Bringing your newborn baby home can be nerve-wracking, especially when it’s time for your baby’s first bath. Even though it SEEMS like it would be a simple question, many parents are left wondering how to bathe a baby.
I remember bringing home my first little one. I was constantly on edge and worrying that we were going to do something to break her. The thought of bathing my baby was daunting. What if she slipped out of my arms and cracked her head open? What if she drowned?
I can say that both of my babies successfully survived–and yours will too. I wanted to break down some of the information for you.
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- Umbilical Cord Care
- Bathing Frequency & Temperature
- Baby Soap Questions
- Best Baby Soap
- Bathtime Issues
- Bathtub Safety
- Best Baby Bathtubs
- How to Give a Sponge Bath
- How to Give a Baby a Bath
How soon will the umbilical cord fall off?
Your baby’s umbilical cord stump should dry up and fall off within one to two weeks. [source] This can vary somewhat, and you should definitely reach out to your doctor if you have any concerns. Often, you will notice a small wound that may take a couple of days to heal.
How should I care for the umbilical cord?
- Keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry. You do not want the stump to rub up against a diaper. Luckily, most newborn size diapers contain a cut-out space for the stump. IF your diapers do not have this, you can fold back the diaper instead. This will keep it protected from potential moisture from a wet diaper, and it also allows the wound to breathe.
- Give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump falls off.
- Try and avoid bodysuit undershirts, as they don’t allow for the wound to breathe.
- Do NOT try and pull off the cord stump–even if it’s hanging on by a thread.
- Do not use alcohol to clean the stump. Research from the AAP has found that untreated cords heal faster than alcohol-swabbed cords, and there is no more risk of infection. [source]
How often should I bathe my baby?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby should only need to be bathed a couple of times a week. Our babies are not doing anything that will get them exceptionally dirty, and their skin can become dried out pretty quickly.
Once they start toddling around, they may need a bath twice a day to keep up! My little toddler is a dirt magnet–an hour after a bath she needs another one!
What temperature should the bath water be for my baby?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the temperature of your baby’s bath water is ideal at 100 degrees, and should NOT exceed 120 degrees. [source] Although this is the recommendation from the Mayo Clinic, keep in mind that 120 degrees is hotter than most hot tubs being sold today (as a smart reader pointed out.)
If you don’t have a baby thermometer lying around, you can pour some water on your wrist and stick your elbow in the water. You want the water not too hot and not too cold. It should feel warm on your wrist or elbow.
When can I give my baby a bath?
You can give your baby a regular bath once the umbilical cord falls off, which usually happens within 10 to 14 days. Until then, stick to sponge baths.
Should I use soap on my baby?
It is your choice whether or not you decide to use soap on your baby; either decision will not harm your baby.
A small study done in 2017 concluded that using or skipping soap did not seem to have any effect on baby skin. [source] Personally, our pediatrician recommended for us to skip the soap for now–I mean, it’s not like your baby is going to be jumping in muddy puddles anytime soon, so they don’t get that dirty.
There are certainly different schools of thought regarding when you should start using soap on a baby, but it is NOT going to hurt your baby to avoid using soap for a while.
Which soap ingredients are good for baby skin?
Most soaps that are labeled for use in your baby will be pretty safe. The one unnecessary ingredient that many companies add to baby soap is fragrance, which can be problematic. With our babies, fragrant soaps did not bother their skin, but it can cause irritation so it’s better to steer clear of fragrant soaps to be safe.
Other than that, it’s best to use soaps that are natural. You will want to look for ingredients such as honey, olive oil, cocoa butter, and almond. Generally, the fewer chemicals, the better.
What baby soap should I use?
If you have decided that you do want to use soap (and eventually you will need to), it can be difficult to know what to purchase with a large number of options available.
If you are a crunchy parent, you may prefer to buy a product that is recommended by the EWG. The EWG is the Environmental Working Group, which is a group of activists that promote non-toxic products.
There is some controversy that surrounds this group, as there are many scientists who feel that this group is a bit extreme and exaggerated in their claims. [source]
This group thinks that tearless baby shampoos are not safe and recommend against using them, although there does not appear to be any scientific studies done outside this organization that back that up.
Whether you are crunchy or not, we have created a list of the highest rated baby soaps on the market.
This doctor-made product won the best baby skincare product for 2018 from The Bump. It’s scented with essential oils, which is a nice middle ground between artificial scents and scentless washes.
Some people complained that the product is NOT tear-free, so be careful while rinsing it out if you go with this product.
Burts Bees Baby Shampoo and Wash
This was our VERY favorite soap. It’s a 99.9 percent plant based formula, which basically means that it is going to contain mostly natural ingredients.
It does have a slight scent, but we found it did not irritate our baby’s skin at all.
Babo Botanicals Moisturizing Soap (EWG APPROVED)
This soap is rated number one for safety by the EWG. It’s gentle, plant based, and very moisturizing. This product features oatmilk, so if your little one has issues with cradle cap or eczema, this may be the right product for you. The biggest downside is the natural ingredients put off a bit of an acquired smell.
