From sponge baths to splashing in the big tub, bath time with baby evolves through three stages during his first year. Here’s a step-by-step guide for each stage.
Bath Time for Newborns
Newborn baths should be sponge baths until the umbilical cord stub falls off, the navel heals, and (if he was circumcised) the circumcision heals. It’s important to only sponge-bathe your baby at this stage, because getting the naval or circumcised penis wet before they heal may cause infection.
Throughout the first year, 3 baths per week is plenty as long as you’re thoroughly cleaning your baby’s diaper area during diaper changes. Bathing more often is unnecessary, and may dry out his skin.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for sponge baths:
- Be sure the room where you plan to bathe your baby is warm (at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Gather everything you need: Towel(s), a soft washcloth, a large bowl filled with warm water (not hot to the touch), mild baby soap & lotion, a clean diaper, and clothes.
- Choose a bathing surface. You could spread a towel on a soft surface like a changing table or a bed. Some parents like to do sponge baths in a sink, using a sink insert like this one. You can also use an infant tub with a removable newborn sling, like this (before purchasing an infant tub confirm that it was manufactured on or after October 2, 2017—when new safety standards were implemented). The important thing is that your baby is not immersed in water.
- Undress your baby and lay him on the bathing surface. You may want to cover his body with a towel to keep him cozy.
- Dampen the washcloth and gently clean his face with water only.
- Add a small amount of baby soap to the water and wash the rest of his body, saving his genitals for last. If you covered him with a towel, uncover and wash one area at a time. If he was circumcised, avoid washing the head of his penis until it’s healed. For girls, clean the genital area from front to back.
- Be sure to clean hard-to-reach spots behind his ears, in the creases of his arms, between his toes, etc.
- Pat him dry and, if you wish, apply mild baby lotion before getting him dressed.
Bath Time for Infants Who Can’t Sit Independently
When your baby’s naval and/or circumcision is healed, it’s time for an infant tub. This one (also linked above) is a popular choice. Here’s what to keep in mind for bathing your baby in an infant tub.
- Gather all supplies (same as for a sponge bath).
- Fill the infant tub with about 2 inches of warm (not hot to the touch) water.
- Gently lower your baby into the infant tub.
- Bathe him as you would during a sponge bath, pouring warm water over his body to keep him warm.
- Transfer him to a towel, pat him dry, and apply mild baby lotion if you wish (a towel with a hood will keep him extra warm).
Bath Time for Infants Who Can Sit Independently
When your baby can sit independently, it’s time for the big tub! Be sure he’s had plenty of practice sitting, and can sit and play without toppling over. By now you’re a pro at washing your little one, just be sure to always follow bath time safety tips to avoid slips, falls, bumps, burns, and potentially life-threatening accidents.
Lastly, don’t forget the bath toys! Tub play has unique developmental benefits, which you can read about here.