Bath time is a special opportunity to bond with your baby and let her know how loved she is. It also can be a fun learning experience as you splash around together and name off baby's body parts while you wash them, as well as other brain-boosting bath time activities. And of course, bath time can be soothing and help baby fall asleep. Here are some tips for a fun, safe bath for a sometimes wiggly newborn.
1. For the first few weeks, you can simply give your newborn a sponge bath with a warm, damp cloth. Be sure to clean the genital area after each diaper change.
2. Once the umbilical cord stump has fallen off and the area has healed (usually one to four weeks after birth), you can give baby a bath about three times a week. Early on, you won't need to bathe your baby every day. She won't be getting very dirty (at least until she is able to crawl) and bathing her too much can dry out her skin. Your kitchen sink or a small plastic baby bathtub will be the perfect place for a bath. Be sure to use warm water, and remember, your baby's bath doesn't need to be much longer than about five minutes.
3. Gather all the supplies you will need – mild soap, a plastic cup, a washcloth, a towel, and a fresh diaper – first so that everything is handy.
4. Fill the tub with 3 inches of warm water – around 90 degrees. Be sure to check the temperature first – it should feel warm but not hot on the inside of your wrist.
Slip baby into the tub gently while supporting her neck and head. You can pour cupfuls of water over her body the entire time she's in the bath so she won't get cold. Using mild soap, wash her with the washcloth from top to bottom and front to back. Be extra gentle on her face and near her eyes. You can press the warm cloth to her face to soften any mucus before you wipe it off.
Rinse baby off and lift her back out of the tub while supporting her head and neck with one hand and her bottom with the other. Wet babies are very slippery! You can wrap your hand around her thigh to be sure you are holding on tight. If possible, ask another adult to help receive baby in the towel.
Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A baby can suffer third-degree burns in less than a minute in 140 degree water. Be sure to test water before you put baby in and never place her in the tub while the water is still running, as the temperature can change quickly.
Never leave your baby unsupervised in the tub for even a moment. If something comes up, just pick up baby even if she is still soapy. A baby can drown in an inch of water and in less than a minute.