During the first few weeks, until the umbilical cord falls off, newborns should have sponge baths. In a warm room, place the baby on a flat, comfortable place such as a changing table, bed, floor, or counter next to the sink will do. Hard surfaces can be padded with towels to make the space more comfortable. Be sure to keep one hand on the baby at all times so she does not fall.
Have a basin of water, a damp, clean washcloth and mild baby soap within reach before you begin. Caregivers should keep the baby wrapped in a towel, and expose only the parts of her body being washed. A clean, damp cloth can be used to wash her face before adding soap. A dipped washcloth in soapy water and rung out can be used to wash her body and lastly her diaper area. Special attention should be given to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck, and the genital area.
Once the umbilical cord area is healed, infants can be placed in the water for their baths. Infants can be bathed in a small, plastic infant tub or in a large sink until they can sit up independently. Prepare for the infant’s bath by gathering all the supplies you’ll need so that you never have to leave the infant during bath time.
Bath supplies should include a gentle soap, soft washcloths, cotton balls, a cup for rinsing hair, a towel, a clean diaper, hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion and clean clothing.
Fill the bath with a few inches of water that is 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the water should feel comfortable when tested on the inside of the nanny’s wrist.
An infant’s face and head should be washed first. A moist cotton ball can be used to wipe each of the infant’s eyes form the inner to the outer part of the eye. The baby’s hair can be washed with infant shampoo. A fine tooth comb can be used to remove loosened skin on the baby’s scalp.
The nanny should pay careful attention to the folds in the infant’s skin, cleaning the creased areas in the neck, thighs and knees thoroughly. The infants diaper area should be washed last, washing from front to back to avoid the spread of bacteria from the anus.
Once taken out of the bath the infant should be dried with the towel. The infant’s creased areas should be dried well. The nanny may apply lotion before getting the infant dressed. Infant massage can be a soothing, comforting and bonding activity for the infant and caregiver. Once the baby is dressed and put in a safe area within sight, the nanny can clean up the bath supplies and empty the bath water.
Once an infant can sit without support, she can have her baths in the regular tub. One hand should always be on the infant when she is in the tub.
Infants do not need to be bathed every day; however a bath can be part of an infant’s nightly bedtime routine. Some babies may get dry skin from being bathed too frequently. If this is the case, limit baths to two or three per week or follow up the bath by applying lotion.
Avoid using bubble bath when bathing infants and young children as they can irritate the skin and urinary tract.