The Ultimate Answer to How Often to Bathe a Newborn Baby

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A mom is bathing her newborn baby with baby tub

Having a baby comes with many firsts. The first time you see your baby. The first time that you feed your baby and change his diaper, and the first time that you bath your baby.

After a few children, I can tell you that bathing a newborn isn’t exactly as magical as the first few “firsts.” Typically, bathing a newborn involves a lot of crying and unhappiness, followed by plenty of nursing and snuggles to make up for it. You’ll feel bad; trust me.

Newborn bath time is part of life, so learning how often to bathe newborn is one of the essentials in baby grooming. You want to make sure you’re following recommendations and doing it correctly.

Ready to bathe your newborn? Keep reading.

The first time that you saw your baby, chances are she was covered with a white, sticky substance called vernix. Your first thought might be to wash all of that away, but more evidence shows us that vernix plays a vital role in the early hours and days of a newborn baby’s life. Many hospitals now delay bathing after birth.

Now that we know the benefits, many hospital’s protocols are to wait for 8 to 24 hours to give a newborn first bath. For babies born by cesarean section, hospitals often wait up until 48 hours. Some hospitals tell the parents to decide, telling them to bathe whenever they want to at home.

The Benefits of Delayed Bathing

So, what are the benefits of delayed bathing(source)? Here are some to consider.

1. Reduced Risk of Infection

Vernix is made of skin cells that your baby created early in his development, and it contains proteins that can help prevent common bacterial infections. It’s similar to a natural antibiotic ointment, and babies come out covered in an anti-germ barrier. Vernix can protect against common diseases, such as E. Coli and Group B Strep.

2. Stabilizes Infant Blood Sugar

Many babies have trouble with low blood sugar after birth. One of my babies sure did! Babies have to adjust to life outside of the womb quickly, and they lost the placenta as a source of blood sugar. Bathing causes your baby to cry, get stressed, and release stress hormones. Stress hormones can cause your baby’s blood sugar to drop.

Low blood sugar after birth can be troublesome. Newborns are tired anyway, but a baby with low blood sugar is too sleepy to wake up and feed. That causes their blood sugar to drop even more. Low blood sugar can be dangerous.

3. Boosts Maternal-Infant Bonding

Babies come out and want to be with their mother, so they need to snuggle skin-to-skin with their mother and given a chance to breastfeed as they wish. The first moments of life aren’t meant to be bathing a baby. As long as the baby doesn’t need immediate medical attention, the baby should be placed on their mother’s chest. It helps to boost maternal and infant bonding. This can be done with c-section deliveries as well.

4. Improved Breastfeeding

Studies and doctors show that breastfeeding has higher success rates when mothers are given the time to stay skin-to-skin with their baby. That time shouldn’t be interrupted by a bath. Babies who feed within the first 30 minutes of life have an easier time learning how to latch because, in the womb, babies spent time rhythmically sucking and swallowing.

After birth, she cries and starts to forget how to suck. Babies who wait longer than an hour to breastfeed can have a hard time latching, sucking, and swallowing. Forget the bath!

5. Improves Temperature Regulation

Babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures after birth. So, bathing your baby too quickly after birth can cause hypothermia. Babies are born into a room that is usually 70 degrees F, but a mother’s womb is 98.6 degrees F. They can quickly become too cold, leading to dropping blood sugar and other complications.

How Often Should You Bathe a Newborn?

Now that your baby is home after childbirth, you’ll wonder how often to bathe newborn baby. Bathing babies too frequently can cause eczema or dry skin. However, infrequent bathing can cause infections and make skin conditions, such as eczema, worse, so it requires a balance.

The American Academy of Pediatrics – AAP – recommend that newborn babies don’t get their first bath until their umbilical cord stump falls off. That can take a week or two. Then, after that, the AAP tells parents to bathe their infants three times a week until they reach one-year-old.

How to Give a Sponge Bath?

Most parents want to give a bath before the umbilical cord falls off, and that requires a sponge bath. The cord cannot get wet, and a quick sponge bath is an answer. Here’s how to give a sponge bath.

Gather Supplies

You’ll want to gather up the supplies before you give your baby a sponge bath. You’ll want to have these items within arm’s reach:

  • A dry towel
  • A clean diaper
  • Washcloths
  • Baby Soap

Pick Where to Bathe Your Baby

A lot of parents use baby bathtubs for bathing their newborn, but it’s not necessary. They are convenient because you can place them in the sink or tub. Most have a hammock-style sling that’ll support your baby’s head. The other option is to put your baby on a sponge designed for sponge bathing or a large, folded bath towel.

Wash Small Areas at a Time

Remove your baby’s clothes and diaper, and place her in the bathtub or on the dry towel. Use the other dry towel to cover your baby up as you clean her. Lift part of the towel and wash with warm water and baby soap. For example, you’ll uncover her left leg, clean it with the soap and water.

When Can I Submerge My Baby’s Body in Water?

