Child safety tips: Learn how to give your baby his or her first bath safely

Giving a baby its first bath in the tub

Your newborn is home, and his or her umbilical cord stump has finally fallen off. Your baby is ready for his first bath!

The first step is to decide where you are going to bathe the baby. One option is to use an infant tub. Not all infant tubs, however, hold a newborn adequately in order to give you both hands free to wash your little one, so be prepared to cradle the baby the entire bath time with one arm while you use the other to wash. Another option is to use a sink, but again, this requires you to use one arm to cradle the child. A third option is to lay a towel in the bottom of the bathtub and bathe the baby in shallow water. The advantage of this method is the baby lies on her back while you have both hands free to handle the baby.

Giving a baby its first bath in the tub

Once the bath location has been decided, the second step is to gather all the materials for the bath at the bathing spot. Under no circumstances should you leave your baby unattended in the bath, no matter what kind of infant tub you have or no matter how briefly you will be gone. If necessary, take your baby out of the water dripping wet rather than risk a bathing tragedy. The materials you should have for the bath are:

  • – a baby washcloth
  • – cotton balls
  • – cotton swabs
  • – baby shampoo if needed
  • – baby body wash
  • – a few towels for drying off

Once the supplies are within arm’s reach, it is time for the third step- preparing the water. If you are using a thermometer, the water temperature should be between 96 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are judging the temperature by feeling, be sure to use the inside of your wrist to test the water, and not your hand. The inside of your wrist better resembles the sensitivity of your new baby’s skin. The water should feel slightly warmer than tepid. The water level should be no more than 3 to 4 inches of water.

Once the water is prepared, you are ready for step four: washing the baby! Gently immerse the baby into the water. His reaction may not be what you expect- it could seem to be a pleasurable experience to the baby or he may express his dislike of bath time vocally. In the case of the latter, a first bath is simply a new experience, and bath time can grow to become a ritual he and you enjoy. In any case, wet and wash the baby’s head with water and shampoo, taking care not to let it dribble in her face. Most babies do not appreciate that. If you are cradling the baby with one hand, use the other to wash the baby. Use moistened cotton balls to gently wipe the eyes to the outer corners. Wipe the face with a damp washcloth, and then proceed to add soap to the towel for the baby’s body. Be sure to wash the neck thoroughly, as this is often the “dirtiest” part of a baby because it collects milk, formula, and drool. Take care to wipe the baby’s hands. People love to have babies grasp their fingers, so washing a baby’s hand after such contact can minimize germs. See that you extend the baby’s arms and legs enough in order to wash all creases and crannies. Lastly, wash the baby’s genitals. It is important that girls be washed from front to back to avoid infection. Rinse off the baby using the plain water in the bath and the washcloth.

Prepare for the final step- removing the baby from the tub. Spread the drying towel across your body and hold it with your chin. With both hands firmly lift the baby from the tub. Bring her close to your body and the waiting towel and wrap her up. Congratulations! You and your baby have completed the first bath!

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