After 9 months of pregnancy and all its ups and downs, you now have a beautiful baby. While an exciting time, this is also when you realize you’re in completely untested waters. No matter how many books you’ve read on the subject, the questions, doubts, and niggles in your head may seem unending! And one of these may have to do with how often your tiny bundle of joy needs a bath. Let’s put that one to rest right here.
Your Baby’s First Bath Will Be At The Hospital
Your baby will be given their first bath at the hospital, where the stump of their umbilical cord will also be cleaned. Most hospitals will have someone show you how to bathe your baby. Take advantage of their expertise. Nurses at the hospital will also be able to familiarize you with other aspects like how to nurse, burp, hold, or change your baby.1
Give Only Sponge Baths Till The Umbilical Cord Falls Off
During the first couple of weeks or so, specifically, till the umbilical cord stump falls off, your baby should only have sponge baths. This is so the stump doesn’t get wet.
To give a sponge bath: Lay your baby on a flat comfortable surface in a warm room. If the surface is above floor level, place a hand next to the baby to make sure they don’t fall. Dampen a clean washcloth with plain water and wash the face before using soapy water to clean the rest of the body. Pay attention to skin creases and do the diaper area last. Keep your baby wrapped up during the sponge bath and only expose the part that you’re actively cleaning.2
Clean The Area Around The Umbilical Cord After You Change The Diaper
The cord of the umbilical cord typically falls off in 5–15 days. You need to keep this area clean and dry so that it doesn’t get infected. Use a slightly damp clean washcloth to gently clean around the base whenever you change the diaper. And make sure you wipe away any discharge from the cord. Continue to clean this area for a few days after the stump falls off.3
Bathe Thrice A Week After The Umbilical Cord Falls Off
Your baby doesn’t need a daily bath in the early days. Bathing thrice a week will suffice during this period. In fact, more frequent baths may dry out their skin. Patting your baby dry and applying a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free moisturizer immediately after their bath can prevent dry skin. You could also use a natural moisturizer like virgin coconut oil.4
To give your baby a bath: Fill a basin with about 2 inches of comfortably warm water. Place your baby in the tub as soon as you undress them so they don’t get cold. Support their head with one hand and use the other hand to gently guide them in. And tenderly clean them with a mild soap. Pour warm water over the body frequently so that they keep warm. Your baby’s first baths should be as brief and gentle as possible.5
Ayurvedic practices advocate a gentle oil massage using coconut, olive, or sesame oil before a bath. Wait for 15 to 20 minutes after the massage to bathe your baby. Finely ground green gram powder with 5 to 10% of soap nut powder mixed in can be used instead of soap to wash your baby. But do remember to do a patch test to ensure your baby’s not allergic to these or any massage oil that you use.6
Wash Face, Hands, Neck, And Diaper Area Daily
While your baby will do fine with just 3 baths in a week, certain areas require more frequent washing. The face, hands, neck, diaper area, and any skin folds like groin folds or armpits may need to be cleaned daily with a wet washcloth and then dried off. Make sure you pay particular attention to the area around the mouth. Also, clean any spit-ups and messy diapers as and when needed.7
Clean Scalp Once Or Twice A Week
You can shampoo your baby’s hair once or twice a week. Massage the entire scalp with mild shampoo, including the part over the fontanelle. But be gentle. Cup a hand across your baby’s forehead to prevent soap from running into the eyes. If soap does get into the eyes, wipe it off with clean, plain warm water.8 Soap nut works well at cleaning your baby’s scalp as well. 9
Give Daily Baths Once Your Baby Starts To Crawl
As your baby grows older and starts crawling, they may need daily baths. This is when they move around in sandboxes, dirt, or even across a messy floor. It’s also when they start exploring baby foods and predictably end up with more food on their bodies than in their mouths.
Follow These Basic Tips For A Baby Bath
Bath times should ideally be a relaxing and fun time for both you and your baby. Here are a few tips that’ll help you during bath times:
Be prepared: Keep everything you need from clean towels and a basin filled with warm water to clean clothes and a clean nappy ready before you start.
Test the water first: Test the bath water on your elbow or the back of your wrist before you use it. It should be pleasantly warm but not hot or it could harm your baby’s delicate skin.
Pick the right time: While you can bathe your baby according to your convenience, it’s best not to do this immediately after a feed or when they’re tired or hungry.10
|↑1||Medical Care and Your Newborn. The Nemours Foundation.|
|↑2||Bathing Your Newborn. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑3||Baby’s Best Chance. Ministry of Health, Victoria, British Columbia.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑8||Bathing Your Newborn. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑6||Venkat, Kumar. Rasayana for Childcare: Joy of Herbs and Healing. Partridge Publishing, 2015.|
|↑7||To Bathe or Not to Bathe. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑9||Mankovitz, Roy. The Wellness Project. Montecito Wellness LLC, 2010.|
|↑10||Washing and bathing your baby. National Health Service.|