After enduring nine difficult months of pregnancy, you finally made it through the ordeals of labour and delivery. Looking at your reward-the newborn baby-you don't even remember the pain anymore.
For the first time, you feel the joy and excitement of motherhood. And Oh, what a sigh of relief; the baby is finally out and you are now a mother. It's time to go home and start life with your little pumpkin.
After you got home, you soon realize there are so many "firsts" to experience, and you don't even know where to start.
While there are definitely many things to sort out, your baby's first bath is usually the first real milestone you have to overcome as a first-time mom.
You know the baby needs a bath, but you are apprehensive about it. Why? Because the tiny pumpkin looks so delicate and you're not sure you know how to hold her properly. You keep wondering how wiggly and slippery she would be once she is covered with that soapy water. Looks scary! There’s no need to fear; the tips that'll soon be shared here will help make bath time a breeze for you. You will soon discover it’s not a scary task after all.
But before that, let's quickly look at a very important aspect of bathing a newborn that many new parents do not obviously know about.
How often do babies need a bath?
You must have probably noticed the nice fresh scent on your baby’s skin. While it would be really nice to have her smell that way all the time, the exposure and touches will eventually make it necessary to clean her up.
Unlike adults and young children, newborn babies don’t need to take their bath every day. This is because, they hardly get dirty; it seems they are always smelling nice and looking ever fresh, except of course when they poop or spit up.
So, as long as you keep their hands, face and bottoms clean in between baths, babies may just need to have their bath two or three times every week. However, for toddlers, bathing should be done more frequently.
Generally, some new-borns show signs of distress when bathing them while some don’t even make a fuss at all. Whichever is the case with your babe, don’t be discouraged as both scenarios are completely normal. If your baby doesn’t like baths, start with a “top and tail” bath the first day, and then a proper bath next time.
It’s advisable to use warm water for bathing infants.
Benefits of bathing your baby
Apart from cleanup, bathing your baby has many interesting benefits. Three of these are mentioned below:
- Soothe a fussy baby: As a first-time mom, handling a fussy baby can be incredibly difficult. Soaking the baby in a bathtub can help calm her down. Depending on the one she likes, you can either rub or cuddle just to help her relax even more.
- Bathing strengthens your attachment to the child: Apart from maintaining your baby’s freshness and cleanliness, bathing helps to strengthen the bond between you and her.
- Longer periods of sleep: Your baby is more likely to feel relaxed after a bath especially if she’s comfortable with it. As a result, she may tend to sleep for longer hours after bathing in the evening.
Top Tips for First moms
Now to the main deal…Here are seven top tips for first moms to bath their baby.
Pick a good time
Bathing your newborn more than three or four times a week can leave her skin very dry. So, to maintain her delicate soft skin, you need to pick the right moments within the week to give her a good bath.
Although some babies don’t generally like having their bath, choosing a good time can make bathing less stressful or more enjoyable. So, you may want to choose that time of the day when the baby is well-rested and not feeling hungry. You shouldn’t give a bath immediately after a meal or when the baby is still sleeping. Evening bath is good because it tends to encourage sleep afterwards. Thus, babies tend to feel more relaxed and sleep more during the night after having their bath in the evening. So, if choose to bath your little pumpkin at this time, make sure it’s after she has taken her meal and rested well-preferably one hour. Only introduce the baby to the bath after you’re both comfortable and relaxed.
Apart from evenings, you can also choose other periods of the day as long as it works for both of you. Once you find a good time, try turning it into a routine. This helps to make the baby get used to bathing.
Have all your baby's supplies in place
When preparing for the bath, make sure you gather all the baby's supplies and have them safely positioned within an arm's length from where you are bathing the child.
Also, ensure all the bottles you will need are properly lined up, opened and ready to pour. This will help to prevent any likelihood of you trying to open a bottle with one arm while supporting your child with the other during the bath. Make sure you always keep an eye on your baby while getting any supplies.
Other items you may want to keep close include a towel, clothes, diaper, barrier cream and soap (not always necessary). A thermometer can also be handy; at least to check the temperature of the water if you're not sure. Usually, the allowable temperature is between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use very little soap.
Babies hardly get dirty, except when they spit out or soil their diapers, so you don't need a lot of soap to bath them. Just use a bit of soap and shampoo to wash their bottoms, hair and hand. Ensure you use your soap sparingly. Also, make sure the water is lukewarm; it should neither be cold or hot.
Also, ensure that the bath products you are using are all tear-free and mild. The shampoo should be the last thing you apply. You don't want to keep your baby in soapy water for too long; doing that can expose her to cold. Bath times are better when they are not too long.
Like we established earlier, babies don’t easily get dirty. So giving a sponge bath is advisable especially if the child still got the umbilical cord attached. Apart from bathing her a couple of times weekly, pay careful attention to her diaper area and chin, where her poo and spits do normally build up. Make sure you clean these areas frequently with warm water and replace the diapers when soiled. At this point, you may not need to use soap. Also, make sure you don’t submerge the child in water when giving the sponge bath. Try as much as you can to keep the area under the umbilical cord dry.
Start bathing by gently washing her face with lukewarm water and a soft washcloth. Then if possible, wipe the area under her eyes with cotton balls. After cleaning, pat the face, neck and ears dry. Never leave your baby's side during baths except there is someone around to hold her. Just one inch of water is enough to dry a baby.
Expect some tears
Bathing is usually a shocking experience for many infants, especially when it's their first time. So, it's normal for your baby to fuss and howl. It's advisable to keep the bath short if you discover your baby doesn't like it. Dry her quickly with a clean towel and cover her well with a warm cloth. For the baby’s genital, use a bit of soap and lukewarm water.
It is also common for babies to blow out their diapers immediately after dressing them. Don't be discouraged; you'll soon get used to it.
Take it easy with the baby
Babies are tender and have very delicate skin. So, you have to take it easy when handling them during a bath. Ease your baby into bath by gently lowering into the water. As a first time mom, it is advisable to have someone close by to help, at least for the first couple of times.
Sometimes you may need to step out of the bath. Leaving your baby all by her self is the last thing you want to do, even if the water is very small. This is why having someone around to help is important. Perhaps, two people will do a better job in soothing a howling babe.
While bathing, have the person hold the child while you wash her down or the other way round. While washing, use a soft washcloth and go from up to down (that is the face, ears, neck, torso, hands, legs, and then finally, the bum). Try to reach every area, especially those skin folds and tiny creases. Also, don't forget to clean around the umbilical cord if there's still a stump.
Keep it toasty
Apart from using warm water, it also helps to keep it toasty inside the bathing room. Ensure the room is heated to a warm temperature (preferably, 75 to 80 degree celsius) before you start bathing. This helps to keep baby warm even when they are out of the water. Confirm the temperature of the water using your elbow or the inside of your wrist.
Finally, don't hit your daughter's head on the wall because your shaky hands wouldn't allow you to properly transfer her from sink to counter, or because you can't deal with her incessant fuss and cry.
Don't get discouraged even if your baby is uncomfortable and fussy in the water. Give her some time, and she will soon get used to being inside water.
Follow the tips above and you will end up becoming the mother you dreamed of.
And then, you can live happily ever after.