It is definitely nerve-wracking bathing a newborn. Not only can they feel impossibly fragile, you may worry about whether they’re warm or comfortable enough and if you’re doing a sufficiently thorough job.
Whether you’re bathing your first baby for the first time or are on baby number three, you may still have newborn bathing questions, the most pressing being, “How often should I bathe my baby?”
While longtime best practice has been to bathe baby right after delivery, newer research suggests that delaying the first bath may be beneficial.
A 2019 study including nearly 1,000 babies found that waiting at least 12 hours after birth may promote breastfeeding. Additionally, another 2019 study including 73 infants suggested that a bath after 48 hours helps keep newborns at a steady temperature and aids skin development.
Once you get home, you’ll want to bathe your newborn one to two times per week until their umbilical stump falls off. Until this happens, don’t submerge their body in water. Instead, use a warm washcloth and give them a gentle sponge bath starting with their head and face and working your way downward.
If baby spits up or dribbles milk as they feed, you can wipe them down a little more frequently, taking particular care of their face and neck areas. If the mess is coming from the other end, you may need to give a bath to clean up diaper blowouts as well. But unless there is a mess, they really don’t need a daily bath at this age.
Only use plain water for newborn babies.
During the early months of your baby’s life, you’ll want to continue bathing them one to two times per week. Once they no longer have their umbilical stump, you can begin giving them more traditional baths.
To do this, fill a baby bathtub partway with warm water and let them sit and splash as you wash them all over with water and a gentle baby shower gel. You can use damp washcloths to cover them and keep them warm during the bath.Start with their face and head and work your way downward.
It’s also important to remember that adults generally prefer much warmer water than babies do. Aim to keep the temperature lukewarm, and your baby will likely be happy for the bath time cuddles.
As your little one grows, you may want to change up their bath routine a little bit. At this age babies still only need a bath one to two times per week, but if they seem to enjoy the water or like splashing as they get clean, you can consider bathing them more frequently.
Many parents also take advantage of diaper and outfit changes to give their baby a quick wipe down and make sure that all their important parts are clean. If you do choose to bathe your little one more than twice a week, consider using soap for only one or two of their baths to avoid drying out their skin. After bath time, you can moisturize baby with a gentle lotion.
Once baby becomes mobile and starts eating solids, you may decide you need to begin bathing them more frequently. While they still only really need one to two soapy baths per week, you can either give them a sponge bath or put them in the tub to soak and rinse off more frequently as messes arise.
You might also find that bath time is a pleasant way to calm baby down before bedtime. If this works for you, it’s perfectly OK to make a bath part of your calming nighttime routine at this age.
While it may feel odd to bathe your baby so infrequently, babies simply don’t need to bathe as often as adults. They don’t sweat or get dirty in the same way as older people, and their skin is much more sensitive than that of adults. Frequent bathing can actually do more harm than good.
To avoid drying out baby’s skin and worsening conditions like eczema, bathe your little one to two times per week and wash them with a mild, fragrance- and dye-free soap. When you get them out of the bath, pat them dry before applying a baby moisturiser and promptly dressing them.
If your little one has a known skin condition, consult their pediatrician to make a plan for exactly what products and routines you can follow to help them stay comfortable.
In the first year of your baby’s life, you really only need to bathe them once or twice per week.
Start with sponge baths until their umbilical stump falls off and then begin bathing them gently in the sink or tub. As they grow, babies may require more frequent baths as they get messier or start having fun in the tub.
As long as you use gentle products and don’t notice any issues with your baby’s skin, you can indulge their bath time joy as they grow!