Bathing a newborn
Getting ready for the first time
For the first bath you must prepare appropriately, both the needed space, and yourself. Although it is natural to feel stress and fear of harming your baby at the beginning, you should remain calm. The baby will sense your feelings, and there is no hope of him relaxing if you pass your stress to him. So take a deep breath and remember there always must be a first time.
Your baby, although tiny, is not that delicate as it seems. With caution and a principle of head support observed no harm will come to him. Even when the first baths are not perfect and the baby cries, or is unwashed in some places, this is not the end of the world.
Preparing the space well will help you to stay calm:
arrange places for bathing and for body care (changing) to be close to each other;
ensure you are comfortable while holding the baby; it may be a good idea to use a bathtub support or, when a bathroom is small, to bath the baby in a room;
place all necessary things, accessories for baby care, bathing and changing, so that they are at hand where you need them - this way you will not run around trying to find what you need;
air temperature in a room for bathing and care should be a little higher than during the day and be around 24 °C.
Eyes, and ears, and nose and...
washing your own hands. Before you start any baby care activities, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, so bacteria from your hands do not get to baby's eyes or onto his skin.
Before putting the baby into the bath, put him on a changing table to clean his face and his intimate parts.
You should wash baby's face once a day. However, if during the day any food remains are left on it, or other contamination appears, clean his face using, for example, a cosmetic pad moistened with water or saline.
For washing baby's eyes use sterilized gauze swabs and saline or bottled water, or boiled tap water. Moisten the swab and wipe the eye, collecting contaminations and dirt from the whole day, from the temple towards the inner eye corner (not in a reverse direction). Use separate swabs for each eye, to avoid spreading any possible germs.
Nose cleaning, when the baby is healthy and there is no discharge inside, is not very demanding - just wash the skin around the nose and under it with a moistened swab or pad. The nose of a healthy baby cleans itself with a sneeze. During cold you can dilute the discharge with saline/marine water spray and remove its excess with an aspirator.
You should know that for ear care the principle: the less intervention, the better applies. You mustn't put buds or wipes into ears; also, you should not use olives promoting earwax outflow without consulting a doctor. Earwax has a very important protective role and prevents bacterial and fungal growth, and its excess is automatically removed from the ear canal. You can delicately remove this excess earwax visible outside in the ear auricle with a moistened cosmetic pad or swab, and this is the only recommended ear care activity.
You must maintain baby's oral hygiene, and in particular, hygiene of gums, already at the neonatal period. Clean the gums once a day with a sterile gauze swab or a piece of tetra nappy moistened with boiled or bottled water and wrapped around your index finger. Massage the gums delicately with a sweeping out movement, to remove remains of food. Do not forget about the tongue or inner surfaces of lips and cheeks. When the first teeth come, use special silicone brushes inserted on the finger, with a very small amount (as the baby cannot spit out) of paste for the youngest children.
Regular washing of gums and teeth does not only prevent fungal infections, e.g., thrushes, or caries in milk teeth, but when started at the very beginning it is a perfect introduction to daily brushing of teeth by an older child.
If the umbilical cord stump is still there, this is a time to take care of it. Current recommendations promote so-called dry treatment of the umbilical cord stump. Each time when any pus is visible, dry it delicately (with a sterile swab) and wipe the stump, particularly its base, once a day with octenidine solution (Octenisept).
While still on the changing table, before the baby is put into water that washes his whole body, it is good to clean his intimate parts with a wet wipe or moistened cosmetic pads.
do not wet the umbilical cord stump;
do not use buds, wipes or swabs in the ears;
do not use cotton wool or hygienic tissues for gum hygiene;
control water temperature, do not overheat or overcool the baby's body;
use only necessary cosmetics in appropriate quantities.
Bath water should be about 37°C.The temperature can be measured with a special water thermometer or with your elbow - it should be pleasantly warm, not hot. As your skills improve and the baby enjoys the bath more, the bath last longer, so it is good to have a vessel with some warm water at hand to add some when necessary, because water in the bath gets cold very quickly.
Add bath foam. Select the foam appropriate for the baby's age (note that not all of them are recommended from the first days of life), tap water hardness and baby's skin type and possible skin problems. A good choice are foams containing emollients that do not have to be rinsed and which leave a protective layer on baby's skin.
You do not have to start with a bathtub filled up to the brim. It is enough when it is half filled.
Start the bath
Now it is time to put the baby into the bathtub. Lift the naked baby remembering to support his head, and calmly, slowly put him into the water. You should know that some babies do not like to move downwards, so baby's acquaintance with water should start with dipping his legs, pouring water on his hands and tummy. Your mood and attitude are also important for the baby not to consider the bath as a threat, therefore, your calmness and lack of nervous atmosphere are so important.
With the baby immersed in water and lying steadily on your hand, with the other hand wash his:
body and neck;
arms and hands;
legs and toes;
wash baby's head and hair;
at the end wash intimate parts, paying attention to skin folds in the groin.
Sounds complicated? Hmm, we would like to assure you that although it is a bit stressful at the beginning, yet with your experience increasing washing all nooks of the baby's body will become a routine.
After the bath wrap the baby in a towel and carry him to the changing table or the bed. Large towels, with a hood specially intended for babies or simply large beach towels, are an excellent solution.
Dry the baby by delicately pressing the towel to his skin. Dry his hair and comb it with a soft brush of natural hair, then put the cotton cap on his head. Apply appropriate cream on the baby's bottom and genitals, and put the diaper on. When baby's skin requires so, moisten it with baby oil or balm/cream for infants. Dress the baby in a romper suit.
The body care before sleep is a perfect time for tenderness, massage, or a lullaby. It is a good thing to turn the bath and all related activities into a routine, a fixed point in the day. This will help the baby to relax after the day filled with new experiences, and will give the baby a sense of constancy, helping him to instantly recognize it is time to go to sleep.