Nature’s Baby Organics Soap and Shampoo (EWG APPROVED)
This is another moisturizing natural soap that is organic and vegan. This soap boasts that it is cleansing enough for the entire family–not just your baby. This product also has on off-putting smell, so definitely consider that before Safety precautions for bathing my baby
What if my baby pees or poops in the bathtub?
If your baby pees or poops in the bath, try not to panic (eek it’s hard, I know!) According to Dr. Shea, pee is sterile and therefore is not a huge risk. [source] Honestly, you probably won’t even notice if your little one pees.
Poop is another story. It is common for babies to poop in the bathtub, because the warm and soothing water can cause the intestinal muscles to relax. [source] It’s full of bacteria and definitely not something you can ignore. Drain the bath and try again.
None of my kiddos ever ended up pooping in the tub, but that worry was always in the back of my mind!
What if my baby hates the bathtub?
Most babies enjoy baths. My first LOVED the tub, and it was a part of a relaxing night ritual for us. Cue our second child, Moppet, who screamed bloody murder every time we put her in the bathtub. It was hard for a couple of weeks, as a screaming, wiggling, and slippery baby is not ideal to work with.
Pay attention to when your baby seems to become upset during the bathtime ritual.
If your baby is upset the moment they are put into the tub, it’s possible that those tears are happening because of the sudden temperature change. This is usually either a result of a bath that is too hot, too cold, or too overwhelming in sensation.
First, make sure that the water isn’t too hot. Even if you feel that the water feels nice and warm on your elbow, consider making it a little cooler the next time around and see if you get a different reaction.
Keep in mind that you need to be careful with testing the water temperature as it can be harmful to your baby if the water is too hot or too cold. The safest way to do this is to purchase and use a thermometer.
If you are sure it isn’t the temperature of the water, try slowly easing your baby in the tub.
Put one foot, then both feet, then baby’s legs in the tub. We took the time to ease our baby into the bathtub, and that worked! There was no more screaming at bathtime.
If you don’t think it’s the temperature or the shock of temperature change, it could be that your baby is just too tired and is overwhelmed by the experience. In this case, try to bathe her an hour earlier than usual and see if you get a different reaction.
If your baby isn’t sleepy, hungry, or overwhelmed, you have to consider that your baby is the rare gem that hates bath time. My best advice is to get help from a partner for bathtime and keep on with it.
Eventually, your baby will outgrow this, as bathtime at the toddler stage is a lot more fun for them.
How to bathe a baby safely
Bathing a baby can seem pretty scary–but it doesn’t need to be. There are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of anything happening to your littles during bath time.
- Keep a hand on your baby AT ALL TIMES! This is soooo important. According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, over fifty percent of injuries happen to kids under four, and slips and falls account for 81% of the bathing injuries seen with kids under eighteen. [source] In context, we only see a minimal amount of bathing injuries that constitute an ER visit–they just happen to 5.9 in 10,000 US kids. [source]
- Consider placing a non-skid mat underneath your baby’s bathtub. When things get wet, they get slippery and we already know that a fall causes most bathroom accidents.
- Make sure you have everything you need within arms reach before you start bathing your littles.
- Make sure the bathtub is comfortably warm. Remember that your little one is susceptible to temperature, and water that is either too hot or too cold will make them uncomfortable.
- Use a safe bathtub. Did you know that there are updated standards for a safe baby bathtub? That means you want to avoid buying a tub that was made before 2017 as it may not be up to the same safety standards as what is required now. [source]
- Learn infant CPR. Hopefully, you will never have to use it, but it’s definitely better to be prepared. You can check out the video below for instructions on how to perform infant CPR.
- Get used to keeping the bathroom door closed and the toilet seat down. It will be a while before your little one is walking around, but it’s essential to make a habit of it now.
What is the best baby bathtub?
There are tons of newborn bathtub options out there. We tried a couple of them because we hated the first one we purchased. I have listed our favorite tub, as well as a few of the highest rated baby bathtubs on the internet.
The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe
This is the bathtub that we LOVED, and it is probably one of the best budget-friendly tubs on the market. It comes with a mesh sling and a padded headrest for newborns, but you can pull it out and use the regular tub once your littles is big enough.
Keep in mind–this is an excellent BUDGET-FRIENDLY option. There are certainly other options out there that are going to be fancier.
This bathtub insert is ADORABLE! It’s in the shape of a flower, and it’s supposed to hug any sink. This can be super convenient as it’s not bulky, and you can wash them anywhere you have a sink.
The most prominent downsides people seemed to find was that it was difficult to care for properly, and they ended up with mold on the petals. Other users stated that it did not fit their sinks.
This is one of the best rated bathtubs on Amazon, and a good friend of mine LOVED hers! It is the biggest baby bathtub on the market and has two bathing positions; a reclining position for newborn to six months, and an upright sitting position for six months to two years.
