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How to bathe a newborn

Tips for when you're giving baby's first bath.
/ Source: TODAY

Welcoming a baby can be the most exciting time for moms and dads, but it can also be overwhelming, with lots of questions.

Parents might wonder about baby's first bath or how to bathe a newborn.

Dr. Stephanie Liu, a family physician and assistant professor at the University of Alberta, tells that baths are a great way to both clean and bond with your baby.

"Baths don’t have to occur daily," she says. "In fact, I recommend every other day."

As far as baby's first bath, Liu cites the World Health Organization's guidance to delay the first bath for 24 hours.

"The rationale is that babies that get baths right away may become cold and this can increase their risk of hypothermia," Liu says. "The minor stress of the bath may also increase the risk of blood sugars dripping, known as hypoglycemia."

Liu also tells that at birth, babies are covered in vernix.

"This is a waxy white substance that acts as a natural moisturizer and may have anti-bacterial properties," she says.

How To Bathe A Newborn 

Liu tells that she uses a baby-sized tub when bathing her children, as it "makes the process easier."

"For newborns, one important thing to remember is to try to keep the umbilical cord stump dry," she says. "The umbilical cord stump falls off faster and heals faster when keeping it dry. So, for newborns sponge baths are preferred."

Be ready.

Liu says that the first step in bathing a newborn is to have everything needed for a bath within arms reach. This includes: washcloths, a towel, a diaper, moisturizer and a change of clothes.

Check the water.

"Before putting the babe in the water, check the water temperature with your elbow," Liu says. "It should feel warm, not hot. If you have a thermometer, the optimal temperature is around 37-38 degrees Celsius (98.6-100 degrees Fahrenheit)."

Support the baby.

Liu tells that caregivers should support the baby’s back, head, and neck with one arm and use the other hand to bathe. 

Check the soap.

Liu recommends using mild soaps designed for babies.

"You don’t need to use soaps everywhere, just in the soiled areas," she says. "Use soap at the end of the bath so the infant is not sitting in the soapy water as this can dry out the skin."

Gently dry.

After bath time, pat dry skin with a towel.

"Rubbing the skin with a towel can cause skin irritation," Liu says.


Liu recommends applying moisturizer and making sure to wrap up the baby and put on clothing right away, because newborns lose heat quickly.