By: Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP
Bathing your baby is an experience many parents treasure. It's a great time to bond, distraction-free, as your tiny new family member enjoys the sensation of warm water on their skin. Yet this common parenting ritual often comes with questions, and sometimes anxiety, about when and how to do it well.
Here are some frequently asked questions from parents about topics related to baby bath timing, frequency, safety, and more.
When should newborns get their first bath?
The timing of your baby's very first bath has changed over the last few years. While most institutions used to bathe babies within an hour or two of birth, many are changing their policies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends delaying baby's first bath until 24 hours after birth—or waiting at least 6 hours if a full day isn't possible for cultural reasons.
Note: Babies of mothers with HIV or the Hepatitis viruses will still be bathed after the initial breastfeed in order to decrease risk to hospital staff and family members.
How often do babies need a bath once they are home?
Newborns don't need a bath every day. They rarely sweat or get dirty enough to need a full bath that often.
Three baths per week during baby's first year may be enough. Bathing more frequently can dry out your baby's skin.
Can my baby have a bath before the umbilical cord falls off?
Only give your newborn sponge baths until the stump of the umbilical cord falls off, which usually happens by about one or two weeks of age. If it remains beyond that time, there may be other issues at play. See the baby's doctor if the cord has not dried up and fallen off by the time the baby is two months old.
Learn more here.
How to give a sponge bath
A sponge bath is like a regular bath, except you don't put your baby in the water.
When is my baby ready for a regular bath?
Once the umbilical area is healed, you can try placing your baby directly in the water. His first baths should be as gentle and brief as possible. He may protest a little. (If this happens go back to sponge baths for a week or two, then try the bath again). Babies usually make it clear when they're ready.
Knowing the basics can make bathing your infant a breeze. Just make sure your baby stays comfortable and safe during bath time―and don't forget to soak up all the special moments that come with it!
About Dr. Navsaria:
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and is director of the MD–MPH program there. He has practiced primary care pediatrics in a variety of settings and is the founding medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. Dr. Navsaria regularly writes op-eds on health-related topics, does radio and television interviews, and frequently speaks locally, regionally and nationally on early brain and child development, early literacy, and advocacy to a broad variety of audiences. Follow him on Twitter @navsaria, Facebook, and visit his website www.navsaria.com.