Are you wondering how often to bathe a newborn? Or you scared by just the idea of washing your little tiny squishy baby? Well, you are not alone.
Let’s walk together and see how you can wash those tiny little fingers and how often you should bathe a newborn.
Washing a newborn baby is not for the faint-hearted. With limbs that look like they could detach with the slightest tension and a head that’s still made of play dough, handling a newborn baby is a delicate affair. And even worse is a wet, soapy slithery baby!
Looking back, I can tell you I was terrified and nervous about handling a tiny human being. Despite learning the basics of taking care of a newborn from my nurse, bathing my newborn was not top of the list of the things I looked forward to. I was scared!
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How often should you bathe a newborn?
While in the hospital, the nurses came for the baby and washed him every day. Based on my hospital experience, I assumed I should bathe the baby daily.
As I lived the reality of having the baby at home and as I met other more experienced moms, this assumption crumpled and facts started flowing.
Although he slept better when I washed him everyday, it was not practical and I needed some time to just relax.
Babies don’t get that dirty and, therefore, don’t need daily bathing. The decision on how often to bathe a newborn baby is one the mother can make depending on her interaction with the child.
Bathing the baby 3-4 times a week is sufficient. The rest of the time, simple sponging should do the trick.
Some babies seem to enjoy the water more than others, so washing them is not like starting world war 3. For the one who has the potential to stir up a hurricane in the bathwater; more sponging and less full-body dipping is preferable.
I used cotton and warm water to sponge bathe both of my babies. Cotton is super soft and absorbent and hypoallergenic so it worked perfectly for my babies.
The sponging can be done on more days if the umbilical cord stump hasn’t fallen off yet. If the baby has to be dipped in water, pat the navel dry completely before dressing them up.
It took my first baby 17 days for his cord to drop off. By that time, I had called my pediatrician dozens of time in panic.
When she didn’t seem to understand my panic, I showed up at her office! Turns out I was washing him a little too much; his cord was perpetually wet!
How to sponge bathe a baby
Here is how I sponge bathed my two little boys. I hope this helps you.
- Collect all your baby’s bath essentials. I used cotton balls, a dry towel, diapers, and oil. Make sure you have all these items with you. Never leave a baby unattended alone.
- I bathed my newborn on the his baby changing table. You may pick another place that feels comfortable for you. I preferred the baby changing table because I could adjust the height and wash the baby while standing.
- Next lay a cotton towel on the baby changing table. Then place the baby on top of the towel and cover him.
- Then dip your cotton balls/wash cloth in water and sponge bathe the baby, washing small sections at a time as the baby is still wrapped in his towel. Lift just a small area, wipe, pat dry, cover then repeat until your baby is all cleaned up. Start with the face and head going downwards. Babies poop often so you want the bottom to be the last part you clean.
Top and Tail
Topping and tailing is easier for the first couple of weeks after leaving the hospital. Topping and tailing is basically cleaning your baby’s head, neck, hands and bottom. This can be done at least once a day.
Babies poop quite often at this stage – my baby pooped with every feed – it is important to be diligent while washing the bottom.
The baby is still quite squirmy and jerky, so, always ensure he is at the center of the surface and you’ve laid him away from the edge. Put barricades if you have to.
Always check the temperature of the water to avoid scalding the baby. Your palms may not be the best for this, bend your elbow and test the water with it.
Have all you need for cleaning the baby before starting. Put the towel, face towel and the changing clothes ready to avoid running around once the baby is in the water. Put a shawl or towel beneath the baby to keep the bed from getting damp.
Keenly wipe the many folds on the baby’s thighs, hands and neck. Dirt collects in such folds and it may cake up if much care is not taken. The chubbier the baby the deeper the folds.
Once the stub has dropped, the baby can now be dipped in water. A baby’s skin is very sensitive. Avoid the use of harsh soaps and detergent. Due to their sensitive membranes, they may also get congested if the scent is pungent.
Dipping the baby at least thrice every week should be fine. For the babies that love being in the water, this can be adjusted to more days.
What is the best time to bathe a baby?
The best time to bathe a baby is during the warmest part of the day. I would bathe my babies in the early afternoon before the evening cold started.
Babies lose body temperature 4 times faster than adults. Having little body fat also means that they can’t regulate their body temperature that well.
This is even worse if the environment is too cold. Find a warm room and close the windows before undressing the baby.
The baby can be washed in his baby bathtub or the sink. I preferred washing the baby in the sink because it was less strenuous to my back.
Understandably, some people might be uncomfortable with washing the baby in the sink. Here are some awesome baby bathtubs to choose from on amazon if you’d rather use the bathtub.
If you choose to use a bath tub, place it on higher ground to avoid exerting too much pressure on the back. I recommend using a shower bench to place your baby’s bath tub. The suction type tips on the angled legs hold it firmly on the floor so it will not move as you bathe your newborn.
Always start with the face and eyes. Wipe the eyes with a ball of cotton wool, going from the corner of the eyes to the outer parts.
Avoid inserting cotton swabs or ear-buds in the baby’s ears. Ears are self-cleaning, the wax is there for a reason. DO NOT REMOVE IT!
How to bathe a baby
Your grip on the baby should be strong to prevent him from falling. Adopt what I like to call ‘the power grip’. Slide your hand across the baby’s back to hold her left hand while your right-hand slides under him to grip his left thigh. I found this to be the strongest grip on the baby.
For better cleaning, I would lather the baby up while he lay on the bed (of course with a mackintosh beneath!) and then dip him in the water for the final rinse. This reduces the amount of time I had to wrestle with an eel-like little man.
Once you’re done, give the baby a little massage to stretch his muscles and help him sleep better.
Enjoy your baby
Rather than stressing too much on how often to bathe a newborn, take time and enjoy your new baby. The most important thing is to keep the baby warm and dry.
To prevent your baby from smelling of stale milk, change the baby the moment milk spills on their clothes.
Regular diaper change to keep diaper rashes away should also be a priority. Bath time should be a special moment between you and your baby. Find ways to make it fun.
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4 thoughts on “How Often Should You Bathe A Newborn?”
Thanks for the tips. When my son was born I didn’t realize he had eczema and giving him a batch daily didn’t help but made it drier.
So sorry Kelly about your son. My first born son also had eczema which gave us such a hard time.
Great tips. This is an important topic for new moms. Bathing a new born is both delightful and terrifying.
Thank you Loren. Bathing a new born seems easy, but it so hard. Little babies are tiny.