Bathing your baby - a guide

How often should I bath my baby ?

Many parents bath their kids once each day. A daily bath is not really necessary until the baby starts crawling around, getting into things. Procure only mild soaps or neutral cleansers with gentle pH content. These are designed specially for infants.

To keep your baby clean between baths, wash his or her face thoroughly and frequently, clean off the genital areas after every nappy change, and remove any obvious muck. When you are bathing your baby, it may be scary to handle a little one who is slippery and soapy - so maintain a good gripping. Most of the babies find warm water to be more comfortable and soothing.

Where should I bath my baby?

In a standard bath, you may be required to kneel down or lean towards your baby. It will also provide lesser control over your baby’s movements. So use a small baby sink or baby bath made of plastic.

What's the recommended way to give a bath to a baby?

Here are some steps for you to follow when giving a bath to your baby. With some luck, bathing your baby is sure to be an enjoyable activity and will be time well-spent.

1. Collect all the needed bath accessories before starting the bath.

2. Make sure that the bathroom is warm enough and the bathing water is reasonably warm and not too hot. A water temperature of 38 degrees Centigrade or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal and can help babies retain their body heat.

3. For babies up to six months of age, use a level of five inches of bath water. A rule of thumb is to let your baby’s shoulders to be covered in the water, and not more. For older children, the level of the bath water should not be higher than the waist, in a sitting position.

4. Bring your child to the bathing area and then remove his or her clothes.

5. Use one of your hands to support your baby’s head and neck, while gradually slipping him or her into the bath water.

6. Wash your baby using a sponge or a flannel with some soap, from front to back, and top to bottom. Use moist cotton wool for cleaning facial regions, including the eyes. Wash the genital areas as a matter of routine. If dry mucus seems to have collected in the corners of your baby’s eyes or nostrils, dab it with moist cotton wool so that it can be removed easily.

7. Use a clean flannel to rinse off your baby thoroughly.

8. Wrap your baby with a clean and dry bath towel and pat dry. If the skin gets dry, or if nappy rash has occurred, try applying a moisturising lotion.

Saftey when bathing your baby

Here are some safety tips you need to consider, when bathing a baby:

• Irrespective of the kind of bath support or bath chair you are using, do not leave a baby unattended when in bath. Keep all the things you will need for the bathing process, before starting it. These are toiletries, towels, clean and dry pyjamas and nappies. If your phone rings or someone knocks on the door during the bathing and you need to answer it, scoop up the baby using a dry towel and take him or her with you.

• Don’t put a baby into bath water while water is still flowing into it, this is because the depth can become too high, or the temperature of the water can change.

• Fill the bath tub with cold water first, and then add hot water. This technique will reduce the possibility of your baby getting scalded.

• Use anti-slip bath mats so that your baby does not slip and fall. These are cheap and available in many colours from almost all supermarkets.

• Ensure the water for bathing is only comfortably warm and not too hot. An ideal water temperature is 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Centigrade. This temperature can help babies retain their body heat.

• For babies aged six months or younger, use a level of bath water that is about five inches. Your baby needs to be inside the water only up to the shoulder level. For older children, use water levels that are no more than waist-deep, when in sitting posture.

• If your baby can sit up, use a bath seat. But you still need to look out for the safety of your baby, even when using bath seats. During the period from 2000 to 2003, six toddlers from the UK had drowned when left unattended, even while using a baby bath seat.

• Educate your baby to adopt a sitting position at all times when inside the bath water. This will avoid possible slippage.

• While many babies and their parents love bathing time, some babies detest it. There is no need for daily bathing routine. Your baby will be clean enough as long as you wash out any obvious dirt or excreta. Little toddlers tend to get dirtier and may need a daily bath. There is also no need to wash the baby’s hair very often, once per week is probably enough. This is because the hair produces little oil content.

• Avoid using bubble baths and shampoos. They may cause baby skin to get sensitive and dry. Use a baby bath product or a mild and gentle soap or cleanser. You can alternate between water-only baths and water plus cleanser baths. Do not use strongly fragrant adult soaps and bath products on your baby.

• Ensure that you adjust your water heater settings for a maximum temperature of 120 degrees F or 49 degrees C. A baby is likely to get scalded within a minute if the water temperature is 140 degrees F or 60 degrees C.

