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Baby’s first bath

Baby's first bath is a special event for new mums and dads. To make sure it goes smoothly, preparation is important.

Baby bath: Getting ready

The first bath will be a sponge bath. Pick a warm room with a flat surface, like a bathroom or kitchen worktop, a changing table or a bed. Cover the surface with a thick towel. Make sure the room is warm enough so the baby doesn’t get cold when he or she comes out of the water.

Assemble all the baby bath products you will need:

  • Cotton wool
  • Clean towel
  • Fresh nappy
  • Clean clothes
  • Warm water - not hot. Check the temperature with your wrist or elbow, or thermometer, and swirl the water around to make sure there are no hot and cold spots.

Never leave your baby alone in a bath - not even for a moment. If you have to go to the phone, the oven or whatever, take your baby with you.

Baby bath: Time for a sponge bath

Babies don’t need a bath every day, but 'topping and tailing' by washing their face, neck, hands and bottom daily is essential.

Gentle sponge baths are perfect for the first few weeks until the umbilical cord falls off, and the navel heals completely.

The basics of bathing a baby:

  • First, undress baby - cradling the head with one hand. Leave the nappy on - wash that area last. Wrap baby in a towel, exposing only those areas that you are washing.
  • Using a baby bath sponge or flannel, clean one area at a time. Start behind the ears then move to the neck, elbows, knees, between fingers and toes. Pay attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck.
  • The hair comes towards the end of bath time so baby doesn't get cold. While newborn babies don't have much hair, you can sponge the few wisps that are there. To avoid getting eyes wet, tip the head back just a little. There's no need for shampoo, just use water.
  • Now it's time to remove the nappy and sponge baby's tummy, bottom, and genitals.
  • Wash little girls from front to back. If there's a little vaginal discharge, don't worry - and don't try to wipe it all away. For boys, leave the foreskin alone. If the baby boy is circumcised, don't wash the head of the penis until it's healed.
  • Using plain water or a mild unperfumed soap, clean around the umbilical stump.
  • Gently pat baby dry. Rubbing the skin will irritate it.

Bath time is over - and your fresh little baby is ready for a clean nappy and clothes!

Baby bath: Bathtub time

Give your baby sponge baths for the first month or so - until the umbilical cord falls off, the navel heals, and a circumcision heals. Then it's time to try baby bathtub. Not all babies like the transition, so if your baby protests, go back to sponge baths for a week or so, then try again. Bathing a baby is a process - an adjustment for both baby and parent.

To prepare:

  • Select a baby bath made of thick plastic that is the right size for your baby. An insert for young babies is ideal - and keeps the baby's head out of the water. A slip-resistant backing on the tub will keep it from moving during bath time.
  • Don't try to use bath seats or bath rings. These are for older babies who can sit up on their own - not for newborn babies.
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