Coming home from the hospital can feel a little overwhelming (don't worry all new parents have been there). Often times there are lots of questions and you may even be worried that you aren't doing things right. One thing that can be scary is bathing your baby. After all, water seems dangerous and if you have tried to do it you may have discovered that your baby becomes super slippery when wet (why didn't they put some sort of warning or sign tattooed somewherevisible on the baby?). However, giving a baby bath doesn't have to be a difficult chore and can even be fun and relaxing.

How Often Should I Give My Baby a Bath?
Most of us are used to taking regular showers or baths, but your baby doesn't really need to do that. Your baby has very few activities that he or she does that make them dirty. The two that do happen are often cleaned up quickly. If you are good at cleaning up your baby's spit up messes or milk dribbles and keep his or her face and neck clean then you will eliminate a lot of smelly problems. You should also be good at getting his or her bottom clean and you won't have a problem there either. Other then that giving a bath once or twice a week is often enough unless some sort of mess happens where cleaning is easiest in the bath. Giving your baby a bath more then three or four times a week makes it more likely that he or she will get dry skin.

Sponge Baths.
In the beginning it is important that you give your baby a sponge bath and do not submerge them in water. This is because the umbilical cord needs to stay dry during this period of time. Your baby will also have a harder time with being unclothed without being wrapped up so a sponge bath will allow you to provide the most possible comfort for them. These baths can also be given later on, but after the umbilical cord falls off you can choose a different bathing option if you desire.

Giving a Sponge Bath.
Sponge baths can be given to your baby both before and after the umbilical cord falls off, but they should be the only bath your baby gets before that time. Sponge baths are fairly easy to do and can often be easier then many other types of baths.

  1. Gather all your supplies. You will want to have everything on hand. Start with a towel to place your baby on. Lay it out on the bed. Then gather a wet wash cloth, a small bowl of water, a couple of cotton balls, cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, soap (optional), lotion (optional), a baby diaper and a change of clothes.
  2. Remove your baby's clothes and swaddle them in the towel. This will help keep them warm and more comfortable during the process.
  3. Wet the cotton ball and use it to clean your baby's eye lids by brushing it from the inside corner to the outside corner. Repeat on the other eye using a clean cotton ball.
  4. Next use the wet wash cloth to wash his or her face, behind their ears, the top of their head, and then their neck rolls and creases. For washing you can skip the soap and still do a good job or you can use a small amount of baby soap to get them smelling really good. Make sure you carefully rinse off all soap if you use it.
  5. Rinse the wash cloth in the clean water and carefully reveal more of your baby's body. Wash under their arms, their arms, and their chest. Gently lift their head and support it with your hand while you wash their back. Then cover them back up.
  6. Uncover their bottom half and wash their feet and legs.
  7. Rinse the wash cloth and then wash their genitals and behind (gently lift their legs to reach their behind.
  8. Cover them back up.
  9. Next take the cotton swab and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Use this to clean the umbilical cord and the belly button area. This will keep it clean and help the umbilical cord to dry up.
  10. Finish by using lotion to give them a massage if you wish.
  11. Then get them dressed and diapered.

Bathing Options.
As a new parent you have several bathing options and you have to choose one based on what meets the needs of you and your family. No one answer is right for everyone, however a common solution to giving the baby a bath is a baby bath tub. Many of these are designed to fit over the kitchen sink while others sit in the bottom of the bath tub and allow you to use the water from the tub to bathe the baby. Another option is using the kitchen sink. This can work well and it is at a good height for helping you to hold on to your baby. Next there is the full size bath tub. In this case you can give the baby a bath in the tub by themselves or jump in the tub with them for a quick and easy bath. The choice is yours and you may even want to try them all to see which you like best.

Bathing in a Baby Bath Tub.
The most common option for bathing a baby is the baby bath tub. This helps hold the baby and gives you room for a little water. You then have an easy hold on the baby and can wash carefully with less fear of him or her slipping in.
  1. Gather supplies. You will need a baby bath tub, water, wash cloth, soap (optional), thermometer (optional), lotion (optional), and a fresh diaper and change of clothes.
  2. Set the baby bath tub in a safe location. Choose a bed, the changing table, the bath tub, or the sink.
  3. Fill it with two to three inches of warm water (using a thermometer is a good idea). The water should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Use your wrist or elbow (more sensitive areas of the body) to test it for warmth.
  4. Get your baby undressed and set him or her in the tub.
  5. Begin with the baby's face (always wash from the cleanest parts of their body to the most unclean parts). Wash behind their ears and the top of their head. You can do this by dipping your wash cloth in the water and then using it that way. Adding soap is optional.
  6. Gently pour water over the baby's body to help rinse them off and to keep them warm.
  7. Next wash their neck (make sure you get in the creases), arms, arm pits, chest and belly.
  8. Pour additional water over them and then gently lift them off of the baby tub a little ways so you can wash their back.
  9. Set them back down and wash their feet and then their genital area and behind.
  10. Rinse the baby well (especially if you use soap).
  11. Swaddle them in a towel and gently rub them dry.
  12. Use lotion for a baby massage if you want to.
  13. Put the fresh diaper and their fresh clothes on.

Bathing Baby in the Sink.
To bath your baby in the sink you will need the same supplies as with the baby bath tub only you will use the sink instead of the baby tub. You will want to make sure you are careful and keep a gentle hold on your baby at all times. To do this support their head with your arm and gently hold them under their arm pit. This way if they get slippery you won't drop them in the sink. It may be faster and helpful to have someone assist you with the baby bath until your baby gets a little bigger (and steadier). You should always wash your baby from their cleanest and most sensitive areas (face) to their dirtiest least sensitive areas (genitals and behind).

Giving Your Baby a Bath In The Tub.
You have two bath time options in the tub. The first is to fill the tub with an inch or two of water and to gently lay your baby down (face up) in the water. With on hand support their head and neck to make sure that they won't go under and with the other hand wash their bodies. This can be fun and relaxing for your baby after about four weeks of age. The other option is for you to get in the bath with your baby. This makes for easy baths that can be as quick or as slow as you want them to be. It is easy to clean all your baby's parts and to enjoy the time with them. Most babies enjoy this after four weeks of age as well. It should be noted that it is often helpful to have someone available with a towel after the bath is over because the baby is very slippery and you will be wet as well. The after bath stuff (lotion, diaper, and clothes) should be laid out and ready to go to make the transition fast and easy.

With water there are always a few things you need to remember. Your baby's safety is in your hands and being careful is always important.
  • Make sure the water isn't hot. Water above 120 degrees is extremely dangerous to babies and can cause serious burns very quickly.
  • Make sure you never, NEVER leave your baby unattended in water. It doesn't take long or much water to cause a baby to drown. If you have to go somewhere it is best to scoop the baby up and take them with you.
  • Always have a secure hold on your baby. Babies get very slippery when wet and can easily slip into the water.

Giving your baby a bath doesn't have to be difficult or a traumatic experience. Start slow with sponge baths and then choose a bathing option that works well with you. You may find that it is easier to continue giving sponge baths until your baby is a few months old and that is perfectly okay. Your baby won't get that dirty and keeping him or her clean doesn't have to be difficult!