It has safety supports for your baby’s forearms and legs, which is nice because newborn babies tend to be pretty floppy for a while. My favorite feature is the fact that it has compartments to hold baby shampoo and soap.
We had a smaller bathroom with our second child, and the extra space would have been awesome! It seems like the biggest complaint with this bathtub (not that there’s many) is that it’s so huge.
Angelcare Baby Bath
This bathtub looks suuuper comfortable, and a lot of parents seem to love it. It has drain holes so that the soapy water can be removed fairly easy from your little one, which you don’t realize is kind of complicated until you are doing it.
The biggest issue with this bathtub is your little one will outgrow it fairly quickly. It claims it can fit a 0-6 month old baby, but some people complained that their baby grew out of it at four months.
How to Give A Sponge Bath To A Baby
Pre bath: Gather supplies and undress your baby to the diaper. You can keep their diaper on until you are ready to wash their genitals, as that will help you avoid getting peed on.
- A couple of baby wash clothes
- Large bowl filled with lukewarm water
- Baby soap (optional)
- A towel
- A rinsing cup
- A diaper and change of clothing
How to give a sponge bath
- Step 1: Put a towel over the surface that baby will be laying on, and lay your baby down on it.
- Step 2: Take a slightly wet washcloth and gently wipe your baby’s eye. Start in the corners of their eye and move the washcloth toward their ears. ***use a separate washcloth or a different side of the washcloth for the other eye.
- Step 3: Gently clean the rest of the face, moving from the center of the face to the sides.
- Step 4: Get your washcloth wetter this time and add soap to it if you want. Now you will clean the chin and the neck. Keep in mind that your baby’s neck may be one of the dirtiest parts on their little body, as the fatty neck folds can gather a lot of dirt and milk, so clean it thoroughly.
- Step 5. Wash their arms, body, and legs (excluding the genitals) gently but thoroughly, being careful to wash around the umbilical stump. After you get done cleaning an area, rinse and rewrap your baby in the towel to keep them warm.
- Step 6. Turn your baby over carefully and wash their back.
- Step 7. Wash the genitals last. It’s best to use a clean washcloth with every wipe, either by rinsing or using a separate cloth altogether.
The above video gives an excellent demonstration of how to sponge bathe your baby. This video was made by a nurse, so you can trust that it’s a accurate resource.
How to Give Your Baby a Bath
- A couple of baby wash clothes
- Baby or regular bath filled with 2 inches of water
- Baby soap (optional)
- A towel
- A changing pad (or another soft place for baby to lay)
- A diaper and change of clothing
How to give your baby a bath
If you don’t have a baby bathtub that you want to use, it’s always an option to bathe with your baby. This was definitely my preference with my little ones, as I felt I could keep a better grip on them. Only do this if you have someone to help you.
Keep in mind that babies aren’t able to maintain their body temperatures very well, and so it’s important to make sure they don’t get too cold in the bath.
- Step 1: Gather supplies and fill the bathtub with two inches of water.
- Step 2: Undress baby and put them in the tub (temperature should not go above 120 degrees) The most critical part of bathtime is making sure that you always have a hand on your baby. Even if they seem secure, the only way to be sure is to hold onto them.
- Step 3: Cover them with warm wet washcloths to keep them warm
- Step 4: Gently begin washing them in the same order you did for a sponge bath. Eyes, face, body, genitals/bottom. Do not use soap on your baby’s face, it’s not necessary, and you are at risk for getting it in their eyes, mouth, or nose.
- Step 5: Be sure to rinse carefully after washing. If you don’t have a cup to rinse them with, you can also use a soaked washcloth. Sometimes this is gentler and is less likely to startle your baby.
- Step 6: When pulling your baby out, wrap them in a towel right away. A hooded towel can be used and is an easy way to keep them comfortable as their head will be covered and warm.
Below is a video on how to give your baby a bath safely.
Has your baby had their first sponge bath? Have they used a baby bathtub yet? I would love to hear any additional bath tips, so please feel free to leave a comment below!
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Great blog post, although I’m wondering where you got that 120 degree water temperature from. Everything I have read says the water should be just above 100 degrees. Most new hot tubs have a maximum temp of 104 degrees. 120 seems pretty hot for a baby. Just curious!
Crissy, I realized the wording in this post can be a little confusing. Thank you for bringing that to my attention! I went to Mayo Clinic for the temperature recommendation, which they recommend water that does not EXCEED 120 degrees. I updated the link in my post and I will probably change the wording because you are right– 100-degree water is ideal, but they state that up to 120 is okay. I think the concern is sometimes as parents we are so scared of letting it get too hot that it ends up being too cold which can be a bad thing too. I was not aware of that max temp with hot tubs, that’s an interesting point. Here’s the link to the Mayo Clinic post if you are interested. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20044438
Thanks for reading!