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How to Give Your Baby a Bath

Once the umbilical area is healed, you can try placing your baby directly in the water. Her first baths should be as gentle and brief as possible. She will probably protest a little; if she seems miserable, you should go back to sponge baths for a week or two, then try the bath again. She will make it clear when she’s ready.

Use a soft cloth to wash her face and hair, shampooing once or twice a week. Massage her entire scalp gently. When you rinse the soap or shampoo from her head, cup your hand across her forehead so the suds run toward the sides, not into her eyes. Should you get some soap in her eyes, and she cries out in protest, simply take the wet washcloth and liberally wipe her eyes with plain, lukewarm water until any remains of the soap are gone, and she will open her eyes again. Wash the rest of her body from the top down SLOWLY.

When your infant comes out of the bath, baby towels with built-in hoods are the most effective way to keep her head warm when she’s wet. Bathing a baby of any age is wet work, so you may want to wear an apron to keep you dry.

In the early months you may find it easiest to bathe your infant in the morning, when she’s alert and the house is quiet and warm. By the time she graduates to the bathtub (usually when she’s sitting up or outgrows the basin), you may want to shift to an evening schedule on summer days. The bath is a relaxing way to prepare her for sleep.

If you’ve forgotten something or need to answer the phone or door during the bath, you must take the baby with you, so keep a dry towel within reach. Never leave a baby alone in the bath, even for an instant. If your baby enjoys her bath, give her some extra time to splash and explore the water. The more fun your child has in the bath, the less she’ll be afraid of the water. As she gets older, the length of the bath will extend until most of it is taken up with play. Bathing should be a very relaxing and soothing experience, so don’t rush unless she’s unhappy.

Bath toys are not really needed for very young babies, as the stimulation of the water and washing is exciting enough. Once a baby is old enough for the bathtub, however, toys become invaluable. Containers, floating toys, even waterproof books make wonderful distractions as you cleanse your baby.

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