How Often Should I Wash My Baby?
Bathing a baby can seem a very daunting process for new parents, but most babies enjoy the feeling of water on their skin once they have got used to it. Generally a new baby probably only requires a 'top and tail' of face and bottom with cotton wool dipped in cooled, boiled water twice a day. However, a regular bath at bedtime helps to establish a bedtime routine and relaxes the baby ready for the night ahead.
Important Guidelines for Bathing Your Baby
The most important rule when washing a baby is to never, ever leave the baby alone in water, even for a moment. Most new parents find it helpful to have someone else present for the first few baths. Having someone on hand to pass cotton wool, emollient, shampoo and towels means that you focus all of your attention on the baby at all times without turning away even for a moment.
Bath water should be at a warm but not hot temperature of around 37 degrees Centigrade (around blood temperature). Either invest in a bath thermometer, or dip an elbow in the water to test that the temperature is not too hot. Most people find it easiest to wash a new baby either in the sink, in a basin, or in a special baby bath. An adult bath is too big and too slippery and leaves you with too little control over the baby.
Once the bathwater is ready, undress your baby down to their nappy and using cotton wool dipped in the water (and wrung out), gently wipe around your baby's eyes, nose and mouth. Then take off the nappy and clean the baby's bottom, again using cotton wool dipped in water. Now gently lower the baby into the water, making sure to keep the head supported at all times. The water should never be more than around five inches deep and should not be above the level of the baby's shoulders for safety.
If you live in an area of hard water, or if your baby has itchy or dry skin you may wish to add a little baby bath emollient to the water for softness. However, remember that this will make your baby quite slippery!
Lift the baby out of the bath and straight onto a warm, dry towel. Pat dry, never rubbing as this can damage the baby's delicate skin. Gently apply a little baby oil or moisturiser if you wish and ensure that all the skin folds and creases are dry before putting on a clean nappy and clean clothing.
Washing Your Baby's Hair
A baby's hair requires very little washing, but some babies suffer quite badly from cradle cap. This crusty scalp condition may look quite alarming but is nothing to worry about. The best solution is to gently massage a little baby oil onto the scalp and then wipe away the scaly patches with a soft tissue in a circular motion.
Most babies dislike having their hair washed, at least to begin with, so it is particularly helpful to have someone else present for the first few times. You may prefer to wash the baby's hair whilst the baby is still in the bath in which case, supporting the head, lay the baby slightly backwards and with your free hand scoop a little water over the hair. Add a tiny drop of a gentle baby shampoo, massage in gently and then scoop clean water over the hair to rinse.
If you find this difficult, or do not have someone else to help you, you may prefer to wash the baby's hair after the bath. Wrap the baby in a clean, warm towel and then lower baby backwards over the baby bath to wet the hair, keeping the baby fully supported with the other arm.
Most babies soon learn to enjoy their evening bath and this can be a fun time for new dads and older children to get involved too.