• Make sure your baby is not touching or playing with the water taps. It may cause minor injuries.

• For newborns, it is important that body heat loss is minimised after a bath. Keep the room warm, and wrap your baby with a dry towel and dry him or her before putting on the nappy. Then cuddle your baby for about seven minutes to transfer some warmth. Then wrap your baby up in a warm, clean and dry blanket as you lay him or her to sleep.

Should I buy a baby bath?

Some people prefer to bath their babies in the bath tub and others prefer to buy a special baby bath; it is entirely up to you and there are advantages and disadvantages no matter which option you go for. If money is tight, you can easily get by using a bath tub; you may just need a little more help when the baby is still tiny.

At first, when your baby is still very small, it can be advantageous to have a small baby bath; this will allow you to maintain greater control of your baby and you will only use the water which you need; larger bath tubs need a lot more water. Baby baths are also easier to use and offer more flexibility than traditional bath tubs; you can sit on the floor while you bath your baby using a baby bath, rather than having to bend over a bath tub and you can use the baby bath in any room in the house; baby baths are particularly beneficial for parents with back problems, as they prevent bending. If you have a cold bathroom, it can be useful to have a baby bath so that you can bath your baby in a warmer room. Nowadays, you can also buy extra attachments to help make bath time as stress-free as possible; some come with head rests, to ensure your baby is comfortable and there is now a product on the market that lights up if the water is too hot.

A baby bath will only be suitable for the first couple of months; after this, your baby will probably be too big for the baby bath and they will be ready to move onto the bath tub.

Types of baby bath

In addition to the traditional plastic baby bath, there are now some new designs on the market.

  • Sit on rim baby baths

You may also wish to consider using a baby bath that can be rested on the bath tub; these can be useful if you have more than one child as you can bath both children at the same time, without worrying about your newborn baby’s safety. Make sure you measure your bath tub and then match the baby bath; you want it to fit securely onto the bath tub so that there is no chance that it can fall.

  • Bucket baths

The bucket bath allows you to bath your baby while they are sat up, rather than lying down; the bath supports the baby and this means you can wash them using both your hands, rather than struggling to hold the baby and wash them at the same time. The bucket baths are designed for smaller babies; you will probably find that your baby will have outgrown this bath by the time they get to around 4-6 months old. The bucket bath is ideal for single parents; it is easy to carry and you can use both your hands to wash the baby.

  • Bath supports

Bath supports are designed for very small babies; they are usually made of foam or towelling and help to support your baby’s head and body while you wash them. Bath supports are useful if you are going away as they don’t take up much room. Some babies also prefer them because they prevent them baby from being completely immersed in the water.

  • Bath seats

Bath seats are designed for older babies, who can sit up independently. The bath seat supports the baby while you wash them but some babies may not like that they can’t move around and do lots of splashing; it depends on the individual.

  • Bath rings

Inflatable bath rings work in much the same way as inflatable rings used by older children in the swimming pool; the ring sits around the baby’s waist and holds them up in the water. Bath rings are better for babies who like to splash and move around a bit; they will still require supervision as it possible for them to slip out. Bath rings are more suitable for older babies who are more confident in the water; they are not really suitable for babies that don’t like the water.

Make sure, whichever type of bath you buy, that the bath is sturdy and safe and always keep a close eye on your baby when they are in the bath.

Bathing babies in the family tub

If you choose to bath your baby in the family bath tub this is fine; just make sure you keep hold of them and don’t fill it too full. You may wish to buy a mat, which helps to stop them slipping around; the mat is attached to the bottom of the bath with suction pads; it can easily be removed when other members of the family want to use the bath.

Bathing can be a good opportunity for other children to bond with their new sibling; this can also make it easier for you, as you can bath both children at the same time. Just remember to talk to your other child about having a bath with their new baby brother or sister; for example, ask them not to splash lots and be a little bit more careful when they move around; try to encourage them to bond by urging them to play together and asking your toddler or older child to help you wash the baby. You can also have baths with your baby; this will help you to bond and it will probably be relaxing for both of you.

Baby bath towels

It is important to wrap your baby up in a towel after you take them out of the bath; babies get cold quickly after they get out of the warm water so dry them off as quickly as possible.

