With both a baby and a toddler in this household, bath time around here has now become quite an event.
There is abundant splashing. There are giggles galore. When my little ones hear it’s time to get sudsy, they hike / crawl up those stairs faster than you can say “rubber ducky.”
How funny to think that it was less than a couple years ago that I was giving my youngest her very first real bath, and only a little while before this that I was giving my first baby bath ever to our older child.
Although it’s almost always all fun and games now, with the two of them having a grand old time in that big family tub, I remember so clearly how intense and even intimidating it was to tackle the prospect of washing a slippery little newborn for the first time.
It’s very special and fun in a way, and I think it only becomes easier and more fun the more you do it, but both mother and baby might understandably take a while to get the hang of the whole process.
And so with a splish and a splash, here are 20 tidbits about my experience with bathing my babies for the very first time.
20 Not All Smiles And Splashes
I believe my first baby was rather calm as we gave the first “real” bath, in that little plastic tub with a few inches of water in the bottom.
My second child, however, was not.
I had already dealt with babies quite a bit by then, of course, so it wasn’t as hard as you might imagine for me, actually, to keep her secure and wash her quickly and calmly, then rinse, then dry, and then call it good.
She quickly moved on to looove baths and water in general, but I’m just saying the early baths might not be the calm and happy event of your dreams. Give it time, though, and you may have one happy little swimmer on your hands.
19 Such A Helpful Little Hammock
I’ve seen flower-shaped seats that appear to be blooming in your kitchen sink, in which you rest your naked little baby.
Some people opt for a big bowl, or even getting in the tub with their child right off the bat.
What we ended up using the majority of the time – and especially for the very first bath – for both of my babies so far was the common and simple plastic baby bath tub.
What was quite fancy and wonderful about it to me, though, was the fabric and mesh sling, of sorts, that came with it.
You could hook this in place and rest the newborn on it so that part of the body dipped into the warm water below, without the baby being free to slip and slide all over the tub.
18 Location, Location, Location
For my first baby’s very first bath and all of her baths for quite some time, actually, I would put the baby bathtub on a towel on her bedroom floor and fill it up cup by cup. I felt comfortable having the soft floor to kneel on and the space to move around.
It took a long time, though, obviously, to get it ready. Plus, it was challenging to get it all cleaned up again afterward. Getting the water temp right wasn’t as slick of a process, either.
I still ended up doing my second baby’s first bath on the floor in the same sort of way, just because there’s just something intimidating to me about having a rather limp and very slippery little newborn in the bathroom with all those slick and hard surfaces around.
Not ideal for long-term, but it made me feel comfortable to start there.
17 Keep It In The Bathroom
What is much easier, I’d say, is actually doing the bath in the bathroom.
Somehow, I quickly got the hang of leaning over at that awkward angle to get to the baby in the little tub, placed within the regular bathtub.
I’ve seen parents placing the baby bath on top of a larger bathroom counter by the sink, as well, but my bathroom sink has barely any counter surrounding it.
With the tub actually in the bathroom, it’s much easier to adjust the water temp and to actually get the water in and out of the tub.
You can leave the baby wash and some regular supplies there all the time so that it’s less of a process just to gather everything up and get it ready each time.
I also moved on to just taking a bath with my first baby almost every time, which made the process quite easy, although we needed a helper for getting out each time.
16 Rinsing Done Right
Amid all this discussion of washing, let us not forget a very important step, indeed: the rinsing.
I’ve tried a handful of different approaches with newborns, and different tactics work well for different scenarios.
With our first baby, the first and early baths were, again, done in the baby bathtub placed on the floor, so we had to keep everything pretty carefully contained.
I actually used just a little bath toy that held maybe a few ounces of water at a time (I think it had come with the baby tub) to slowly scoop water over her. I liked that it was little, but it also made it a bit of a slower process. I moved on to wringing out a washcloth over her to rinse her, as well, and then eventually came to the tool I stuck with using: “the dumper.”
This is our family’s name for the water pitcher they gave me in the hospital when I gave birth (a standard hospital supply). It seems just the right size to comfortably scoop up clean water and rinse a newborn, even though it’s a little messier and less precise.
15 A Clutch Baby Cloth
In my experience as a mom of two little ones, you really do need some of those tiny and especially soft little terry baby washcloths.
At first, of course, before the baby can take a “real” bath submerged in water (because the umbilical cord stump hasn’t yet fallen off), it’s necessary to have something soft and thin enough to get into those hiding spots where milk, sweat, and spit-up seem to love to hide.
And the clothes are great for once you move on from the sponge bath to the first real bath, as well.
