Bathing and Skin Care

Proper Bathing and Skin Care for Your Newborn

A newborn's skin is soft and delicate. Proper skin care and bathing can help maintain the health and texture of the baby's skin while providing a pleasant experience for both of you.

Contrary to popular thought, most babies do not need a bath every single day. With all the diaper changes and wiping of mouth and nose after feedings, most babies may only need to be bathed two or three times a week or every other day.

Baths can be given any time of day. Bathing before a feeding often works well. Many parents prefer to bathe their baby in the evening, as part of the bedtime ritual. This works well especially if bath time is relaxing and soothing for the baby.

Sponge baths are required at first. Bathing in a tub of water should wait until the baby's umbilical cord falls off, and a baby boy's circumcision heals, to prevent infection.

What equipment is needed for bathing newborns?

  • thick towels or a sponge-type bath cushion
  • soft washcloths
  • basin or clean sink
  • cotton balls
  • baby shampoo and baby soap (non-irritating)
  • hooded baby towel
  • clean diaper and clothing

How to give a sponge bath:

  • Make sure the room is warm, without drafts, about (75° F).
  • Gather all equipment and supplies in advance.
  • Add warm water to a clean sink or basin (warm to the inside of your wrist or between 90 and 100° F.).
  • Place baby on a bath cushion or thick towels on a surface that is waist high.
  • Keep the baby covered with a towel or blanket.
  • NEVER take your hands off the baby, even for a moment. If you have forgotten something, wrap up the baby in a towel and take him/her with you.
  • Start with the baby's face - use one moistened, clean cotton ball to wipe each eye, starting at the bridge of the nose then wiping out to the corner of the eye.
  • Wash the rest of the baby's face with a soft, moist washcloth without soap.
  • Clean the outside folds of the ears with a soft washcloth. DO NOT insert a cotton swab into the baby's ear canal because of the risk of damage to the ear drum.
  • Add a small amount of baby soap to the water or washcloth and gently bathe the rest of the baby from the neck down. Uncover only one area at a time. Rinse with a clean washcloth or a small cup of water. Be sure to avoid getting the umbilical cord wet.
  • Wash the baby's head last with a shampoo on a washcloth. Rinse, being careful not to let water run over the baby's face. Holding the baby firmly with your arm under his/her back and your wrist and hand supporting his/her neck, you can use a high faucet to rinse the hair.
  • Scrubbing is not necessary, but most babies enjoy their arms and legs being massaged with gentle strokes during a bath.
  • Wrap the baby in a hooded bath towel and cuddle your clean baby close.
  • Follow cord care instructions given by your baby's physician.
  • Use a soft baby brush to comb out your baby's hair. DO NOT use a hair dryer on hot to dry a baby's hair because of the risk of burns.
  • Expect your baby to cry the first few times you bathe him/her. Usually, this is just because a bath is a new experience. However, be sure to check that the water is not too warm or cold or that soap has not gotten in your baby's eyes if your baby suddenly starts crying during a bath.

How to give your newborn a tub bath:

Once your baby's umbilical cord has fallen off and the stump is healed, and after a boy's circumcision has healed, you can give your baby a tub bath. This can be a pleasurable experience for you and your baby. However, some babies may not like to be bathed, especially the first few times. Talk softly or sing and try some bath toys if your baby protests.

What equipment is needed for a tub bath?

  • baby bathtub (preferably with a bottom drain plug)
  • nonslip mat or pad
  • bath thermometer (these often have "safe" bath temperature ranges marked on them)

When bathing your baby in a tub:

  • Clear the counter or table top of breakable objects and electrical appliances to prevent injury.
  • Fill the tub with warm water, using a bath thermometer.
  • Follow the same general bathing instructions for a sponge bath.
  • NEVER take your hands off your baby, or walk away, even for a moment.
  • Be sure to clean the bathtub after each use.

Providing proper skin care for your newborn:

A baby's soft and delicate skin needs special care. Generally it is best to use products made especially for babies, but your baby's physician can advise you about other products. Products for adults may be too harsh for a baby and may contain irritants or allergens. Many parents like to use lotions for the sweet baby smell. However, unless the baby's skin is dry, lotions really are not needed. Powders should be avoided, unless they are recommended by your baby's physician. When using any powder, put the powder in your hand and then apply it to the baby's skin. Shaking powder into the air releases dust and talc which can make it hard for the baby to breathe.

Many babies have rashes and bumps that are normal. Some rashes may be a sign of a problem or infection. Diaper rash can be irritating to the baby and needs to be treated. If you have concerns about a rash, or your baby is uncomfortable or has a fever, call your baby's physician.

Laundry detergents may cause irritation to a baby's delicate skin. Even if you use a detergent marketed for baby laundry, it is a good idea to rinse the laundry an extra time to remove residues.