Are you bathing your child correctly?

June 28, 2018 | by Darius Radvila, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Bathing. It’s a part of life. As adults, we know what to do, but bathing our babies and kids can get tricky.

When it’s time to bathe your newborn for the first time, will you do it right? Many parents build bath time into their child’s nightly routine. It’s a great tool to get your child to relax, unwind and prepare for sleep. But how often should you really be bathing them?

Let’s review 10 common questions about the correct way to bathe your child:

  1. What is the most important thing parents should know about bath time?

    One in 5 parents have left their child alone in the bathtub or pool, and 2 in 5 admit being distracted while their child was in the tub. Never leave your child unattended or turn away from her during bath time — not even for a second. A small child can drown in an inch of water.

  2. What do I need before I start a bath?

    Have all the bath time supplies ready ahead of time and at arms-reach, such as:

    • A clean washcloth
    • A cup for rinsing with water
    • A mild hypoallergenic baby shampoo/wash
    • 2 warm, soft, dry towels: one to lay your baby down on, and another for drying off (the hooded baby towels are often easier to use)
    • A clean diaper and clean, warm clothes/pajamas

  3. What’s a good temperature for bath water?

    Bath water should be around 100 degrees F to avoid burns. Fill the infant tub with no more than 2 inches of water. Check the water with your hand before putting your child in the tub. Never add water to the tub with your baby inside.

  4. How do I bathe my newborn?

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your newborn should have only sponge baths during her first week or two, until the stump of the umbilical cord falls off. Here’s how to sponge bath:

    • Lay your baby on a fluffy blanket or towel anywhere that’s flat and comfortable (e.g., changing table, bed, floor, etc.).
    • Have a basin of water, a damp washcloth, and mild baby soap within reach before you begin.
    • Wash your baby’s face with water first, then dip the washcloth in soapy water to gently wash the rest of her body. Pay special attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck, and the genital area.
    • Keep your baby wrapped in a towel, and expose only the parts of her body you are actively washing at a time.

  5. When can I stop the sponge bath and switch to a normal bath?

    Once your baby’s umbilical area is healed, you can switch to a normal bath. Fill the tub before putting your baby in it, with a water level in the tub of about 3 or 4 inches. Make the first baths as gentle and brief as possible.

  6. What bath tub should I use?

    Experts recommend using a sturdy, hard plastic child bathtub. Avoid infant bath seats (which are capable of tipping over), or inflatable tubs (which may be more likely to collapse). Drain the tub completely after each use to avoid rust and mold.

  7. What’s the proper way to bathe my baby?

    The AAP offers some practical tips for bathing your baby:

    • Once you’ve undressed your baby, place her in the water right away.
    • Use one hand to support your baby’s head and back and the other for washing. Always hold onto your child with at least one hand while bathing her.
    • Wet your baby’s body with clean warm water using a plastic cup, washcloth or your free hand.
    • Work from your baby’s head down.
    • Gently wipe her face with a clean, wet washcloth.
    • If your baby has hair, gently rub a small amount of baby shampoo into it. When rinsing, cup your hand across her forehead to keep the soap away from her eyes.
    • Gently rub a small amount of mild baby wash onto your baby’s body from the neck down. Pay attention to skin folds in your baby’s neck, armpits and groin.

  8. How often should I bathe my child?

    Over-bathing your child can dry out or irritate her skin. Babies do not need to be bathed every day— three times a week or less during the first year is usually enough. Children should be bathed once or twice a week, or when they are dirty (e.g., after playing in the mud, swimming or sweating). Most kids will start to bathe daily once they hit puberty.

  9. Should I use a moisturizer after the bath?

    Most newborns, if not all, don’t need moisturizers. In fact, some can cause rashes on newborns’ sensitive skin. Ask your pediatrician if using a moisturizer is recommended (e.g., some babies with eczema should use one). Often, a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer is best.

  10. When can my child switch from baths to showers?

    It’s usually best to follow your child’s lead for when she shows an interest in showering. Most children don’t start taking a shower until around age 6 or 7. When she does, make sure you put a nonslip bath mat in the tub and stay nearby.

With a little practice, you can make bath time a comfortable and fun experience for your little one. And remember, always stay present and alert when your child is in the tub.

Darius Radvila, D.O., is a pediatrician at Elmhurst Clinic. Read his profile and schedule an appointment online.

Learn more about pediatrics at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Related blogs:

Wash those hands; save yourself a trip to the doctor’s office
How to keep your kids safe in the water
Are dirt and germs as bad as we think?

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