Bathing lies on the 'I-can't-wait-to-do-this!' bucket list for virtually every mother. The experience can be a fun, spiritually fulfilling and unequalled way to bond with your little one. Besides, where would we be without hygiene? It's by no means the most difficult of parenting tasks, but it can be quite nerve wracking, and if not done right it can be at best be uncomfortable for the child, and at worst risky. To ensure you both have fun in the tub, here's Daisy Baby's own small guide to bathing your baby safely!
When to First Bathe Them?
As always, we like to start at the beginning of the learning experience. Is there a 'too-early' when it comes to bathing? Well, one thing that can be avoided early on is a reliance on the myriad of specially sold baby lotions and creams. These are heavily advertised as beneficial for those first few weeks, but in actuality, your baby only needs one thing: warm water. Baby's skin is 30% thinner than adult skin, meaning its absorbent potential all the more appropriate for a gentle, natural solution.
Recommendations for when its best to first bathe include waiting for the umbilical cord stump to dry up and fall off, and/or when they start crawling. It's common for many mothers to postpone the first bath so a baby's skin can naturally absorb the vernix (the white waxy substance that covers the skin while they're in the womb). While the evidence is slight that the vernix helps protect an infant from infection, it is reliably tested as a natural moisturiser for their skin and hair.
Washing your baby fully in a bath is not something required for a few weeks. It's always good to check with your paediatrician if they have specific hair and skin conditions that need special care. Otherwise, to start with, you need only bathe them in the method below:
Topping and Tailing
The first few weeks of your baby's life don't actually have to involve much bathing at all really. When they're ready for full baths, it's something that only needs doing two or three times a week (unless they really enjoy it!). Before then, it is recommended however that you wash their face, neck, hands and bottom using a method dubed 'top and tail'. Using two bowls of warm (37°) water, a wash cloth, sponge or cotton wool and some kind of waterproof covering, you wrap your baby in a towel and gently wipe their face with water from the 1st bowl.
After you've cleaned these areas (paying particular attention to the crease under their neck where occasionally vomit and milk can build up), remove their nappy and use water from the second bowl to clean their genital area. Ensure you wipe front to back for girls to avoid spreading bacteria, gently dry them with a towel, ensure skin folds are dry and redress them.
Different ways of Bathing
When they're ready and when you have the time for a full length, proper bath, there's a variety of options to achieve infant cleanliness! Highly recommended is the plastic bath; portable and available in a variety of designs. Whilst some are supplied padded and cushioned, others come with removable slings that make them particularly suitable for newborn babies.
The advantage of the plastic bath is it saves you the strain of having to lean over the side of the adult bath, but there's no reason to totally discount the family tub, especially if you compliment it with a comfortable bath sponge. Ensure the water is extremely shallow (never high enough to cover their airways), and always turn the tap off and test the water before immersing your baby - you may even want to cover the faucets entirely as older
babies might turn them on to dangerously high temperatures and scald themselves.
Co-bathing is as wonderful as it sounds as a way of bonding with your child, putting you skin close in way that encourages breastfeeding. Make sure you have your partner assist you in handing the baby to you once you're in, and holding it as you get out the tub. If you must co-bathe without assistance, you can leave a Moses basket, covered with a towel, in arms reach.
Useful bits of Bathing Advice
Avoid bathing your baby straight after you've fed them, or when you know they're hungry or tired. You should always try and devote as much time as you can to bathing them, but ideally bathe before bedtime if you can; for some babies a warm bath signals the body to cool down, which greatly helps them sleep.
Washing a baby's hair is not at all necessary, and can actually be done prior to bathing by holding them over the bath/sink, slightly wetting their hair and then massaging in a requisite make of mild baby shampoo, before rinsing it all off with a bowl of warm water.
You'll have heard how beneficial a massage can be to a freshly bathed baby, it helps them relax and sleep in an incomparable way. Use some non-aqueous cream or oil, and massage gently into their skin. There's no need to rely on lotions as a way to prevent skin rash, just dry thoroughly in between the folds of your baby's skin.
What's a particular bath time routine, toy or activity that you can't imagine the two of you going without? Let us know in the comments, or you can let us know via our Facebook and Twitter pages.