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Preparing Your Bathing Area

If you buy into our philosophy of parenting preparedness, a good portion of the thought you put into bath time will be in the form of forethought. It’s important to have anything and everything you think you’ll need within arm’s reach before getting down to business. Never leave your baby alone in the bath even for a minute to get supplies, answer the telephone or doorbell, or any other reason. Whether the “deck” is the edge of your bathtub or the counter next to the kitchen or bathroom sink, you’ll want to come equipped with all of the bath-time supplies you’re going to need before, during, and after. Some of the most useful supplies to have on hand include

  • Water. Seem obvious? Of course you need water, but we suggest you make a habit of filling whatever tub you choose to use before putting your baby in it. In general, we’ve found that a water level in the tub of about 3 or 4 inches is easiest to work with—full enough to get the job done but not so full that you (or your baby) are going to make waves. You may also find that limiting the amount of water you put in the tub will make your number one job of keeping your baby’s head above water logistically easier.
  • Soap and shampoo. Washing your baby with plain water is fine, so long as you remember to adequately rub and rinse problem areas (the notorious diaper zone and skin folds). Many parents, however, opt for a foamier form of cleaning, in which case there are plenty of baby soaps, body washes, and shampoos from which you can choose. 
  • Washcloth (or two). We have found many an adult is unaccustomed to using a washcloth in his or her daily self-hygiene regimen. This is the reason we thought we would state what may be obvious to others of you: Washcloths are quite useful for sponge baths and baths alike. We like to use them wet for cleaning and dry for wiping off.
  • Towel (or two). It’s pretty safe to say that no one likes to step out of a warm bath or shower into the cold air. Babies are no exception. In fact, they are often the most vocal about their dislikes, and you’re likely to be met with considerably more enthusiasm if you plan for your newborn’s quick escape from the tub to a warm, dry towel. Feel free to use the cute little hooded baby towels if you are so inclined, or simply opt for a regular bath towel. We should point out that for newborn babies, many parents find adult-sized towels more difficult to work with for wrapping purposes than the custom-sized baby towels—just too much towel to work with and considerably more towel than you actually need. Other than that, we suggest you go with your intuition and use towels that are soft, absorbent, and cozy. Remember that if you’re going to be laying your baby on a towel during a sponge bath, you’ll definitely want to have a second one designated for drying off.
  • Moisturizer. Despite the fact that most newborns have dry, peeling skin, most of them, if not all, don’t need moisturizers. In fact, some moisturizers are likely to cause rashes when applied to the sensitive skin of a newborn. That said, if it makes you feel better to apply a moisturizing cream, ointment, or lotion to your baby’s skin, don’t hesitate to discuss with your pediatrician which ones are best. In general, it’s thought to be best to use moisturizers that are hypoallergenic. When it comes to effectiveness, sticky, oil-based moisturizers tend to get the job done better than those that are water-based. 
  • Diapering supplies. Remember that it is a newborn’s prerogative to poop wherever and whenever they feel like it, and you may well be met with a mess just before or after putting your baby in the tub. Coming to the tub prepared means coming with baby wipes, a clean diaper (or two in case of diapering mishaps), and any diapering supplies you typically use. 
  • Change of clothes. Your newborn is likely to appreciate any extra effort you make to get her out of her damp towel and into a clean diaper and warm, dry clothes because we have yet to find a newborn who likes to lie around naked, especially when wet.
Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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