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Sponge Bath Basics

Keeping Baby Clean as a New Penny


  • Babies don’t need daily baths
  • Taking your time is delicious
  • Get everything in one place before you start
  • A methodical approach works best


Just like adults, some new babies adore baths but some act like it’s specially designed torture. Part of making bath time easy is in the preparation, and part is having an environment that allows both bather and bathee to relax.

  • Do We Need a Daily Bath? If your baby isn’t crawling, she won’t get very dirty. So she’ll rarely need more than a couple of baths per week, with soap and shampoo to freshen up private parts and remove accumulations of sweat, fuzz, or dribbles. If the clean freak in you is compelled to bathe your baby daily, that works too. There is no right or wrong.
  • Turning Bath Time into Leisure Time. Choosing the appropriate part of the day helps make bathing both soothing and fulfilling. Avoid bathing when the environment is too busy or around meal times when baby is either hungry or full. Bathing makes for a great nighttime ritual, setting the stage for a good night sleep. Use your quiet voice, peaceful presence, warm water, and even soothing music to relax you both. Going slowly tells baby everything is okay.
  • Comfort is Key. Baby bathing may challenge new parents, so make it as easy on yourself as possible. Keep him warm, either by heating the room or by using another big towel to cover him. Keep the surroundings as dry as possible. Until baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off, avoid immersing him in water and use a sponge bath instead. Many parents put baby on a folded towel on the counter, floor, or bed. But make sure the height is good for you and doesn’t kill your back, so you can take your time.
  • Keep Everything Within Reach. Having supplies in a carrying container means you can set up quickly with: baby shampoo and soap, towel with either a hood or that’s big enough to cover both head and body, two washcloths, cotton balls for her eyes, diaper rash ointment, a cotton swabs for the umbilical cord, a fresh diaper, and that perfect outfit.
  • Where to Begin. With everything at hand, remove your baby’s clothing except for his diaper, but cover him immediately with that big towel so he feels safe. Use one washcloth for soaping (if necessary) and one for rinsing. You can start anywhere, many parents like to start at the top and work down. If the room is cool, uncover only the part you’re washing then tuck it back under the towel once you’ve rinsed it.
  • Dealing With Arms & Legs. Extend an arm or leg and get into all those little creases. She may not think full extension of her limbs is a great idea, but carefully coax her into it. Press gently on her palm to open her hand and get between her fingers. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off any soap before tucking arms and legs back under the towel.
  • Tackling the Head. Shampoo his hair only once or twice a week: Holding his head in your hand, use the soapy washcloth to gently massage his scalp then rinse with the clean one. Dry his hair immediately to help avoid your baby from getting too cold. Use a new damp, sterile cotton ball to wipe each eye, from the nose toward the ears. Clean the outside of his ears with cotton balls, but not inside. Dry well.
  • Creases, Folds & That Belly Button. Wash her neck and chest, using soap if she needs it. Neck creases are dribble traps. If you haven’t noticed, baby’s don’t yet have much of a neck. Spread and reveal the neck to get everything clean. Make sure you got those underarm folds too. Dry and cover.
  • A Few Last Details. Turn him over to wash his back, remembering to support his head and neck. Keep the rest of her covered if the room is cool. Remove baby’s diaper to wash his diaper area (those thigh creases!), being sure to dry before re-diapering. Use a cotton swab to carefully clean the base of the umbilical cord area with a little soap and water. If the umbilical cord is already off, use that cotton swab to clean any dried blood or dirt that may have accumulated in the belly button. Don’t be timid. This will not hurt your baby.

Dress her in fresh clothes or if she’s upset, try swaddling her for your post-bath snuggle. Your baby should be calm, clean and very kissable.

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