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Step-by-Step Guide To Bathing Your Baby

Chief Editor | Published on February 20, 2023

Of all the duties that come with taking care of your baby, bath time can be the most therapeutic for both parent and child — as long as you know what to watch out for!

Safety is your utmost priority when bathing your infant in a baby tub. “Support for the neck during tub baths is vital because the neck muscles are not strong,” says Dr Tan Thiam Chye, an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Also, never leave baby unattended in the tub, even if another child is around. “A baby can drown in one inch of water and this can happen in a matter of seconds, so keep your eyes on your baby at all times,” he adds.

Prep Baby’s Bathing Set-Up

Having all that you need in arm’s reach before you begin bathing baby ensures you won’t have to scramble and interrupt baby’s bath at any point during bath time. Besides the tub itself, get these items ready before you begin:

  • A cup (for scooping water)
  • Mild baby soap and shampoo
  • Cotton balls
  • Washcloths and sponges
  • A clean diaper
  • A fresh set of baby clothes
  • Two towels
  • Baby lotion (optional)
  • Diaper rash cream (optional)

Filling The Tub

“Before filling the tub, lay a non-skid mat under the bathtub, and make sure the bathtub sits on a flat and even surface,” says Dr Tan. Undress baby and wrap him or her up in a towel.

For baby, the ideal starting temperature of the water for a bath is 38 degrees Celsius. Before you get familiar with how water at this temperature feels to the touch, you might want to use a baby bath thermometer to eliminate guesswork.

Dr Tan also advises keeping the final water level of the tub shallow, at the height of the baby’s ankle, to minimise the risk of drowning. And the most important point to note about filling the tub? Never do it with the baby inside.

Shampooing

First, clean your baby’s hair and scalp. To wash your baby’s hair, hold him or her with your dominant arm by tucking his or her lower body between your upper arm and torso, scooping your forearm under the body and supporting the head and neck with your hand. The head of your baby’s head should be above the bath water. With your free hand, shampoo your baby’s hair gently. After washing, dry the hair thoroughly with a towel.

At this point of time, replace a few cupfuls of bathwater with warmer water to restore the bathwater to its optimal temperature of 38 degrees Celsius and prevent your baby from catching a cold, advises Dr Tan.

The Bath

After shampooing, it’s time to unwrap the baby for the main event. “Always feet first” is the mantra when putting a naked baby into a filled baby tub. Do this slowly while always keeping baby’s neck and head supported with one hand.

“Begin the bath by first wiping baby’s eye area and face gently with a moist cotton ball without any soap,” says Dr Tan. Pour cups of water over baby from time to time to keep him or her from getting cold. If you spot dried mucus, dab on it several times to soften it before wiping it off.

From neck down, use a washcloth or sponge. Go easy on the soap as too much may dry out the skin and make him or her too slippery to bathe and handle safely. Once you’re done, rinse baby’s body thoroughly with cups of water and give a final wipe with a clean washcloth.

Drying And Clothing Baby

With one hand supporting your baby’s neck and head and the other supporting his or her bottom with fingers around a thigh, lift your baby out of the tub and onto a changing table laid with a towel (the one used to dry the scalp earlier). Wrap the baby in the towel and pat dry thoroughly. You might also want to apply baby lotion and/or diaper rash cream before dressing your baby in a fresh diaper and clothing, or enjoying some skin-to-skin time with your precious.

Want to get better at being a parent to your newborn bundle of joy? Check out our How To Care for Your Newborn Class here. Also read more of our articles on dealing with confinement, feeding baby and caring for a newborn. 

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