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Regular baths are important for keeping your baby's skin healthy and soft. It's natural to feel a bit intimidated by bath time at first. Newborns seem tiny and fragile, and they can get surprisingly squirmy in the water. With good information and a bit of practice, however, bath time can be a safe and relaxing bonding time for parent and baby.

How Often to Bathe a Baby

Unless they get into something messy, babies typically need to bathe every two or three days. For babies with dry skin or tight curls, daily baths can wash away natural oils that keep skin and hair soft and healthy.

Some aspects of bathing, like washing hair, can be done just once a week.

person bathing a baby LucaLorenzelli / Getty Images

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Necessary Equipment for Bath Time

Make sure to have a dry towel and fresh clothing on hand. Babies cannot regulate their body temperature, so it helps to get them warm and dry as soon as possible.

Parents can buy special baby bathtubs or, if the baby is held carefully, they can be bathed in a clean sink or basin. Parents also need wash cloths and baby-safe soap.

baby playing with rubber ducks after bath in bed Tatyana Tomsickova Photography / Getty Images

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When and How to Give Baby a Sponge Bath

Until their umbilical cord dries and falls off, it's recommended to give newborns a sponge bath instead of imersing them in a tub.

Make sure the room is warm. Lay the baby onto a bathing pad or thick towel near a clean basin or sink. Wash the babies face without using soap, just a warm, wet washcloth or cotton ball. Mild, unscented soap can be applied to the rest of their body. Try to keep water away from the umbilical cord.

mother washing baby's face with cloth Photolove / Getty Images

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When and How To Bathe Baby in the Tub

When the umbilical cord is gone, usually a few weeks after birth, the baby is ready to be bathed in a tub. Gather everything in one place so there's no need to leave the room during the bath. Use lukewarm water.

Hold the baby or lay them so their head is never in the water. Wash their face carefully with a wet washcloth, avoiding soap near their eyes. Next, wash the rest of the body. If you want to use lotion, apply it after drying them with a towel.

person bathing a baby in tub Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

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How To Know if a Soap or Shampoo is Safe

Specific baby care products do exist, but parents aren't limited to these options. Any mild, nonirritating soap should do the trick. Non-soap, lipid-free liquid cleansers are another alternative.

If the baby has a negative reaction to any product, stop using it and discuss the reaction with your pediatrician.

Baby bathing Vesnaandjic / Getty Images

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Water Safety Tips for Bathing a Baby

Even the smallest amount of water can pose a risk for a tiny infant. Never leave a baby alone in the tub, even for a few seconds. Make sure the tub is cleaned after every use and that the water is not too hot or cold.

A non-stick mat in the bathroom or tub is also a good idea, as spilled water from a baby basin can be dangerous for parents, especially when they're holding the baby.

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How to Clean Your Baby's Hair

Gently rub or comb a baby's hair frequently to remove dead skin. Once or twice a week, put some mild, no-tears shampoo onto a wet washcloth and massage the top of the baby's head. The soft spot on top might seem daunting, but gentle pressure shouldn't hurt them.

Mom cleaning her baby's hair with sponge Sasiistock / Getty Images

 

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Washing Private Areas

The diaper area is the last thing to wash during a typical bath.

Always wash a baby's vulva from front to back. Don't pull back the foreskin if a baby is uncircumcised. The foreskin is fused to the head of the penis during the first months of life, meaning dirt can't get underneath it and forcing it back can cause damage.

mother bathing baby

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How to Keep Baby Calm and Happy in the Bath

Try talking to the baby during bath time. Babies understand language before they begin to talk and even before they can understand the words, the rhythm of a loved one's voice is soothing.

Move smoothly and calmly, letting the baby adjust to the feeling of the water and washcloth. Over time, baths can become the most relaxing part of a baby's routine.

mother giving her baby a bath

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Between-Bath Wash Ups

Sometimes a baby doesn't need a full bath but could use a wash. This is relatively simple. Lay the baby out onto a changing table or other flat, comfortable surface. Use warm, wet cotton balls to clean around their eyes, using a different piece of cotton for each eye to prevent infection. Then, move to the folds of the neck, and around the ears and nose.

Wash the baby's bottom and genital area with water and fresh cotton wool. Dry them off and put on a fresh diaper.

Mother cleaning her baby's eye with cotton wool Arthit Somsakul / Getty Images

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.