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Newborns don’t need the kind of thorough cleaning that older children and adults do. Tub baths are not recommended until the umbilical cord has fallen off and healed.
Sponge baths two or three times a week are enough for one-month-olds. But clean face, hands and neck daily or a few times a day, such as after feedings, with a washcloth. Rinse the diaper region after every diaper change.
Bathing a baby right after she eats has the chance of spitting up or defecating (or both) during the bath. A calm time, when the baby’s not hungry or fussy, might be nicest. Sponge baths can be given anyplace it’s convenient – on a waterproof pad or towel in the crib, changing table, counter top. Generally it’s most convenient to be near a water point. It’s important to be in a warm room without drafts. If it’s winter and the heat has been turned down, consider warming the room where the bath will be given up to above 70 degrees.
Bathe only half the baby at a time, keeping the shirt or pants on while the other half is being washed and dried. For a sponge bath, get all of this together first:
1. Two containers of lukewarm water, one for washing, one for rinsing (test on your wrist or elbow).
2. Two washcloths, preferably baby-sized, one for washing, one for rinsing.
3. Clean clothes.
4. Clean diaper.
5. Towel or waterproof pad under baby.
6. Towel or two to dry off.
7. Hooded receiving blanket.
8. Sterile cotton balls and swabs.
9. Rubbing alcohol for cleaning the umbilical cord.
10. Petroleum jelly (or prescribed ointment and gauze/bandage) for circumcision care.
11. Non-irritating, non-drying soap or shampoo (optional).
12. Have all the items within reach. If you don’t, bring the baby with you when going to get them.
Once everything is ready, here’s what you need to do:
1. Undress baby only half-way at a time for two reasons: babies cool off quickly, and some certainly don’t like being undressed.
2. Talk to your baby while you bathe him or her.
3. Pat all areas dry right after washing. Pay close attention to folds of skin.
4. Reduce your water heater to 130 or even 120 degrees. (Scalds account for 75 percent of burns in children under age 4.)
5. Begin at the head (supposedly the cleanest area) and work toward the dirtiest (you know where).
6. Wet a cotton ball and wipe out one of baby’s eyes, starting at the inside corner by the nose and ending outside. Discard the cotton ball and use a new one for the other eye (so as not to spread infection, if there is any).
7. With the washcloth, wet the hair and rub the scalp. (If you are using shampoo or soap, squeeze very little on with your hand and massage.) Don’t be fearful of the soft spot (“fontanel”), but be gentle.
8. From the rinse water, use a wet washcloth to rinse. Immediately, gently pat to towel dry. Cover the baby’s head with a hooded receiving blanket or dry towel to avoid heat loss.
9. Rinse out the washcloth, sponge off the face, ears and neck, including all the folds. Pat dry and rinse out the washcloth.
10. Remove the shirt. With the washcloth, wash the chest and tummy, under the arms, down the arms, the hands and the back. Pat dry. Rinse out the washcloth.
11. Put on the clean shirt.
12. Remove pants or leggings. With the washcloth, wash the feet and legs, again getting into all the folds. Pat dry and rinse out the washcloth.
13. Clean the umbilical cord with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or swab, or as directed by your doctor.
14. Remove the diaper (not one second sooner than you have to).
15. With the washcloth, wash front to back (especially important with girls). Be sure to gently separate the labia (a vaginal discharge the first few days is normal) or wash the whole scrotum (do not pull back the foreskin of the penis). If the boy has been circumcised, wash the region and apply petroleum jelly or gauze bandage as directed. Pat dry.
16. Put on a clean diaper (if you dare chance it, leave this off for awhile to facilitate air drying and reducing chances of diaper rash) and finish dressing the baby.
Now that’s practical, convenient, and enlightening; didn’t we say you’d have a good read?