The Science of Infant Bathing
We've all heard the saying that babies don't come with an instruction manual, right? Perhaps you've lamented that fact as you take on parenting without any sort of guide as to the “right” way to do things. But when it comes to bathing, we can look to science to find out that there are some things you can do to make for the best possible bathing experience for your new baby. When you're setting up the baby bath to give your newborn their very first wash, consider this your bathing cheat sheet. First question –
When should you give the first bath?
It used to be the norm that your nurse would give baby a good cleaning up before handing him over to the new parents. If you've ever seen a brand new baby you can understand why it seemed like a good idea. They often emerge covered in vernix, fluids, and an assortment of other things that we'd usually be right to clean off as soon as possible. But for brand new babies, delaying that first clean up is the better choice. Studies have shown that the most important thing in those first moments (and hours) after birth is allowing for skin-to-skin between mother and baby, not just for establishing a breastfeeding relationship, but also for helping them to regulate their own temperature and stabilize blood sugars. The recommendation is to delay the first bath by at least 8 hours, so you can still learn some baby bathing tips from the nursing staff at the hospital after you've both had some time to bond and rest after the birth.
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How often should you bathe your newborn?
You'll hear from some families that bathtime is part of their daily routine, typically as part of the bedtime preparations. While this may work for some families, it's not necessarily the best idea to bathe your baby every day. In fact, dermatologists suggest bathing babies only two or three times a week, in order to prevent skin drying, cracking, and pain from eczema. If your baby seems to have sensitive or dry skin, consider reducing bathtime instead of bathing more frequently in order to give their skin time to recover.
How can you keep your baby warm and happy during bathtime?
The fact is that babies aren't great at regulating their own temperature until they're at least around 12 weeks old. For this reason, keeping them warm and comfortable during bathtime needs some special consideration. Keep the room in which you're bathing warm, keep the length of the bath short – no more than five minutes or so, and keep the baby's body in warm water during the entire bath.
The Warming Comfort Tub is an infant bathing tub from The First Years that has a specially designed tray to allow for warm water to constantly stream down baby's back and neck – a great way to deal with this challenge. Sounds pretty magical, doesn't it? A gentle, warm waterfall while you're lovingly soaped clean by your parents. Plus, with four recline positions, the ability to fit into standard sinks, and a size that works from newborn through toddler, this tub has pretty much all you could ask for in an infant bathtub – plus more.
What kinds of soaps or lotions should you use?
This is a case of less is more. You can add a few drops of a mild soap to the water then you're bathing your baby and use an unscented, hypoallergenic lotion like Aquaphor or Eucerin on any dry areas.
What about the umbilical cord?
Until the stump falls off, the best bathing option is a sponge bath. Simply wipe down any spots that need some cleaning with a warm, damp cloth. You can use the same method if you're facing a particularly messy diaper change or after some feedings if drool or spit-up gets messy.
Before long you'll be taking on baths like a pro. Feel free to come back and share your own tips for mastering bath time!