You cannot submerge your baby’s body in water until the umbilical cord falls off. Getting a cord wet can cause it to become infected and not fall off within the appropriate amount of time. If the cord does get wet, clean the area if necessary and gently pat it dry with a cloth.

Also, if you chose to circumcise your son, then you need to wait until the wound heals before submerging your baby into the water. It could introduce bacteria into the open wound or slow the healing process.

What Type of Baby Tub is Best?

The right type of baby bathtubs makes the process easier. You can find a variety of tubs and pick the one that best fits your needs.

1. Plastic Tubs

Plastic tubs are the standard style of baby bathtubs that are made from durable, hard plastic. Most have a sloped side, which is the baby seat, and a non-slip bottom. Some have a cushioned headrest. You can either fit it over the kitchen or bathroom sink, while some are freestanding.

2. Slings or Hammocks

Bathing a newborn is easier when you have a sling or a hammock bathtub. A sling fits over a standard baby bath, keeping your baby in place. Some are freestanding sling-style tubs.

3. Convertible Tubs

Convertible bathtubs come with several inserts that grow with your baby. Some have slings or different type of support for newborns, such as cushions or contouring. For babies who can sit up, convertible tubs offer a supportive seat or a backrest. As your baby gets older, you can usually remove the support to give your child space to play.

4. Cushion-Style Tubs

A cushion isn’t the traditional style of baby bathtubs. As you might guess, they’re a cushion that is shaped to support your baby and make them more comfortable when they’re in a standard tub or sink. Cushions don’t hold water, but they are either made of a sponge or mesh that lets water pass throughout. You might have to provide some support with these.

5. Inflatable Tubs

Inflatable tubs are usually meant for other babies who can sit up independently. These tubs aren’t as durable than the plastic tubs, but they’re great for storage or travel. As you might guess, these tubs puff up as they inflate, creating a cushioned sides for your baby. Most have non-slip bottoms and a drainage plug.

How Much Water Should I Put in the Baby Bath Tub?

Fill your baby bathtub with two to three inches of water to keep your baby safe. Babies can easily drown, and you don’t want them slipping under the water. Two to three inches is enough to give your baby plenty of water under their body.

To keep your baby warm, pour warm water over his body throughout the bath. Some doctors suggest that using slightly more water can be calming and reduce heat loss. However, make sure that you keep your baby secure during the entire bath.

What Items Do You Need to Prepare for Baby Bathing?

Before you bath your baby, you want to make sure you’ve prepared all of the items. Preparing items ahead of time is the best plan because you never want to leave your baby unattended in the tub, even for a few seconds. Babies can drown, and that’s a risk no one should make to grab a few more towels.

Here are some of the items you should prepare for baby bathing:

  • A baby bathtub or the location where you will bathe your baby
  • A soft towel or two
  • 2-3 washcloths
  • Mild baby shampoo
  • Mild baby soap
  • Gentle lotion
  • A clean diaper
  • A new change of clothing

What is the Recommended Water Temperature for Babies?

A suitable baby bath temperature is absolutely important. The best water temperature for a newborn is between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but you never want to make it hotter than 120 degrees. Most parents are worried about making their baby’s bath water too hot, but you also don’t want to make it too cold. Babies get cold quite quickly, and they’ll be just as uncomfortable in cold water.

5 Tips for Bathing a Newborn Baby

Following specific recommendations by doctors can make bathing your newborn baby easier and also help to ensure their skin stays as healthy as possible.

1. Focus on The “Rolls”

We all love rolly, chubby babies, but those rolls can be a breeding ground of nasty stuff. Milk and other particles can accumulate in those rolls. Doctors recommend that you focus on cleaning those adorable “rolls” around your baby’s neck, arms, and legs. These areas are where dirt and dead skin cells gather, and it can cause skin irritation, leading to infections like eczema or cellulitis.

2. Keep Baby Covered During The Bath

Even in a warm bath, babies can lose their body heat quickly. I use two warm washcloths to help keep my baby’s body covered throughout the bath. Try to cover your baby as much as possible throughout the bath with washcloths and warm water.

3. Keep a Hand on Your Baby

Always have a hand on your baby! This tip is more like a rule. Slippin and falling accounts for 81% of injuries in the bathtub, so don’t let your baby be without your hand on them.

4. Apply Lotion After

After you pat your baby dry, apply a thick, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion to lock moisture into your baby’s skin. A study completed by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that daily application of lotion in the first 32 weeks of life reduces the risk of eczema in babies(source).

5. You Don’t Have to Use Soap

Seriously! A lot of pediatricians recommend that parents don’t use soap. Either way, it doesn’t harm your baby because it’s not like a newborn baby is rolling around in the dirt. Some parents have noticed that using soap more often dries a baby’s skin out quicker, but it’s not harmful.

The best soaps for babies are natural. Look for ingredients that you’re familiar with such as honey, olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and almond oil — the fewer the chemicals, the better and less likely to irritate the skin.

How often to bathe newborn become a concern for more and more mothers. What did your newborn think about his first bath? Did he enjoy it, or did he scream? Let me know about your experiences in the comments!

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