How Do You Give Your Newborn a Bath?

It’s time to give your baby his or her first bath. Problem is, your brain is so-sleep deprived that you only vaguely remember those instructions the nurse gave you at the hospital. No problem.

Sharmon Brate, RN, a nurse in the special care nursery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, has bathed more babies than she could count. She tells us the five things you need to remember.

1. Don’t Bathe Every Day

Mom Kissing Newborn Baby

Your baby is not going outside to play in the dirt or working up a sweat, so you don’t need to give your baby a daily bath. “You’re constantly cleaning up their mouth where they’re drooling or spitting up,” says Brate. “You’re also always cleaning their bottoms, so those are the two dirty places of the baby.”

2. Don’t Submerge the Baby

Baby in Baby Bath

You don’t want to put the baby’s umbilical cord underwater. It typically takes 7-10 days for it to fall off. Instead of putting the baby in a full tub of water, consider it more like a bird bath. Just wipe down the baby with a wet cloth. Brate says, “I tell parents always start with the cleanest part of the body and work down to the dirtiest” (this might seem like a no-brainer, but a new human being just turned your life upside down, so it doesn’t hurt to point it out).

3. Keep Them Moisturized

Mom Putting Moisturizer on Baby

You’ll also need a gentle moisturizer to keep your baby’s skin from drying out. Brate not only recommends putting lotion on your infant’s skin after a bath, but in-between baths too. “Most babies tend to be a little drier whenever they first come out,” says Brate, “just because they’ve been soaking in water for nine months and now they’re out here in this dry environment.”

4. Hands Off the Umbilical Cord 

Newborn baby getting ready to take a bath

You don’t need to do anything to the umbilical cord. At one point, parents were told to put rubbing alcohol on it, to make it dry out, but that’s unnecessary. Brate says if the umbilical cord is red, oozing or irritated, ask your pediatrician about it.

5. Have fun

Baby in Otteroo neck float bonding with mom in bath

Brate says a great way to bond with your baby is to give them a gentle massage with lotion after the bath. And, once your baby hits eight weeks, you can put your baby in the Otteroo and bond with him or her in the tub!

Oh, and did you know that bath time is packed with early development and learning opportunities? Check out these 12 things you can do to make bath time fun and developmentally beneficial for your baby.

Julie Forbes

Julie Forbes

Julie Kroenig Forbes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She spent the next 10 years working as a news anchor and reporter in various cities, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee. After a few years in Northern California and New York, she now lives in Ohio with her husband and four kids.
Julie Forbes

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