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Bathing Babies (cont.)

What Type of Bath Is Best for a Baby?

A sponge bath is recommended until the umbilical cord has fallen off (a couple of weeks, more or less). A 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 the baby clean.

A baby is ready for a tub bath (or in a portable tub or sink) as soon as the umbilical cord stump has dried up and fallen off. A circumcision will heal during the week following the procedure and generally before the umbilical cord has fallen off. Sponge bathing during the healing process is not an issue.

Health and Safety During Bath Time

  • Young infants lose heat quickly, so make sure the room is warm (around 75 F, 24 C) before undressing a baby.
  • Check the temperature of the water before putting the baby in the tub. Use the inside of the wrist or the elbow to test the water, which should be warm but not hot. Inexpensive bath thermometers can be purchased at a local baby store or drugstore. 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 children younger than 4 years of age. Turn down the hot water heater to no higher than 120 F. Lowering the setting prolongs the time to burn and reduces serious scald injuries.
  • Never leave a baby alone in the bath -- even for a minute. A baby can drown in 2 inches of water.

Bath Preparation

Bathing supplies may include these items.

  • Two to three clean washcloths
  • Mild baby cleanser -- try an unscented baby soap such as Dove, Basis, or Neutrogena
  • Baby shampoo -- not adult shampoo (the no-tears advertisements for baby shampoos are accurate)
  • Soft towel, preferably with a hood
  • Diapers
  • Clean clothes or pajamas
  • Ointment for diaper rash, if needed -- avoid talcum or baby powder because it can harm a baby if inhaled
  • Warm water
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2014

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