If you are like most parents, whether this is your first baby or tenth, Baby’s first bath at home can be a little nerve-wracking.
Baby’s first bath at home is nothing like the bath given to Baby at the hospital. Once you get home it can feel like your world is upside down and bath time is no longer so simple!
That’s when the panic sets in. What if the baby slips out of your hands and slides under the water? What if the water is too hot? Maybe the tub you have is too big or too slippery or just not right.
These are all reasonable fears and thoughts for parents, especially new parents who second-guess every decision they make (and I speak from experience!). This post will help guide you through Baby’s first bath at home so it will be more enjoyable, less stressful, and wonderfully memorable.
Baby’s first bath at home
When Should a Baby have the First Bath?
Babies do not get “dirty” in the same way older children or adults do, so there’s no rush in giving Baby a bath.
If your newborn had their first bath at the hospital, you don’t have to bathe them that day again, or even the next. There’s even plenty of scientific evidence that discourages baths immediately after birth to preserve the antimicrobial and immune proteins found in the vernix caseosa.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the vernix caseosa is the white, creamy substance many newborns are covered in after exiting the birth canal.
Once home, most parents wait and do baby’s first bath after few days. This ensures your little one’s newborn skin doesn’t dry out. Some pediatricians recommend only giving sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump is fully healed.
Baby’s First Bath Instructions
If your nurse gave your baby a bath while in the hospital, chances are she also gave you instructions on how to bathe your baby safely at home as well. However, with all the excitement and exhaustion, you may be a little blurry on exactly what she/he said…I know I was! These easy-to-follow instructions will help you get through Baby’s first bath at home without too much anxiety from parent or child. If you opt to do a sponge bath, you will not need a bathtub – just a bowl of water and a cloth since Baby will be wrapped in a towel as you work your way over his body.
Let’s Get Started:
- Make sure the room is warm, windows are shut to prevent a draft, and there is a warm towel nearby. Also make sure all of your supplies are next to the tub: washcloths, soap, a small cup or scoop, etc.
- Begin filling the tub or wash basin – whatever you are using to bathe your little one – with the right temperature of water (more on this important aspect later). Fill the water to about 2 inches in depth. Baby’s umbilical cord shoud not be immersed in water.
- Gently lay your newborn on the bath seat and begin by dabbing gently with the cloth any crust around baby’s eyes and nose.
- You want to, then, start the full bath at their tiny feet and work your way upwards.
- Use small amounts of all-natural, chemical-free soap (check the EWG’s Skin Deep database for baby soap recommendations) to clean Baby’s body, rinsing as you go along so the soap isn’t on baby’s sensitive skin too long. Watch carefully for any allergic reactions, just in case!
- Clean very delicately around the umbilical cord trying to avoid soaking the area. You can use cotton balls or swabs to go around the stump without touching it at all. Since the bath water is not deep, the baby’s umbilical cord shouldn’t be submerged in water anyhow.
- Once you have finished your baby’s body, you can use the cloth to gently wet their head. Add a tiny amount of soap and very gently massage the soap into the scalp area. Use the cloth to rinse away the water backward to avoid soap getting in Baby’s eyes. You can also check EWG’s Skin Deep database for baby shampoo.
- Carefully remove your wet, slippery infant from the bath and lay him in the warm towel. Wrap him up snugly and hold him close for some cuddles and warmth.
The Temperature of Baby’s First Bath
This is very important since newborn skin is super sensitive and their little bodies process heat different from ours. When putting water in the tub or basin, start with the cold tap first, then add warm water to it. It is optimal if you can use a bath thermometer to measure the temperature to about 100°F or 38°C.
If you do not have a thermometer, the next best method is to test the water using your elbow or forearm. If it feels very warm to you, it may be too hot for Baby. It is always better to err on the side of caution. Alternatively, you don’t want the water to be too cool either since Baby is just starting to regulate his own temperature in the outside world. If Baby gets too cold, Baby will warm up fastest and easiest via skin-to-skin with Mom or Dad.
Do I Need a Bath Seat?
While you won’t need a “seat” since your baby isn’t sitting upright at this stage, you will need a safe place for your baby to lie down. If you think you might just hold him in your one arm in the water, this might not be a safe idea since little, wet babies are very slippery.
There are many bath seats/bath loungers on the market to choose from which will either fit right into your home bathtub or a large basin. In fact, some new infant tubs available have built-in seats with non-slip grips or mesh hammock inserts to cradle baby in the bath.
How to Choose a Soap for Baby’s First Bath at Home
Keep in mind, newborn skin is very sensitive. Most parents (wisely) skip the soap altogether. If you must use soap, select one that is very mild and designed for newborn skin.
Look for as few chemicals, additives, preservatives, and other “unpronouncables” as possible. and, if at all possible, something scent-free.
There are many to choose from on the market, but a great one is Aveeno Baby Cleansing Therapy Moisturizing Wash (Fragrance-Free). It’s highly rated on the EWG Skin Deep database and has lots of five-star reviews on Amazon.
Should I Give Baby a Massage First or Bath First?
While this is entirely up to you, some parents find it helpful to do the massage first. If you wait until after the bath, Baby may be upset from being exposed to the cold air outside the water and may not be calm enough for a bath.
However, some babies don’t enjoy baths so doing the massage afterward can help calm them from the unpleasant experience.
One last thought in the case of bath first, massage second – taking the opportunity to give a massage while putting lotion (or just coconut oil!) on Baby after the bath will prove to be a huge time saver later on.
If you want to use something more complex than just coconut oil to moisturize Baby’s skin, try Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Non-Scents Baby Lotion. Again, it’s highly rated on the EWG Skin Deep database and well-reviewed on Amazon.
Particular concerns–Premature Baby’s First Bath at Home
Since your baby is a preemie, particular care should be taken to keep baby warm when giving him a bath at home for the first time. Premature babies have difficulty regulating their own body temperatures. Your baby may feel the cool air of the room more than other babies. In this case, a sponge bath for the first little while is fine as long as the diaper area is cleaned thoroughly after each diaper change. Also, all of the same steps as a newborn should be followed.
Giving your baby’s first bath at home should be a memorable milestone for you and your little one. It is a great opportunity for bonding and learning trust. At first, it might seem stressful. But once you get into the routine of things, bath time can be fun for both you and baby. When it comes time for baby’s first bath at home, just remember to prepare your supplies ahead of time, relax and take it slow.
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