By Shana Aborn/Sept. 1, 2021 10:29 am EDT
When you’re a new parent, you start off determined to do everything right. You listen for any sound of distress, check diapers to make sure your baby is eliminating on the regular, and scrutinize the ingredients of all the baby foods in the supermarket (or, if you’re determined to be super-parent, you make your own applesauce and strained peas). Parents of young babies usually establish a daily bath time routine as well — after all, you don’t want your child looking grungy or getting sick from lack of hygiene. Besides, those little guys look so adorable when they’re covered in suds and slapping their hands in the water.
But if you’re among the daily-bath set, you might actually be doing your baby more harm than good. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Healthy Children website, bathing an infant too often can damage their sensitive skin. In fact, the World Health Organization advises hospitals not to bathe newborns until a day or so after birth. This allows babies to develop a close skin-to-skin connection to their moms, which in turn helps make breastfeeding more successful. Newborns are also protected by a layer of a substance called vernix, which acts as a natural moisturizer — washing it off too soon can make the skin dry and prone to infection.
So how often should you bathe your baby? Less often than you might think.
You can start washing your baby in the tub after this happens
The American Academy of Pediatrics explained that newborns shouldn’t get an actual soaking bath until after the umbilical cord has fallen off, which typically happens a week or two after birth. For those first days, it’s enough to give gentle sponge baths with a washcloth and water, starting at the face, then wiping down. Pay special attention to creased areas such as inner elbows and knees, neck, and diaper area. Later on, when the umbilical cord is gone, you can try putting your baby in a baby tub for a full-body washing.
At most, pediatricians agree, babies only need a short tub session about three times a week. Obviously, you’ll also want to head for the tub under special circumstances, such as those explosive up-the-back poops or a messy dinner. On a daily basis, you can do a quick washcloth wipe-down of your baby’s face, hands, and genital area.
When bathing your baby, check the water temperature first to make sure it’s not too hot. Keep your child’s head and torso above the water level, and have a hand on your baby at all times — a baby can drown in even a small amount of water if left unsupervised for even a minute. Soap and rinse from the head down, being careful not to get soap in their eyes. After bathing, wrap your baby in a towel right away and apply a small amount of baby-safe lotion. All clean!
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