Bath time can be an intimidating task for new parents to tackle. There’s so much to remember–What temperature should the water be?! What do I do with the umbilical cord?! What products should I use?! Indy Night Nanny leaned into our expert network of nannies for the best tips to prepare you for the first bath at home.

1. Only undress the baby after you have gathered all the items you will need. This includes having the bath water ready in the baby tub and tested for temperature (99 – 100 degrees), a warm towel, baby soap/shampoo, and washcloth.  (The water should cover the baby’s body but not the head and neck.)

2. Wash from the head down with a soft cloth and the diaper area last to keep the washcloth sanitary. Massage the entire scalp gently, including the soft spots. When you rinse the soap or shampoo from the head, cup your hand across the forehead so the suds run toward the sides, not into the eyes. Should you get some soap in the eyes, and the baby cries out, simply take the wet washcloth and liberally wipe the eyes with plain lukewarm water until all soap is gone.

3. Pay attention to creases on the baby’s body like under the arms or in their neck. (Babies tend to “store milk” in the creases of their neck!)

4.  Take extra care when removing the baby from the bathtub. Wet babies are slippery!

5. Never leave the baby unattended!

6. After a bath is a great time for a baby massage. Be sure to place a diaper on the baby first and try to finish the massage before the baby gets cold.  Then dress the baby immediately.

There is no set amount of time a baby’s bath should last. If the baby is enjoying the water, let the baby continue bathing! The more comfortable a baby is in the water, the better for development. Baths can also be a soothing way to transition into nighttime hours. However, if the baby gets too upset at bathtime, then consider moving bathtime to the middle of the day. You can try changing the time to bedtime when they are a few weeks older. 

(Resources: Your Guide to Becoming a Newborn Care Specialist, Haleigh Almquist/Brittany Hunt, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and Your Baby’s First Year, Steven P. Shelov, M.D., F.A.A.P. )

Bathtime for Preemies

  *A premature baby should not be given a bath in the traditional sense. Bathe him/her in an area that is warmed, possibly involving a space heater, due to the baby’s limited ability to regulate body temperature. Soaps should be avoided as they can irritate a premature baby’s skin. It’s best to use warm water and a sponge. Preemies can become very overstimulated by baths. If this is the case, you can perform a swaddled bath-just as it sounds. You bathe the baby while in a swaddled blanket and immersed into water that covers the body, except the head and neck. Once the bath is completed, wrap the baby in a warm towel and dress the baby immediately.

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