Bathing a newborn can be somewhat unnerving for both new mommies and experienced mommies. Practice and preparedness are the keys to building confidence and can help mommies and babies find joy in bath time. Depending on your baby’s development, bathing her involves either a sponge bath or tub bath. Whatever the case may be, the first step is to gather your supplies: small bucket/bowl of warm (not hot) water, 2 soft wash cloths, 2 cotton balls bath towel, change of clothes, baby wash, diaper supplies, brush or comb.
Sponge Bath 101 Before your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off (at around 2 to 3 weeks), you will need to keep the cord clean and dry to prevent infection. This means no tub baths! Not to worry, though. Sponge baths are a cinch. Gather your supplies and find a warm spot to bathe baby. (Theoretically the nursery should be a warm room as babies tend to have a more difficult time keeping their body temperature up.) Make sure the ceiling fan is off and swaddle your unclothed baby in a bath towel. WARNING: Until you are ready to wash your baby’s bottom, keep her diaper on!! Trust us. Sit down or stand next to baby with supplies in reach and soak the two cotton balls in warm, clean water. Squeeze out excess water and use them to clean each eye, wiping gently from the inner corners outward to clean away any debris or mucous. The reason for using two separate cotton balls is to avoid cross-contamination in the event one of your baby’s eyes is infected. Then, soak one washcloth in warm water and apply a small amount of baby wash to the cloth, working it up to a lather. Use this cloth for cleaning baby one area at a time throughout the sponge bath. Begin with baby’s head and work all the way down to toes, saving bottom for the very end. In other words, clean the germiest part last. Remove the bath towel only from the area you are cleaning. This may not always be possible because babies like to squirm and wiggle. However, doing so as well as possible will keep her warm and happier. As you clean each small area, i.e. head, neck, chest, left arm, right arm, use the other washcloth (dipped in warm water) to “rinse” away the baby wash. Using baby wash rather than soap is important because it is easier to rinse. As you rinse each area, promptly cover it with the bath towel and move on to the next area. When it is time to wash her bottom, remove her diaper as usual, using a wipe to clean any mess she may have created for you, and then wash her with the sudsy washcloth, wiping front to back. After rising, make sure her bottom is completely dry before diapering her. Many moms find it helpful to use dustless powder wipes on all of baby’s creases to help control residual moisture after a bath. The sponge bath is over, so warm up that tiny angel as fast as you can in one of her precious outfits and gently comb or brush her hair. Even if she is practically bald, brushing her hair with a soft-bristled brush will stimulate the hair follicles and help remove dead skin cells. Besides, making it a good habit now will lead to better cooperation when the tangles and knots appear at two years old.
Keeping your newborn’s umbilical cord stump clean and dry is important, which is why you should give her a sponge bath until the stump falls off at around three weeks.