Monday, June 22, 2009

5 tips for bathing your new baby.

The idea of bathing a baby is pretty scary. Your baby is so small and delicate. You measure your every move, trying to maximize his safety and minimize his discomfort. And yet the time will come when you will need to get him wet. I'm not talking about the sponge-baths that you give before your baby's umbilical cord falls off, I'm talking about sitting him in a baby tub of water and covering him with slippery soap! There are quite a few things to think about and keep track of while you are doing this but I have made a list of my top 5.

1. Cover your baby with wash cloths.
Even with a warm room and luke-warm water, your baby will probably start to get cold by the end of the bath. This is because the water on her skin is evaporating, constantly cooling her off. The best way to slow this cooling process is to drape several baby wash cloths over her head, shoulders and belly. They will hold more water, making the evaporation process slower. As you was the various parts of your little dolphin-baby, simply remove or fold back the appropriate part of the cloth, wash, rinse and fold it back or replace it. The cloths will also make your baby less slippery, so when you need to turn her to the side to wash her back she will be less likely to slip out of your grasp.

2. Temperate temperature.
As I mentioned in the first tip, the water you wash your little jellyfish in should be only slightly warmer than room temperature. Part of the reason for this is that warmer water dries out your baby's skin and can give him a rash, or exacerbate conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Also, your baby is super sensitive to temperature changes, and hotter or colder water can be very uncomfortable, and this sensitive baby skin can burn at a much lower temperature than an adults. Even if you prefer cool showers or hot baths, don't assume the same is true for your baby.

3. Get in those folds.
Babies are growing at an enormous rate. They can shed more skin cells in a week than we do in an entire year. These skin cells accumulate in every fold of your baby's skin, and become a great breeding ground for bacteria, especially when combined with sweat and milk. The kind of bacteria that feeds on dead skin cells is very irritating to your baby's sensitive skin and can leave bright red irritated patches where it is given time to grow. The danger zones are behind your baby's ears, around the neck, under the arms, behind the knees and elbows and in your sweet little seahorse's rear end (though that area gets cleaned pretty regularly at diaper changes).

4. Have fresh warm water nearby for rinsing.
By the end of your baby's bath the bathwater will be a tepid soup of soapy water and dead skin cells. To make the most of your sweet little water monkey's bath it is a good idea to have a pitcher of clean warm water nearby. If you are doing the bath by yourself, before you begin get a pitcher of very very warm, nearly hot, water and place it nearby. By the end of the bath the pitcher should have cooled down to the point where it will be comfortable for your baby. Then give your baby one last rinse with the clean warm water just before you lift her out of the bath and place her on a clean soft towel (if you have help, one person can lift your baby, while the other pours the water to give her a better rinse). As a side note, do not use fabric softener on any of your baby's laundry, including towels, because the chemicals left in the fabric can be very irritating to that soft-as-silk baby skin.

5. Keep your baby's face pretty dry.
The only washcloth you have draped on your baby that should be kept fairly dry for the majority of the bath time is the one on his head. If this cloth is dry, it can soak up any drops of water that are running down toward your babies face. Babies have a survival instinct that is meant to help them avoid drowning which is to arch their backs and intake a large gasp of air if they feel water running over their face. This is meant to give them a big breath of air before they are submerged in water, but if they are on their backs, as in a bath, they often will accidentally inhale a fairly large amount of water, causing a coughing and crying fit, and creating negative associations with bath time. You should wash your baby's face with a soapy wash cloth, and rinse it with a very wet clean wash cloth that has been dipped into the pitcher of warm rinsing water you have standing by. If you wait to wash your baby's face till the end of the bath, you also can use this as an opportunity to test the temperature of the water in the pitcher, to make sure it has cooled enough. When you wash your baby's hair you can roll up the washcloth and lay it across your baby's forehead to prevent water and soap from running down.

Trick: Wash your baby's back-side first.
Since your baby's backside is undoubtedly the hardest part to wash and rinse, I recommend that parents hold their baby in one arm using the football hold, with their baby's face near their elbow, their forearm supporting their baby's belly, while firmly holding onto one of their babies legs, while they use a washcloth to soap up and rinse their baby's tookus before taking their baby with both hands and carefully lowering her into the bathwater.

Remember to rinse all areas that you have used soap on thoroughly, because soap, even baby soap, can irritate your little starfish's delicate skin. With practice you will get better at the juggling that you have to engage in with the soap and the cloth and the keeping-the-baby's-face-out-of-the-water. When your baby learns to sit up, the whole bath experience will become a lot less stressful (the best tip I know of for reducing the stress of bath time on your baby is described here). If you have found these tips helpful and informative, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions and comments are always welcome, unless you are a spammer. ;^) Happy parenting!

1 comment:

  1. this is really a useful knowledge but the first ones get babies bath usually the nurses and we even can't see that :(