How do I bathe my baby before the umbilical stump

One of the first questions parents have about bathing their baby is, “How often do I need to do it?” And, at most, a newborn needs to be bathed just a couple of times a week with the exception of times when they have excessive spit-up or blow-outs and they need an urgent bath. The areas that get the dirtiest on a baby are their face, and the skin-folds (especially those under their neck), and also their diaper area. And really, you should be cleaning and assessing these on a regular basis throughout the day, and if you’re doing this, then they don’t need frequent baths.

Plan on sponge-bathing your baby for the first 1 to 2 weeks of life until the umbilical cord has fallen off. And then after that, you can get the baby’s torso wet and bathe them in a sink or in the bathtub. The bath is going to require some prep work before you start. First, go turn the thermostat in your house up to about 74 to 75 degrees to keep your baby warm during the bath. Choose a location close to running water, if possible, so you can rinse your baby’s head with ease. You can set up your bathing station on a counter, on furniture, or on the floor, but no matter what, never leave your baby unattended, and make sure you’re holding them the whole time.

Next, gather all necessary supplies. 2 to 3 towels are helpful (and if possible, heat them with a dryer), 2 washcloths, a bin of warm water that has been tested by you to make sure that it’s not too hot, and remember that a baby’s skin is more sensitive than ours, so if it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your baby. You can also grab some shampoo and soap (which can be added to the basin of warm water if desired, although it’s not necessary), a scrubber or a soft-bristled comb, a new diaper, wipes, lotion if desired, and fresh, clean clothing.

Support your baby’s neck and head throughout the bath, using your non-dominant hand to support your baby and your dominant hand to clean, or just employ the help of your partner – one to hold and one to clean. I actually recommend the two of you doing it together for the first few times until you get used to doing it on your own. Wrap your baby in a clean, warm towel and keep her fully covered throughout the bath, only exposing areas that your washing and being mindful to cover them up as soon as you’re done.

Start with your baby’s face. Dip the clean washcloth into the warm water and cleanse the eyes from the inside corner outward. Change the location on the washcloth before wiping the second eye. Be mindful of neck folds where milk might drip and get caught. Now take one arm out and clean the armpit and down to the fingers. Dip the washcloth as much as is needed to keep it warm so that your baby stays warm. Dry and cover the first arm up and do the same thing to the second arm. Next, move onto the trunk. Use this as an opportunity to examine your baby’s skin. Look for irregularities or rashes that you may not have noticed before. Note them and talk with your pediatrician if you see or have any questions.

Wash your baby’s chest and carefully wash around the umbilical cord, being careful to leave it dry throughout the entire bath. Now turn your baby over and gently wipe her back. The legs are next. Take one leg out and clean it, being especially vigilant about cleaning in those cute little leg-folds , especially behind the knees. Cover the first leg and proceed with the second. The diaper area is last since it’s the dirtiest part of your baby. You might find it helpful to loosely wring the washcloth over the water basin and squeeze it over your baby’s diaper area from front to back, then wipe as necessary to ensure it is clean.

Put your baby in a second warm, clean towel and make sure your baby is warmed and dried thoroughly. Apply lotion if desired, and also put a diaper on so that everything remains clean while you wash your baby’s hair. If your baby has enough hair that it actually warrants washing, put a small amount of baby shampoo on your hands and rub it into your baby’s scalp. Use gentle circular motions, and you can even use a soft-bristled brush if desired. Use this opportunity to also clean behind your baby’s ears. Rinse by slightly tilting your baby’s head back and running warm tap water (that you’ve already tested first) over your baby’s head. This is usually the part of the bath that babies like the most.

Keep in mind that these tips and suggestions are just for bathing a baby during the first couple weeks of life until the umbilical cord stump has fallen off. If you would like to see tips and suggestions about how to bathe the baby after that, check out the link below. . And if you have more questions in the future for me, feel free to ask them on our Facebook page at, and recommend us to your friends and family too.

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