When and How to Give Baby First Bath?
You’ve made it through labour, and cuddled your little bundle of joy for hours doing nothing but stare at their sleeping face. There’s a good chance that you’ve had a few visitors pass him or her around, and comment on that gorgeous newborn baby smell. All the while, you’re cringing whilst thinking about how the little cutie probably smells like rotten meat since they haven’t yet been washed, and still have the remnants of amnitotic fluid, blood and lord knows what else all over their skin. Then you realise something…. it’s down to you, and only you, as new parents, to figure out when and how to give baby their first bath!
It all seems a little scary – they’re just a tiny little weakling with floppy arms and flailing legs, and the thought of getting them all wet and slippery can scare the buh-jeezuz out of even the calmest of new parents.
We were extremely lucky (it will sound odd when I finish this sentence), in that we were still in hospital for our little boy’s first bath. He was born slightly premature, at 36 weeks, and had a bit of trouble with his breathing, so he was kept in the neonatal unit of our hospital for 3 very long days. That was obviously not the “luck” that I’m talking about though. The silver lining was that on the day we were due to be to be discharged from the hospital, our lovely midwife suggested that we give our boy his first bath so that she could help us out. Honestly, I was petrified even watching somebody else pick up his skinny little naked body and plop him into a HUGE (*tiny) plastic baby bath FULL (*two-inches deep) of water!
Our best friends had a little girl just weeks after our son arrived, and I remember thinking it was slightly odd that at 1 week old, she still hadn’t been bathed. So here I am now, to give my thoughts on when and how to bath your baby for the first time.
When should I give baby their first bath?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Most advice suggests that you should leave it for a week before you first bath your baby. This gives their delicate skin time to adjust to the surroundings, and also allows their umbilical cord to start healing. You don’t need to wait until the umbilical cord drops off, but you should avoid getting it very wet as this will delay the healing process.
I would suggest that for the first week you give your baby a “top and tail” bath every day. What this essentially means is that you wash their top (head) and tail (bottom). You should be careful not to cross contaminate the water you are using to do this, or ensure you always wash their face first so that dirty bum water doesn’t make it onto their face. Use cotton wool to give a thorough clean, and throw away each piece of cotton wool after you use it once.
After that first week, you should go ahead and give your baby a proper bath. Only use a couple of inches of water in case they slip out of your hands, and only keep them in the water for a short period of time – 5 minutes is plenty for such a young baby.
Don’t be afraid, your baby will sense your anxiety and you want them to be relaxed and enjoy this experience. Be excited, it’s another one of those precious firsts!
Do I need a baby bath?
Here’s a question that causes great divide amongst mothering forums. I would absolutely recommend you buy a baby bath.
Why? The primary reason being that you will save SOOOOO much on your water and heating bills!
It sounds ridiculous I guess, but our little boy fit into his baby bath until he was 7 or 8 months old. From when he was about a month old, we bathed him every other night. I’m going to say that probably amounted to about 150 baths in which he sat in a tiny baby bath with a few inches of warm water in the bottom. That’s probably about 10 litres of water, maximum. If you used an average sized adult bath with a couple of inches water, you’re looking at closer to 50 litres of water per bath.
It doesn’t take long for those savings of water and energy costs to add up, and you can pick up a basic baby bath for around £15 on Amazon.
How warm should I make the water?
Do not rely on the “elbow technique”. Babies are very sensitive creatures, they are used to being housed in your cosy womb environment at a perfect 37°C for the past 9 months. Can you guess what the perfect bath temperature is? That’s right, 37°C.
But how do you achieve that perfect 37°C bath? Top tip: buy a bath thermometer.
Another item that some view as totally pointless and a non-essential waste of money….
Speaking from experience, we had a very sensitive little boy, whose bath had to be just the right temperature else he would wail all the way through it. As soon as we bought our bath thermometer, every bathtime was bliss. All of a sudden he wasn’t wincing when he was placed in the slightly too cold bath, he would kick his legs and smile. It’s worth the small cost, believe me.
Should I use bubble bath or soap?
Whilst it may seem like water would be gentlest to use with no addition of soap or bubble bath, water by itself can actually dry out the skin, since water has a ph of 7, and skin is naturally slightly acidic at around ph 5.5. Adding some gentle bath soap can help the water to achieve this slightly acidic level, and obviously comes with the added benefit of making your little one smell absolutely divine – they will truly start to have that gorgeous newborn baby smell that everyone has been telling you about!
It’s important to use products that are designed specifically for a baby, so that they are gentle. I also like to focus on using products that contain natural ingredients, no SLS and no parabens. My favourite products are from Neal’s Yard Remedies, an organic and natural health and beauty supplier based in England. In fact, I started buying so many of their baby and other family products that I decided to sign up as a wholesaler to be able to buy my products at a significant discount.
How to hold baby in the bath
With our son arriving so early, we hadn’t even finished our prenatal classes when he was born. We missed the whole part about bringing the baby home and things like how to bath them safely! Hence me thinking we were lucky that our midwife helped us out by giving him his first bath in hospital.
To hold your baby safely, lay your arm out and put your baby’s head lying over your arm near your wrist. Using that hand, take hold of the baby’s arm that is furthest away from you, so you have a secure grip of their arm. You should then be able to safely lift the baby by using your free hand to support their bum whilst you lower their bum into the bath. Use your own arm as a headrest for your baby so that they are not in water that is too deep. No baby is going to be able to wriggle out of this grip once you master it!
How often to bath baby?
In the first few months, your baby won’t need a bath every day if you are top and tailing them. Too many baths at an early age can dry out their delicate skin. However, many parents find it nice to start to get into a set bedtime routine from around 3-6 months of age, as it helps your baby to realise that it’s bedtime, rather than just any other naptime.
Once your baby starts to wean onto solid food and is crawling around, you will likely need to give them a bath every day to clean up their messiness!
I just want to say this once again.
Don’t be afraid.
Your baby will learn to love bathtime. If they hate it the first time, don’t use that as an excuse to delay the second bath. You just have to figure out the best environment for your little one and then everyone will come to look forward to this special family moment each day.
I hope that you’ve found this guide useful, please share it with any new parents or parents-to-be. If you have any further questions , please comment below, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org