Properly bathing your newborn
Contrary to popular thought, most babies do not need a bath every single day. With all the diaper changes and wiping of mouth and nose after feedings, most babies may only need to be bathed two or three times a week, or every other day.
Sponge baths are required at first. Bathing in a tub water should wait until the baby's umbilical cord falls off, and a baby boy's circumcision heals to prevent infection.
How to give a sponge bath
- Make sure the room is warm, without drafts, about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Gather all equipment and supplies in advance.
- Add warm water to a clean sink or basin (warm to the inside of your wrist or between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Place baby on a bath cushion or thick towels on a surface that is waist high.
- Keep the baby covered with a towel or blanket for warmth and uncover areas one at a time as you clean them.
- Never take your hands off the baby, even for a moment. If you have forgotten something, wrap up the baby in a towel and take him or her with you.
- Start with the baby's face. Use one moistened, clean cotton ball to wipe each eye, starting at the bridge of the nose then wiping out to the corner of the eye.
- Wash the rest of the baby's face with a soft, moist washcloth without soap.
- Clean the outside folds of the ears with a soft washcloth. Do not insert a cotton swab into the baby's ear canal because of the risk of damage to the eardrum.
- Add a small amount of baby soap to the water or washcloth and gently bathe the rest of the baby from the neck down. Rinse with a clean washcloth or a small cup of water. Be sure to avoid getting the umbilical cord wet.
- Wash the baby's head last with shampoo on a washcloth. Rinse, being careful not to let the water run over the baby's face. Holding the baby firmly with your arm under his or her back and your wrist and hand supporting his or her neck, you can use a high faucet to rinse the hair.
- Scrubbing is not necessary, but most babies enjoy their arms and legs being massaged with gentle strokes during a bath.
- Wrap the baby in a hooded bath towel and cuddle your clean baby close.
- Follow cord care instructions given by your baby's doctor.
- Use a soft baby brush to comb out your baby's hair. Do not use a hair dryer on hot to dry a baby's hair because of the risk of burns.
- Expect your baby to cry the first few times you bathe him or her. Usually, this is just because a bath is a new experience. However, be sure to check that the water is not too warm, too cold or that soap has not gotten in your baby's eyes if your baby suddenly starts crying during a bath.
How to give your newborn a tub bath
Once your baby's umbilical cord has healed, as well as a boy's circumcision, you can give your baby a tub bath. This can be a pleasurable experience for you and your baby. However, some babies may not like to be bathed, especially the first few times. Talk softly or sing and try some bath toys if your baby protests.
Equipment needed for a tub bath:
- Baby bathtub (preferably with a bottom drain plug)
- Nonslip mat or pad
- Bath thermometer (these often have "safe" bath temperature ranges marked on them)
When bathing your baby in a tub:
- Clear the counter or table top of breakable objects and electrical appliances to prevent injury.
- Fill the tub with warm water, using a bath thermometer.
- Follow the same general bathing instructions for a sponge bath.
- Never take your hands off your baby or walk away, even for a moment.
- Be sure to clean the bathtub after each use.
Tips for reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related infant death
Here are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on creating a safe sleep environment and helping keep your sleeping baby safe for the first year:
- Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep (at night and for naps).
- However, if baby rolls from his or her back to his or her side or stomach on his or her own, you can leave them in that position if they're able to roll from tummy to back and back to tummy.
- Baby needs a firm sleep surface. If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier or sling, move them to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible. Never put your baby to sleep on a chair, sofa, water bed, cushion or sheepskin.
- Cribs, bassinets, portable cribs, play yards, etc. should meet current safety standards. Check to make sure products have not been recalled. Do not use a crib that is broken or missing parts, or has drop-side rails. Cover the mattress with a fitted sheet. Do not put blankets or pillows between the mattress and the fitted sheet.
- Keep soft objects, loose bedding or anything that increases the risk of entrapment, suffocation or strangulation out of the crib. Pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads and stuffed toys can cause suffocation.
- Baby can sleep in the same room as you but not in the same bed. Keep the crib or bassinet in arm's reach of your bed to easily watch or breastfeed baby. Babies who sleep in bed with their parents are at risk of SIDS, suffocation or strangulation.
- Breastfeed as much and for as long as you can. Studies show that breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Make sure your baby is immunized. Evidence suggests that immunizations may protect against SIDS.
- Keep baby away from smokers and places where people smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. Until you quit, don't smoke in your home or car, and don't smoke anywhere near your baby, even outside.
- Do not let your baby get too hot. Avoid over bundling, overdressing or covering an infant's face or head. Keep the room where your baby sleeps at a comfortable temperature. Dress baby in no more than one extra layer than you'd wear. Your baby may be too hot if they are sweating or their chest feels hot. If you're worried about baby being cold, use infant sleep clothing designed to be warm without covering the head.
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime to help reduce the risk of SIDS. If breastfeeding, wait until it's going well before offering a pacifier, usually about three to four weeks. It's OK if your baby doesn't want to use a pacifier. You can try offering it again, but some babies don't like them. If the pacifier falls out during sleep, you do not have to put it back in.
- Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors unless advised by your doctor for special needs such as breathing or heart problems. They have not been found to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Do not use products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, such as wedges, positioners, special mattresses and specialized sleep surfaces. They have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS and some infants have suffocated while using these products.
- Always place cribs, bassinets and play yards in hazard-free areas with no dangling cords or wires to reduce the risk for strangulation.
- Do not drink alcohol or use drugs while pregnant and after birth.
- Give baby plenty of tummy time while awake to help strengthen neck muscles and avoid flat spots on the head. Always stay with your baby during tummy time and make sure he or she is awake.
- Share this information with anyone who cares for babies - family, friends, babysitters and childcare providers.
Car seat safety
Using your car seat correctly: why and how to do it
All states have laws requiring babies to ride in an approved car safety seat to help keep them safe. But using your baby's car seat correctly is essential to protecting them as much as possible in case of a crash. That may sound like a no-brainer, but it's important to ensure that you're doing everything right to help protect your precious cargo.
Follow these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help keep your child safe in their car seat:
- All infants should ride in a rear-facing car seat until at least 2 years of age, or they reach the highest weight or height from the manufacturer.
- Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle with a front passenger airbag. If the airbag inflates, it will hit the back of the car seat where baby's head is, and could cause serious injury or death.
- Make sure that your seat fits correctly in your vehicle. Consult car seat information in your vehicle owner's manual.
- Ensure your seat is installed correctly according to the seat manufacturer's instructions. A certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician can help with installation and proper use.
- Harness straps should fit snugly against your baby's body. Check the seat's instructions for how to adjust the straps.
- Place the chest clip at armpit level to keep the harness straps secure on the shoulders.
- Make sure that the seat belt or LATCH tethers attaching the seat to your car are pulled tight and routed through the correct path. When the seat is installed, be sure it does not move more than an inch side to side or front to back.
- Do not place padding under or behind your infant, or use any sort of car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the same manufacturer. To keep baby from slouching to the side, place rolled blankets on both sides of them. If they are sliding down in the seat, a small diaper or blanket may be placed between the crotch strap and your infant.
- Do not let baby wear heavy coats or snowsuits in their car seat. Bulky clothing increases the risk of injury in a crash because it can compress and leave the straps too loose to restrain your child. Dress baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or blanket around them over the buckled harness straps.
- Complete your car seat's registration - it's important in case the seat is recalled. You can also research recalls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Do not use a car seat that was in a crash, has been recalled, is too old (check the expiration date), has any cracks in its frame, or is missing parts. Do not use a used car seat if you do not know the history of the seat.
- Contact the seat's manufacturer if you have any safety questions.