By Amel Mukhtar
Handling a sensitive and slippery newborn for their first bath can feel like an intimidating task – especially if they’re your first. Your baby is at their most vulnerable and everything from the room temperature to your positioning is a delicate balancing act. So, to save you from waves of panic, we spoke to an expert for the ultimate guide to bathing babe.
Step 1 – When to bathe
Depending on what you read, advice on when to give baby their first wash ranges from a week to a month. In fact, if your baby is healthy and full-term there’s no reason why you can’t start bathing them right away.
In general, your newborn will not have many opportunities to get dirty so daily baths are unnecessary, but do try to avoid giving them a bath if they are hungry or tired as this can affect their sleeping pattern. And while baths aren’t a must every night in the first few weeks, as they grow a warm bath can help set up a bedtime routine, so feel free to introduce it as a nightly thing if if your baby really enjoys the experience.
Step 2 – Where to set up
To avoid awkward positioning, in the first few weeks it’s best to wash your baby in the kitchen sink or in a small, plastic baby bath.
Step 3 – What to prepare
Your infant will need your complete attention for every moment of their bath time. In order to focus on your baby in a relaxed way, it’s important to prep.
Gather everything you’ll need for bath time before you get started and make sure the room is nice and warm. Around 24° is ideal as babies lose body heat rapidly.
Get yourself two towels, a washcloth, cotton wool, a clean nappy, fresh clothes, and a gentle cleanser like Oilatum Junior Bath Additive (which is gentle to the skin and cleanses without disrupting the moisture barrier). You might also need a gentle moisturiser post-bath like Oilatum Junior Cream if your baby has dry skin – it moisturises your child’s skin and provides effective treatment for eczema and is gentle enough to use from day one.
Step 4 – How to run the bath
The ideal temperature for baby’s bath is 37-38°, which is roughly body temperature. Swirl the water with your hand to ensure there are no hot or cold patches and test the temperature with your wrist or elbow as they are more sensitive. You don’t need too much water either – two inches of water should be enough.
Step 5 – Washing their face
Before putting them in the bath, hold your baby on your knee and using a fresh cotton ball and warm water to wash their face. Gently wipe around each eye from the inner corner outward and swab around the mouth, under the chin and behind the ears (but avoid putting anything in the ears).
Step 6 – Washing their hair
Support your baby over the bowl and use plain water to wash their hair. Massage their scalp with the pads of your fingers – don’t be afraid to gently wash the fontanelles (soft spots) on the top of the head. You can skip this step if your newborn doesn’t respond well to the feeling of water on their head.
Step 7 – How to place them in the bath
Your newborn’s delicate skin PH-balance may be affected in the bath, leaving them more vulnerable to dry skin conditions, particularly if you live in a hard water area. Add Oilatum Junior Bath Additive to the water before placing your baby in the bath – it forms an emollient film on the skin surface to reduce moisture loss and to gently soothe, soften and hydrate the skin.
You’ll need a stable grip and position, so make sure you are comfortable. Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders. Use your other hand to gently wash them.
Step 8 – Washing the upper body
Keeping their head out of the water, pay special attention to your baby’s hands and neck (where there are the most skin creases) and clean between the fingers and toes. Wash their torso and don’t be afraid to clean any crust around the umbilical cord carefully if your baby still has a stump. Continually swish water on your child gently without splashing to keep them warm.
Step 9 – Washing the nappy area
Be very gentle with your baby’s private parts. Wash your baby’s bottom and genital area with warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and use a barrier cream to protect your baby’s skin. Use a cleanser on your infant’s bottom as this will help to prevent nappy rash.
Step 10 – How to dry them off
Place your baby on a warm towel while you pat them dry with another, dabbing between the folds and taking care not to rub their skin. If your baby has irritated skin, massage a gentle moisturiser into their skin, first warming it between your palms. Oilatum Junior Cream is specially developed for babies with dry skin conditions. Avoid powders as they might irritate your baby’s breathing passages. Finish off by putting your infant in a fresh nappy and some warm cotton clothes.
Oilatum Junior Cream and Oilatum Junior Bath Additive are specially developed to treat your child’s dry and eczema prone skin. Shop the range here.
Oilatum Junior Cream contains light liquid paraffin and white soft paraffin. Oilatum Junior Bath Additive contains light liquid paraffin. Always read the label.