’s having a particularly tough time, or it’s the witching hour, you can use the bath to have a bit of a break and calm them down,” Jo says. “Often they’ll be quiet in the bath and start to cry as soon as you take them out again. But that’s okay, because the bath has settled them.”
How often to bath a new baby
As long as you clean his face, neck, hands, and nappy area daily, you don’t have to give your baby a bath every day. Jo suggests that every 2-3 days is enough.
You may want to bathe your baby in the morning if he finds it stimulating, or in the evening as part of the bedtime routine. No matter when you choose to do it, with a little practice, bathing your baby will soon become second nature and something you and your baby can both look forward to.
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