A clean one can be used to very gently wipe over the closed eyes, removing any sleepy dust and gunk.
It’s good for gently removing boogers from around the outside of the nose, and generally wiping down the baby. The regular washcloths we have would just be too large and rough for this sort of work.
I’d say grab a small stack for each bath. One can be dipped in warm water and placed on the chest to keep a baby comfy and warm as you work – or over the private parts to avoid getting a shower of the golden variety, yourself.
14 Certain Suds
Honestly, I tried that one classic brand of baby all-in-one shampoo / wash with both of my babies starting when they were newborns, it worked well, and I never looked back.
Our own pediatrician simply recommended using some type of soap-free cleanser so as not to irritate a baby’s sensitive skin.
There are many brands out there these days, some fancy and organic and what have you, some quite basic that can be bought in bulk at your local warehouse store.
If it doesn’t irritate your newborn’s skin, it rinses off thoroughly, and everyone likes the smell of it, I’d say you’re good to go.
13 Having A Helper
I didn’t dare attempt the first bath all on my own, even with my second baby.
First of all, it was within the period that the hubs was still on parental leave from work anyway, so why not have him help out?
If you forget some supply or can’t reach it comfortably while also holding onto a slippery newborn, your helper can grab it for you.
One partner can retrieve the baby out of the water while the other deals with draining the tub and clean up.
Just having someone there for moral support can be quite nice, honestly, even if they mainly end up just standing there.
12 Held Tight In A Hoodie
I think “hooded towels” must have been on the basic baby goods checklist I was working with when I prepared for the birth of my first little one.
Plus, one of the times I was actually in a baby store shopping for a few crucial wardrobe items and things, they had one decorated to look like the particular cutesy animal I had gone with to decorate my little one’s nursery, so we just had to have that, right?
But let me tell ya, especially for newborn babies (but also far beyond, in my experience), those things are great.
A regular bath towel would be too bulky and harder to manage with one hand, while the small size of a special baby towel makes things easier.
Receiving the baby into it means having their head covered and beginning to get their hair, if they have any, dry immediately, which is great because newborns can get chilled easily.
11 Not One But Two Towels
While a single towel may suffice for an adult taking a bath or shower, I found that more is merrier when it comes to bathing a newborn.
We always used one on our laps to actually receive the baby into and immediately wrap them up, and then another towel on top to cover the rest.
The second towel could then be used to actually do the more detailed drying once the baby was on the changer, as well. That way the first towel could still be left underneath to keep the surface dry, keep the baby warm, and act as an insurance policy of sorts against any peeing or pooping that might just happen to occur before we got the clean diaper on.
10 Be Prepared!
Maybe part of the reason it can be a bit intimidating to bathe a newborn is that there can be sort of a lot to remember to do, and in a certain order, and it can take some thought and planning if you haven’t yet done it dozens of times.
Well aside from gathering the baby wash and towels, the stack of soft wash clothes, something to use for rinsing, testing the water temperature, and removing the clothes and diaper only at the last minute, you have to think of what will happen immediately afterward.
Is the room warm enough that the newborn won’t be chilled? Do you have a clean diaper, lotion as necessary, diaper cream if needed, clothes, and a little cap at the ready? How about a baby comb and brush?
Sure, you could gather the toweled baby up again to go grab something, I suppose, but you might have a quickly cooling and possibly upset child on your hands, so it’s really better to just have it all ready, in my experience.
9 Secure That Stopper
For one of my first baby’s very early baths, as I’ve mentioned already, I was filling the plastic baby tub up where it rested on a bath towel on top of the carpeted floor of the room we used as the nursery. (As I said, not a perfect system.)
Well, one way that little bathtub could be drained was to pull out a little attached rubber stopper in the bottom of it – perhaps useful if it was very full with used water and actually within the larger tub (as I used it later on).
Well, I didn’t make sure to check that this stopper was in place and blocking the hole where the water could drain…
That was one soggy carpet.
At least I had a towel underneath that soaked up some of it, I guess! I blame sleep deprivation.
8 Speed And Precision
As I said, I just don’t think you can completely count on a newborn being thrilled throughout the experience of the very first “real” bath.
If you think about it, that totally makes sense.
A newborn is used to being bundled up, with chin, arms, and legs held closely against the body.
They’re wrapped up in clothes and blankets and held in soft, warm, and dry arms.
Although later, as with my little ones, you may have to repeat yourself 10 times before you actually get your kids out of that tons-of-fun bath, with a newborn (especially the first time), it’s probably best to just go for it, getting them wet, washing as needed, rinsing thoroughly, and then calling it good.
