Bathing Your Newborn – The How To Guide

Bathing your newborn seems pretty easy.  After all, we all know how to take a bath.  However, bathing a newborn, especially for someone who has never done it before, can be a very daunting task.  Newborns seem like little fragile creatures with tender, delicate skin; and in a certain respect, they are.  Their skin has never been exposed to all the nasty chemicals we have put out there.  Our world can be hard on a little baby.

First off, what is vernix?

When a baby is born she is covered in a thick, white, creamy, lotion-like substance produced during the third trimester, called vernix.  The purpose of vernix is to protect the baby’s skin from becoming prune-like and wrinkly from the water they live in while in utero.  Just like when we soak in a bathtub too long!

Vernix acts as a lubricant during the vaginal delivery of the baby and as an antioxidant and antibacterial agent after the baby is born.  It’s also said to help regulate the baby’s temperature.  Vernix is so moisturizing I’ve even seen midwives get some on their skin when handling the baby for the newborn exam and proceed to rub it into their skin as if it was lotion.

When does a baby need her first bath?

So, how soon does a baby need her first bath?  I’d say to wait at least a day.  I don’t see anything wrong with waiting even a week.  As your baby is born clean she hasn’t done anything to get dirty!

Some hospitals bathe your baby within the first hour of birth, others within six hours.  As the baby doesn’t need a bath and the vernix is a God given gift to the baby, I’d say leave it until you get home, and then leave it a bit longer.  Mothers are always in such a hurry.  Baby’s aren’t like you and I.  They just don’t get very dirty!

Add to your birth plan that you want to bathe your baby, and that you’d like to wait until you get home.  I usually wait a week.  I guarantee you that you will not be able to tell the difference.  Actually, the only difference I would be able to say is their smell.  My newborns smell like newborns, not like Johnson and Johnson baby wash.  And, that brings me to another point.  Don’t use chemical baby wash on your baby! This is very important as babies have very sensitive skin and can actually react to some of the chemicals in these over the counter products.

What kind of baby bath should I use?

There are many types of baby bathtubs out there on the market.  To be honest, I just looked on Amazon for the one with the highest reviews.  At the time it was this one, except in pink.  It’s what I use now and it works great.

Another option, if you don’t want to buy a tub and would like to save a few bucks, is to bathe your baby in the bathtub.  Just use an inch or two of water and lay a folded towel down to put your baby on.  You’ll want to be a little more diligent in keeping the rag warm with fresh warm water or your baby will get cold.  Be careful not to fill the tub too deep though or you risk your baby getting water in the mouth and drowning.

You can use this same principle in the kitchen sink.  If you are using a single sink there may be room to lay her down.  If using a double sink you’ll need to support her with your hands.

I’ve also handed my little naked baby to my husband while he was in the shower.  He’d open the door just enough so I can wash her up while he held her.  Then he’d rinse her and I’d take her back to oil her up and dress her.  If you’re in a hurry this is definitely the fastest way to go.

Before Bath Routine

As I wash my baby in a baby bathtub on my kitchen counter I have everything I need laid out right next to her tub.  There’s plenty of room on my counter so everything is at my fingertips.  Before her bath I grab:

  • a clean outfit
  • diaper
  • wipes (just in case)
  • Q-tips
  • coconut oil
  • towel
  • two rags
  • soft baby brush
  • calendula soap

I lay everything out next to her tub and then start filling it up.

How do you actually bathe a newborn and what soaps do you use?

I try to never use chemical baby wash on my baby.  I do love the smell of my baby after using them, just like lots of mothers, but when I feel weak and think about using one I just take a look at the ingredient list.  Not nice or healthy.  The soap I use is something I used to make and now my daughter makes.  It’s called Calendula soap.  It is a basic moisturizing cold processed soap that I (now her) added calendula too.  It is a very mild soap.  Yes, if it gets into her eyes it will sting.  However, I’m big and so therefore I take extra precautions to protect my baby’s eyes from the soap.  I cover her eyes with a rag.  Pretty simple solution.

And, onto the subject of a rag… If you have a son, cover him with a rag!  I do this with my boys and girls just to keep them warm anyways but if you have a boy, and he gets a little cold, he’s going to pee on you.  Pretty plainly put.  When I get ready to bathe my baby I grab two rags.  One, I put on their tummy and parts, and the other I use to wash them with.  I periodically put fresh water on the first rag as it gets cold pretty quickly.

Washing your baby is pretty easy and since they have little bodies it’s pretty quick too.  If she has cradle cap I recommend putting some coconut oil on their head, working it through their hair and scalp.  You can do this at any time but about an hour before her bath will help it soften up a little so you can clean it off.  Before you wash her hair you can use the baby brush to soften any dead skin she may have on her scalp.  Then, cover her eyes gently and wash and rinse her hair.

An area I have found to get dirty and stinky, particularly with chubby babies, is around the neck and behind their ears.  Babies spit up a lot.  It’s very easy to get milk in these areas where it will proceed to rot and stink.  For their skin health you need to do your best to keep it clean.  If you don’t, she won’t only stink but her skin will get very red and inflamed.

After-bath Routine

After I’m done washing her up I lay her on the prepared towel I have out.  Babies aren’t used to our environment so they can easily get dry skin around their wrists, elbows, and ankles. After drying her off I recommend putting coconut oil on these areas in abundance as well as behind their ears and around the folds of their neck and inner legs.  These areas don’t get exposed to air when they’re chubby so it helps their skin to remain healthy.  I then rub down the rest of their body with coconut oil just to soften and protect their skin.

I use the Q-tips to clean their ears, but be careful.  You must hold your baby’s head still so she doesn’t jerk and accidentally get hurt.

In Conclusion

Well, that about sums it up!  It may sound like a lot of steps at first but it truly doesn’t take very long to bathe your baby.  When you’re finished you will not only have a sweet smelling baby to snuggle with but you and your little one will have had some play time together in the water.

If you have any additional tips you’d like to share please feel free to share below!