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Bathing a Newborn Baby


How to Bathe Your Baby

Bathing a newborn baby is no doubt something a first-time parent will be looking for advice on. Straight after birth (assuming you had no complications) the midwife or doctor will place your newborn baby on your chest for that important mummy and baby skin-to-skin bonding time. your baby will be dirty but that will be the furthest thing from your mind in the moment, you will be full of adrenaline and just want to cuddle your little one. After a short while your midwife will take your baby for a little cleanup.

Every country varies in their approach to bathing a newborn baby, and whilst some countries give a full bath, here in the UK they will clean the baby a tiny bit and get them dressed. If you’re wondering about the reasoning behind this, it’s simply because when your baby is born, they have something called vernix caseosa on their skin. Studies have shown that keeping it on your baby has lots of health benefits, such as providing immunity, temperature control, and skin moisturising benefits. Because of this, the WHO recommends delaying a baby’s first bath by at least 24 hours.

When Should I Start to Bathe My Baby

After the 24 hours it’s your choice as to when to bathe your baby. I waited a week for both my babies, of course doesn’t mean they weren’t clean, we just did “topping and tailing”, meaning I would wash them in the bath or sink by just using a warm wet flannel to wash their feet, face, hands, and bums. I also gently cleaned around the umbilical stump before it had fallen off, as it sometimes emitted an unpleasant odor, which is quite normal.

When you finally decide to fully bathe your baby you can make it into a bedtime routine. Giving your baby a warm bath can soothe them and they will quickly learn that after that it’s bedtime.

Bathtime before bed for baby

Keeping Bathtime Safe for Your Little One

Of course, water can be a danger for little ones, so it’s important to NEVER leave your baby unattended in the bath because even a few centimeters of water can cause drowning. This is the number one rule with bathing a newborn baby.

Let’s start with the temperature of the water. It’s important that it’s not too hot or too cold. You can check the temperature with your wrist or elbow, or to make it easier, use a baby bath thermometer. The best temperature is 38°C, or around body temperature.

For the first month, using just water is perfect. Once they are a bit older, natural products with no perfumes are ideal.

What is the Best Bath for a Newborn?

We recommend using a baby bath, which as well as making things easier for you will also help you to use less water. Shnuggle created a folding baby bath stand to compliment their range of bathtubs, which makes it so much easier to bathe your little one as you won’t need to bend down on your knees. With the bath stand you can easily do it standing up at a comfortable height, not to mention the Shnuggle baby bath really supports your newborn while washing them.

Shnuggle baby bath with stand

If you don’t have a Shnuggle baby bath, you can use one arm to support your baby’s head and with the other, gently wash your baby. Make sure the water is clear of your baby’s face and gently wash their hair. Another important part is to clean inside the creases of the skin as these sometimes get missed. If it’s hot, they get sweaty and this can cause some irritation, but if they are washed, there is less chance of these areas becoming inflamed.

It might take a few attempts to master newborn bath time, but it will quickly become easier for you and more enjoyable.

How to Make Bathtime More Enjoyable for Your Baby

The first time you bath your baby, they might cry and scream as they don’t understand what is happening. However, they will soon get used to it and start to enjoy the warm water before bedtime. If your baby becomes very distressed during a bath, you can join them in the bath and allow them to lie on you. This creates an amazing skin-to-skin moment and, if you are breastfeeding, it can also stimulate your milk production.

For the first few months, they might be happy during bath time and then suddenly start to hate it! This happened with both my girls, and I think it’s a normal phase little ones go through. It might last many weeks, so we just made bathtime quick, getting them in and out pretty fast. Slowly, they both went back to loving bath time again. Getting them excited for baths helped, as did buying some new toys like boats, puzzles, crayons, and soft toys suitable for water. You can find some ideas for fun bath toys here.

Baby playing with toys in bath having fun.

There are also some great bath time sensory play activities. One of my favorite ideas is from Pinterest, where a mother used glow sticks to light up the tub and let her children bathe in the dark. Of course, this is only suitable for older children. For smaller children, you can simply give them some plastic toys and a sponge to “clean” with soap and water. Adding a plastic doll for them to wash is also a great way to distract them and can teach them to wash themselves.

We hope you found our article on bathing a newborn baby helpful, and don’t forget to check out some of our other baby blogs for more parenting tips!


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