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How to Bathe Your Baby

You've learned how to hold your beautiful baby, you've learned how to feed her, but now you're facing a new challenge: Baby needs a bath.

Some new parents find tub time a bit scary. You can overcome your initial lack of confidence, but before you do, here are some "don'ts."

Wait awhile

Don't put your baby in the tub for a few weeks after he or she is born: It's best to sponge-bathe your infant until the umbilical cord falls off and is completely healed. After that, a couple of baths a week is usually enough until he or she starts crawling.

Don't bathe your baby when you're in a rush. You want to enjoy this special time together. Don't bathe your infant right after he or she has eaten or when he or she is cranky — just before naptime, for example.

Don't leave your baby alone in the tub, even to answer the phone or doorbell. About 70 children under the age of 5 drown each year in bathtubs, and an additional 40 are injured — some in as little as 2 inches of water, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Special inflatable or sponge bathtubs are available, but they aren't necessary. What's important is providing support for your baby's head and avoiding any chance that your child will slip. If you do use a special tub or support, you must still never leave your baby unattended. 

Make a plan

Keeping a hand on the baby at all times is a good rule of thumb. Here is a 7-step plan for your infant's bathing comfort:

  • Assemble all the items needed in a warm room. A suggested "bath kit" includes a bathtub or basin; 2 towels and 2 washcloths; baby soap and shampoo; and a clean diaper, clothes, and a blanket.

  • Fill the bathtub with warm (not hot) water. To your touch, the water temperature should feel tepid.

  • Wash the baby's face first. Wet a washcloth and squeeze out any extra water, then gently wash from the nose outward, avoiding any soap near the eyes. Wipe the outer folds of your baby's ears and behind the ears with the washcloth.

  • Unless an infant tub is used, wash the head and shampoo the scalp before putting the baby into a tub. This can be done while the infant is still bundled in a towel. Wet your baby's head with water, add a small amount of shampoo, and massage his or her head. No damage can be done to the "soft spot" when handled with gentleness. Rinse and pat dry.

  • Lay the baby on the counter and unbundle him or her. 

  • Once your baby is in the tub, hold his or her head in 1 hand. Wash her body with soap on a washcloth. Clean the diaper area last. Rinse with a second clean washcloth. What if your baby has a hard time getting used to the bath? Bundle him or her in a towel and place your baby, with the towel, into the bathtub. Remove the towel after a few minutes.

  • Dry your baby well. Baby lotions should be used only when the baby is on a secure surface. After dressing your baby, bundle him or her in a blanket.