It is best to buy a hooded towel for your baby so that you can wrap your baby’s head and dry their hair; a large proportion of the body’s heat is lost through the head so it is important that the head is kept warm. If you don’t have a hooded towel, wrap your baby’s head in the top of a normal towel but take care not to cover their face. You can warm your baby’s towel by placing it on a radiator while your baby is in the bath; this will help to keep them warm when they come out of the bath.

Try to ensure the towel you use for your baby is nice and soft and wash it on a regular basis; if your baby has an allergy, use a more sensitive form of washing powder.

Bath toys

Bath toys help to make bath time fun and enjoyable, as well as helping children to learn and develop. There is huge range of bath toys on the market now; some are suitable for newborn babies, while others are aimed at older children.

Popular bath toys include stacking and pouring cups, plastic animals, boats and sea creatures, fishing games, bubble blowing toys and bath books. Rubber ducks are also very popular. Older children usually like to get messy in the water; nowadays, you can get everything from bath crayons to animal shaped water squirters to ensure they have lots of fun in the tub.

Bath toys are often inexpensive and are available at a huge range of stores, including Mothercare, Toys R Us, John Lewis, Early Learning Centre, Boots and Amazon.

Shampoo shield

A shampoo shield is used to protect baby’s eyes from shampoo when they are having their hair washed. Most shampoo shields are made from rubber, foam or soft plastic; they fit onto the baby’s head like the rim of a hat. Shampoo shields are very beneficial for small babies and children who do not like the feeling of having running water on their face. Shampoo shields are inexpensive and they help to make bath time less stressful for both parents and children. Shampoo shields are available from a huge range of retailers and come in many different colours.

Baby Washcloths

The most important thing about baby washcloths is that they should be soft to protect your baby’s delicate skin. The best washcloths are made of 100% cotton, but some are 80% cotton, 20% polyester. These are fine to use, but be extra gentle. If your baby has sensitive skin or a condition such as eczema, make sure when you wash the baby washcloths that you use sensitive washing powder and conditioner. This will keep the cloths soft and help prevent a reaction. Baby washcloths come in a wide range of designs and prices, from plain and very cheap, to ones with colourful pictures which tend to be a little more expensive. It is recommended that you have at least 12-14 baby washcloths available to you. If you feel creative, there are many websites which offer instructions on making your own baby washcloth.

Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoos are different from adult shampoos because they are much more gentle. They are not only gentle on the skin, but also in the event that shampoo should get into your baby’s eyes or mouth. They are designed to moisturise the baby’s scalp and hair. The best baby shampoos are ones which are hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested, as well as being free from alcohol and soap. Shampoos which are scented or perfumed should not be used on babies with sensitive skin. Your baby’s hair only needs to be washed about once a week, using only a tiny amount of shampoo. Avoid getting any into your baby’s eyes or mouth, and do not rinse over their faces. If possible, after a hair wash, wrap your baby in a hooded towel to prevent chills and keep them warm and happy. There are hundreds of brands of baby shampoo, including organic ones which aim to protect the environment as well as your baby, so you are not limited for choice.

Top ‘n’Tail Bowls

Top ‘n’tail bowls are an alternative to traditional bathing, where you do not have to submerge your baby completely. They consist of a portable bath split into two or three units. There will be at least two compartments, which are designed to be packed with water, and most top ‘n’tail bowls come with a third compartment which can be made to store soaps and cloths, or as a improvised handle. The idea is that you can wash your baby’s top and bottom halves separately.

While washing the top of your baby’s body, you are able to leave the nappy on, which makes it best to do the top half first to avoid accidents. Wet some cotton wool or a cloth into the ‘top’area of the bowl and softly clean your baby’s face, torso, arms and underarms. When you need to rinse the cloth, always do so in the ‘top’part of the bowl. You can then dry your baby’s top half thoroughly before removing the nappy and washing your baby’s bottom half in the ‘tail’side of the bowl, using the same technique. If the baby is a newborn, take special care to wash the umbilical stump. When you have finished, simply dry the baby’s bottom half and put a new nappy on.

Top ‘n’tail bowls are a more hygienic way to clean your baby, and are especially suitable for parents who are nervous of submerging their baby. They come in a wide variety of designs and colours.

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