If you’ve been to antenatal classes, you may well have been shown the technique for bathing your little one, or have seen other mums doing it. You may have been given a quick lesson in bathing your newborn before you left hospital or by your midwife at home, but even if you were actively involved in the demonstration, getting to grips with the job on your own can be a worrying prospect. Some parents may feel slightly daunted about bathing at first, but with the right preparation and confident handling of your baby, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the plunge as soon as you feel ready. Do bear in mind though that two things that most babies dislike at first are getting naked, and getting wet!
But if you do wish to bath your baby you there are some things to consider before you get started.
Where will you bath your baby?
This is not as silly as it sounds. You’ll need to decide whether you use a baby bath, or your own bath. Where will you be most relaxed? Where is nice and warm? What will be the most comfortable for you, especially if you’ve had a caesarean or a difficult labour.
- Decide where you are going to bath your baby
- Using a baby bath allows you to bath her in the warmest room (which may not be the bathroom) and saves you bending over the big bath. However, you may find filling, lifting and emptying a baby bath hard work. You may decide to use the baby bath within the big bath: it can be awkward bending over the rim of the bath, but the advantage is that you can tip it up to empty it afterwards. Or you may choose to buy a baby bath that fits across the rim of your bath, or a changing station with a
built-in bath at waist height
- Of course, you may decide not to use a baby bath at all. In the early days you can bath your baby in the kitchen sink, bathroom basin (if it’s big enough) or in a clean washing up bowl. If you’re using the sink or basin remember to wrap some facecloths around the taps to avoid burns, knocks or bumps
- If you feel confident, you can use the big bath straightaway
- You can buy special baby bath seats which allow you to keep both hands free, but you should never leave your baby unattended, even for a second, as a baby can drown in just a couple of inches of water
- Don’t be tempted to add any “bubble” products to the water
- Gather everything you will need so it’s all within easy reach, bearing in mind that you will only have one hand free until you get to the point where you are lifting your baby out of the bath. You will need:
- Two towels (in case of accidents)
- Cotton wool/baby sponge
- A baby comb
- A clean nappy
- Nappy cream, if used
- If necessary, fresh clothes
How to bath your baby
- Run the cold water into the bath first, then add the hot, testing the temperature at intervals by dipping your elbow in. The water should be no deeper than four inches, and should feel just warmer than tepid, as your baby’s skin is five times more sensitive than an adult’s. You can buy a bath thermometer to be extra sure (ideal temperature is around 25-28C), but always do the elbow test, too
- Undress your baby to her nappy, then gently cleanse her eyes, ears, nose, face and neck creases, using lukewarm water, and a fresh piece of cotton wool for each area (see topping and tailing below)
- It’s easiest to wash your baby’s hair before you put her in the bath. Swaddle your baby in her towel, with her arms tucked inside, and a piece of towel folded over at the back, so that you can dry her head easily afterwards (or use a hooded/different towel). Hold her firmly under one arm, supporting her head with the same hand. Hold her over the bath, tipping her down slightly to avoid the water going in her eyes. Sponge or scoop some water over the back of her head using your free hand,
comb out and rinse any debris, then quickly pat her head dry.
- Unwrap your baby and remove her nappy, cleaning the area with another damp piece of cotton wool. Cradle her in your arms and lower her into the water. Support her head and shoulders with your forearm, and grasp her shoulder and upper arm with the same hand
- Support her bottom with the other hand until she is touching the bottom of the bath, then use this free hand to swish water gently over her body. There is no need to scrub your baby with a sponge or flannel. The idea at this stage is to get her used to the sensation of being in the water, and to help her to relax
- After a few minutes, lift her out of the water, holding her firmly, as her skin will be very slippery. Wrap her snugly in her towel, and lie her on the changing mat, then pat her dry, paying particular attention to skin creases in the neck, arms and legs. If you’re using nappy rash cream, apply it now, then put on a clean nappy and dress her. If she has a lot of hair, she may enjoy a quick spruce up with the baby comb