“In taking a bath one is admitting he is dirty. In humility, he strips off all dignity and return as-was-born for natural cleaning.”
― Vincent Okay Nwachukwu
Although hospitals used to bathe babies within hours after birth, research has shown it is better to wait until after the first 6 hours of life. There are better outcomes with relation to body temperature, blood sugar levels, body heat and dry skin.
It is not recommended to fully bathe a newborn who’s umbilical stump has not yet fallen off, instead it is better to sponge bathe around the belly button. The reason for this is that we want to keep that stump nice and dry to allow it to fall off sooner. The longer the umbilical cord stays with our baby, the more opportunity there is for a life threatening infection called omphalitis to set in. There are so many variations of umbilical cord around the world including the dangerous practice of rubbing cow feces into the belly button in Africa?!?! Some of these practices will cause infections in babies and it is important to discuss with your pediatrician any cultural customs you may have regarding the care of the umbilical stump.
Once the cord falls off, three baths per week can be incorporated into your evening routine. Some babies find these baths soothing and it helps them sleep more soundly at night. Babies don’t need to be washed everyday because they do not produce enough sweat to require bathing. Also, more frequent bathing exposes their skin to the drying effects of soap and the rubbing of towels so it may cause red and dry skin.
When you wash your baby you want to use a clean and stable basin (baby tub) with a clean towel lining the bottom so your baby does not slip around. Preparation is everything so you want to have all of your supplies, clean washcloth, bath soap, two dry towels, and a large bowl of warm water.
You want to make sure and use an unscented soap for your child, there is no significant actual difference between antibacterial soap and plain soap. Scented soaps may cause allergic rashes on the skin or make dry skin worse. The tear-free versions are a good idea in case soap gets in their eyes. As far as bathing the scalp is concerned, some babies have a benign (not dangerous) dry flaky rash in that area for the first few months of life which can be moisturized with plain oils like olive oil and safely scraped off with a plastic baby comb.
For cleaning the body as babies get bigger they also start to develop adorable rolls of fat tissue in the neck, arms and legs. In between those cute rolls there is moisture and fungus can start growing so make sure to carefully open up each roll to wipe down with a soapy washcloth. You want to try and quickly clean your baby’s body because they can get very cold exposed to the air, much colder than adults who come out of the shower wet.
A quick tip to prevent getting yourself all wet is the double towel method. You have a towel over your shoulder where you will pick up and place your baby and then have another towel on top of them making a baby towel sandwich.
As your baby grows and is able to stand on their own, you can consider giving them bubble baths in a larger tub. It can become quite dangerous to try and wash a baby that can jump out of a basin over a sink.
After bath time it’s the perfect opportunity for a story. Although I am reminding parents every day about the importance of reading with your children at home, in my own life I find myself skipping the routine for a few days at a time. One memory device that i have found helpful is linking the story to a particular time of the day like bedtime (baby in pajamas?- that means it’s time to read) or right after bath time.
 WHO Recommendations on Newborn Health. Accessed on 03/16/2021. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/259269/WHO-MCA-17.07-eng.pdf;jsessionid=FB9C2E7AF310716433EB5CC62A34A041?sequence=1
 Coffey, Patricia S, and Siobhan C Brown. “Umbilical cord-care practices in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review.” BMC pregnancy and childbirth vol. 17,1 68. 20 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12884-017-1250-7
 Larson EL, Lin SX, Gomez-Pichardo C, Della-Latta P. Effect of antibacterial home cleaning and handwashing products on infectious disease symptoms: a randomized, double-blind trial.
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