Bringing your baby home is a big transition. In the beginning, day-to-day tasks might fill you with anxiety. That is completely normal—especially if you have not spent a lot of time around babies in the past. It will not take long until you master how to bathe your baby and how to take care of their skin and nails. In the meantime, a great way to ease the first days’ uncertainty is to have at hand helpful sources of information. You are not alone: your pediatrician can provide the instructions and support you need to take the best possible care of your baby. Nevertheless, always remember that the most valuable cues will come from your baby. Babies let you know when they want to be fed, how they want to be held, how they like to be comforted—and this will gradually reinforce your parental instincts.
This third part of the Day-to-Day article series will share advice on bathing your baby and how to take good care of their skin and nails.
As long as you are thoroughly wiping or washing your baby’s diaper area during diaper changes, your baby will not need much bathing. In fact, a short bath, with a mild soap, three times a week to once a day during the baby’s first year, will be all they need. Bathing your baby more frequently than this may cause skin dryness, especially if a drying or irritating soap is used. Among other causes of dryness is allowing water to evaporate from the skin instead of patting your baby dry.
Bathing Your baby: Step by Step
If your baby’s umbilical cord is not yet healed:
- Collect everything you will need: a basin of warm (not hot) water, a damp washcloth, and some fragrance-free baby soap.
- Place your baby in a flat, comfortable surface (e.g., changing table, bed, floor, sink counter) that has already been padded with a blanket or soft towel. Make sure the room temperature is warm. If your baby is on a raised surface, secure them well (with a safety strap or your hands) to avoid accidents. Never leave a baby alone. If you forgot something or need to step away for a second, wrap your baby in a warm towel and take them with you.
- Keep your baby wrapped in a towel, and only expose the parts that you will wash. Use the dampened washcloth to clean their face without any soap. Then, wash the remaining of their body with the soapy, warm water, leaving the diaper area for the end.
- Pay special attention to the creases under their arms, behind their ears, and around the neck.
- For girls, pay particular attention to the genital area.
- For uncircumcised boys, make sure to never forcefully retract the foreskin for washing since it can hurt them and cause irritation or inflammation. It may take several years for the foreskin to fully retract. The outside genital area can be cleaned with soap and warm water. The same can be done under the foreskin only if it easily retracts.
- For circumcised boys, the genital area can be cleaned similarly to the rest of their body.
- Towels with built-in hoods are the best way to keep your baby w犀利士
arm once you are done bathing them.
If your baby’s umbilical cord has healed:
- Instead of sponge or cloth baths, you can try bathing your baby directly in a small bathtub, sink, or plastic tub lined with a clean towel. These baths should be as brief and gentle as possible. It is normal if your baby protests at first, and a little protest is acceptable. However, if your baby seems miserable, it is better to continue sponge baths for a couple more weeks until they show they are ready for direct baths. Bathing should be a fun and relaxing experience; never rush your baby into something they do not seem to enjoy.
- You will need the same supplies as the sponge bath and a cup for rinsing your baby with clean water. If your baby has hair, you will need to add shampoo. Again, never leave your baby alone in the bathtub if you need to step away for a second.
- Immediately after undressing your baby, place him or her in the warm (not hot) water basin to avoid getting your baby chilled. With one hand, support your baby’s head, and with the other, guide them into the water, gently lowering their body (feet first). For safety reasons, most of your baby’s body and face should remain well above the water level. For this reason, it is necessary to constantly pour water over the parts of their body that are out of the water to keep them warm.
Skin and Nail Care
Your baby’s skin is prone to developing irritation from the chemicals found in new clothes and the detergent residues on their washable items. It is recommended to double-rinse your baby’s clothes, bedding, blankets, and other washable items. Also, for the first few months, your baby’s clothes should be washed in a separate load.
Your baby does not routinely need moisturizers, especially if you are not bathing them every day. However, if you feel your baby’s skin is too dry, you can use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer immediately after bathing. If these skin changes are persistent, it is best to contact your pediatrician.
During your baby’s early weeks, their fingers are so tiny that the fingernails will grow very quickly, and you may have to trim them as frequently as twice a week. You can use a soft emery board or nail clippers designed for babies to trim their nails. Be very, very cautious and take advantage of the moments when they are most quiet, such as when sleeping. By contrast, your baby’s toenails grow much slower and are more malleable, so you might have to only trim them once or twice a month.
Estefanía Henríquez Luthje, MD