Bathing your newborn Techniqe I

Bathing a slippery newborn can be a nerve-racking experience. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you master the basics.

Bathing a slippery newborn can be a nerve-racking experience. Your baby may not like it much, either. But stay calm. With a little practice, you'll both start to feel more comfortable at bath time. Start by learning the basics.

How often does my newborn need a bath?

There's no need to give your newborn a bath every day. In fact, bathing your baby more than several times a week may dry out his or her skin. If you're quick with clean diapers and fresh burp cloths, you're already cleaning the parts that really need attention — the face, neck and diaper area.

Is a sponge bath good enough?

Yes. Sponge baths are usually the best option at first, at least until the area around the umbilical cord heals. Sponge baths are more convenient than tub baths, and they're easier on your newborn.

Here's what you need:

  • A warm place with a flat surface. A bathroom or kitchen counter, changing table or firm bed will work. Even a blanket or towel on the floor is OK if it's warm enough.
  • A soft blanket, towel or changing pad. Spread it out for your baby to lie on.
  • A free hand. Always keep one hand on your baby. On a changing table, use the safety strap as well.
  • A sink or shallow plastic basin to hold the water. Run several inches of warm water into the basin or sink. Check the water temperature with your hand to make sure it's not too hot.
  • Essential supplies. Gather a washcloth, a towel, cotton balls, mild baby shampoo, mild moisturizing soap, baby wipes, a clean diaper and a change of clothes.

How do I give a sponge bath?

Photo of parent washing baby's earKeep your baby warm during a sponge bath. Expose only the parts you're washing.

Undress your baby and wrap him or her in a towel. When you're ready to begin the bath, lay your baby on his or her back on the towel or pad you've prepared. Wet the washcloth, wring out excess water and wipe your baby's face. There's no need to use soap. Use a damp cotton ball or clean cotton cloth to wipe each eyelid, from the inside to the outside corner.

When you're ready to move on, plain water is usually OK. If your baby is smelly or dirty, use a mild moisturizing soap. Pay special attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck and in the diaper area. Also wash between your baby's fingers and toes. To keep your baby warm, expose only the parts you're washing.

Continue in Part II