I found that even if they get upset if you just move quickly and then move on to something else, it’s all good in the hood(ed towel).
7 Don’t Forget The Pits
After our baby had already had that first and maybe even a few other regular baths, we noticed that there was an area that still seemed to need some additional attention: the armpits.
I really thought I had washed and rinsed in there adequately, but then while dressing her, I noticed the area becoming very irritated and red.
Newborns just hold their arms so very tightly against their bodies so much of the time that I think it’s easy for moisture to remain trapped here.
Our doctor recommended some fairly basic over-the-counter cream to use, and I was also very careful to pay close attention to the area, not only washing and rinsing it well but also really getting the arm lifted to get the area completely dry and hopefully aired out a bit regularly.
6 Under The Chin For the Win
Here’s another area I found needs careful attention when you’re giving that first and other early baths to a newborn: under the chin, or, er, chins…
Just like with the armpits, it’s a place that it is just super easy for all sorts of moisture to hide.
It can get stinky — and fast.
Newborns are often still pretty clenched up most of the time, rather than, say, walkin’ around with their heads held high, or even crawling with their faces pointing out.
So the chin is often pressed quite firmly against the chest.
Drool seeps under there. Breast milk sprays there or dribbles out the corners of the mouths to collect there. Spit-up can do the same.
If something smells funny, I’d check this spot first.
A sudsy baby washcloth or even just your own sudsy finger can do the trick to get under there, and then the key is getting a towel really in there after washing and making sure it actually gets dry.
5 Dress The Part
Sorry, but beyond getting all the actual bath stuff ready, getting the actual baby ready, and readying the clean diaper, post-bath necessities such as towels, creams and lotions, and clean clothes, there might be yet another important first step before tackling that first bath.
In my experience, you might want to take care to ready yourself.
It can be kind of stressful, chaotic, and hot work, especially if your newborn isn’t exactly loving it.
Plus, it can involve a lot of leaning over, and often at awkward angles.
I found it best to dress in clothes that would keep me cool enough, even during the hard work I might be taking on.
Hair worn up and out of the way was crucial for me, too, and I’d say you might also consider removing long necklaces that might dangle and tangle.
4 Straight To Soothing
Sure, my second baby wasn’t exactly stoked about that very first bath.
Although we had decided it was time to give our babe a good real cleaning, submerged in a bit of warm water and all, that babe wasn’t yet so sure about the whole thing.
But that was okay because I got it over with and then moved right onto something else.
After the drying and the diapering and the dressing, it can work well (and also just be the right time in the baby’s regular schedule anyway) to go straight to nursing or giving a bottle and then napping or sleeping.
Even if the newborn baby was crying and carrying on a moment ago in the bath, she’ll likely quickly calm right down again, especially once soothed by something more familiar.
3 Prepare For Pottying
From the newborn times and onward, babies — tiny humans that they are — seem to tend to feel ready to go pee once they are undressed, and especially once they are in that soothingly warm water.
Even girls can tend to sort of spray upward, to get very descriptive with it, when they’re lying down in the bath but not all stretched out, and of course, boys can really have some range.
A washcloth placed just so can help with this matter.
And I remember being a bit concerned with my first baby’s early baths that I then had to actually still wash her using that water.
I got in the habit of reserving a little container of clean water off to the side, one that had neither bath suds nor urine in it.
If you’re actually doing the bath in the bathroom with a faucet nearby, that can make things even easier.
2 Washing Is Half The Battle
Although it might seem like the hard work is over once you’ve done the washing, completed the rinsing, and gotten the newborn safely out of the water, there’s an important next step…
It’s the drying.
The reason it can be kind of tough is that for one, a newborn, again, spends so much time sort of clenching the chin and limbs tightly against the body. It’s hard to get in there in the folds of the legs, the inner elbows, the armpits, and under the chin, for example.
Plus, after that very first “real” bath, a newborn may still be pretty upset, making it even harder to gently lift the arm or chin up or the leg down and out to be sure everything gets dry.
But if you don’t somehow, and then redress them right away, that moisture can stay there and cause irritation (and funny smells).
1 Make A Memory
Feeling fairly confident that I had the hang of giving the newborn bath for my second baby, I gave a different and very important job to my husband.
He was supposed to be the photographer.
Honestly, I think this was because the baby book I was filling out along the way had a page with room for a picture of “Baby’s 1st Bath.”
But in any case, there’s just something special about it.
Carefully cleansing that little body, the beautiful form that is your very own son or daughter, for the first time can be something to be cherished, and a total trip.
How neat to have a pic for your family album or baby book to look back on in awe a short while later!
Reference: This One Mom’s Experience.