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Bathing Babies

Bathing Babies Introduction

Bathing your newborn baby for the first time is one of the sweetest, and for some, one of the most anxiety-provoking milestones of parenthood. Although you may be nervous at first, you'll soon grow confident and competent as you learn what works best for you and your baby.

How often should babies be given a bath?

Until your baby starts crawling on the floor, a daily bath is not necessary. As long as adequate cleansing is done during diaper changes and after feedings, a bath two or three times a week in the precrawling months will keep your baby fresh smelling and presentable.

When is the best time to give babies a bath?

Just about any time of day can be the right time for a bath. Some parents feel bathing just before bedtime helps create a more relaxed state conducive to sleep. It is best to avoid baths just after or just before a meal, because so much handling on a full tummy could result in spitting up, and baby may not be cooperative on an empty stomach. Give your baby time for the bath, so it need not be hurried, and you won't be tempted to leave baby unattended even for a second to take care of something else. Turn on the telephone answering machine or simply plan on not answering the phone during the bath time. If you must leave the room, take the baby with you.

What type of bath should I give my baby?

The sponge bath. Until the umbilical cord and circumcision are healed (a couple of weeks, more or less), baby should not be submerged in water because it increases the time for the umbilical cord to fall off. Instead, use a washcloth or sponge to keep your baby clean.

A baby is ready for a tub bath (or in a portable tub or sink) as soon as both the umbilical cord stump has dried up and fallen off and the circumcision is healed.

Health and safety

  • Young infants lose heat quickly, so make sure the room is warm (around 75 F, 24 C) before you undress your baby.
  • Check the temperature of the water before putting your baby in the tub. Use the inside of your wrist or your elbow to test the water, which should be warm but not hot. If you are unsure about a safe temperature, you can buy an inexpensive bath thermometer at a local baby store or drug store. These simple devices change color to indicate safe and unsafe heat levels.
  • Hot tap water accounts for 24% of scald burns, requiring hospital admission of kids younger than 4 years of age. If you haven't already done so, you need to turn down your hot water heater to no higher than 120 F. Lowering the setting prolongs the time to burn and reduces serious scald injuries.
  • NEVER, EVER leave a baby alone in the bath -- even for a minute. A baby can drown in 2 inches of water.

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