Deciding when to give your newborn their first bath is an important parenting decision. While parents are often excited to bathe their little one for the first time, it’s crucial to wait until the right moment. In the first days after birth, babies have some unique needs that impact the ideal timing for that inaugural soak. Understanding the factors involved can help you determine the best time to give baby their first bath.
Should I bathe baby immediately after birth?
Traditionally, newborns were bathed right after delivery before being handed to mom. However, recommendations have changed and immediate newborn bathing is no longer routine in most hospitals. Here are some things to consider regarding bathing immediately after birth:
- Stabilizing baby is the priority: When a baby is first born, medical teams focus on clearing airways, drying the newborn, and allowing them to transition to life outside the womb. Bathing may interfere with medical assessment and stabilization.
- Warming is important: Newborns are unable to regulate their own body temperature effectively. Bathing right away may lead to the baby getting cold. Warming under radiant heaters is recommended instead.
- Bonding opportunity: That first hour after birth is prime bonding time for new families. Delaying non-essential newborn care allows uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact between parents and baby.
- Vernix provides benefits: Babies are born covered in vernix, a waxy white substance that protected their skin in utero. Leaving vernix intact for 6-24 hours allows its moisturizing and antibacterial properties to continue protecting baby’s skin.
Given these factors, most medical organizations advise against bathing healthy newborns right after delivery. Exceptions may include situations where the vernix is meconium-stained and delays bonding between mom and baby.
When will baby have their first bath in the hospital?
The timing of that first newborn bath will vary based on each hospital’s standard policies. In many facilities, baby will have their first sponge bath within the first 6-24 hours after birth. This provides time for bonding, breastfeeding, and medical procedures before introducing bathing. Here are some common newborn bathing timelines in the hospital setting:
- Within 1-2 hours: Some hospitals still bathe babies soon after birth, especially if there are concerns about meconium or vernix.
- Within 6-12 hours: Many hospitals aim to bathe baby within the first 6-12 hours while still allowing delayed bathing for at least 1 hour.
- Within 24 hours: Some hospitals opt to wait to bathe baby for the first 24 hours after delivery.
- After 24 hours: A minority of hospitals postpone newborn baths until after the first 24 hours.
Hospitals also consider factors like staffing availability when scheduling that first newborn bath. Speak with your nurse to learn about your hospital’s typical newborn bath timing.
When should I give baby their first bath at home?
While hospital policies vary, the medical consensus is that healthy newborns do not need a bath immediately. You can feel comfortable waiting to give baby their first bath until after you are settled at home. Here are some general guidelines from pediatricians:
- First 1-2 days: Baby does not need a bath right away. Focus on rest, recovery and bonding at first.
- First 3-5 days: It’s reasonable to wait to bathe until 3-5 days after birth.
- First week: Ideally, baby’s first bath will occur within the first week of life.
- First 2 weeks: At the latest, baby should have their first bath within the first 2 weeks after birth.
Aim to give baby their first bath once you are home, recovered, and comfortable with the process. Waiting 3-5 days allows vernix and skin pH to normalize while giving you time to heal and adjust.
Factors impacting timing of baby’s first bath
While the first 3-5 days is ideal, every baby is unique. Discuss your specific circumstances with your pediatrician and consider these factors when choosing the right time for your newborn’s first bath.
- Birth complications: Babies with medical issues may need earlier bathing.
- Jaundice: Delaying baths can help with newborn jaundice.
- Circumcision: Consider timing in relation to circumcision care.
- Infections: Bathing may be needed sooner if mom has active infections.
- Full-term vs preterm: Preemies may need later baths than full-term newborns.
- State of vernix: Babies with more vernix may benefit from later bathing.
- Skin dryness: Newborns with very dry skin may need gentle cleansing sooner.
- Cord care: Keep umbilical cord dry and discuss optimal bath timing.
- Weather and season: Babies born in hot weather may need baths sooner.
- Home bathing conditions: Assess your home setup for safety and comfort.
- Help availability: Have an extra set of hands for reassurance and safety.
- Travel after birth: Wait until after travel to give an at-home bath.
- Bonding time: Delay if you need more time bonding skin-to-skin.
- Comfort level: Only bathe when you feel ready and confident.
- Siblings: Consider sibling needs and schedules when choosing timing.
- Beliefs: Some cultures or beliefs favor later bathing.
While medical guidance favors delaying, your individual preferences also matter. Discuss your priorities with your doctor to choose the ideal timing together.
Getting ready for baby’s first bath
Once you decide on the right time, you can start prepping for the big event! Here are some tips to get ready for baby’s first bath:
- Gather supplies: Baby soap, washcloth, hooded towel, fresh clothes, diapering items, etc.
- Choose a location: Bed, sink, or baby tub with nonskid surface.
- Warm room: Keep bath area at least 68-70°F.
- Read directions: Review infant bathing guidance.
- Make it special: Light candles, play music, use special items.
- Watch the clock: Limit first baths to 5-10 minutes max.
- Have help: Ask partner or friend to assist with first bath.
- Eye on baby: Keep a hand on baby at all times for safety.
- Take photos: Document baby’s first tubby time.
- Stay flexible: Be ready to cut bath short if baby gets fussy.
Preparing your space, supplies, and plan of action ahead of time will help make baby’s bath time debut a calm and special experience.
How to bathe your newborn
When it’s finally time for bathing, proceed gently and keep the first bath simple. Here is a step-by-step guide to bathing your newborn baby:
- Gather supplies and fill tub with 2-3 inches of warm water (100°F).
- Gently undress baby and remove diaper.
- Test water temperature with elbow or thermometer.
- Hold and lower baby into tub, keeping head and face out of water.
- Use water and washcloth to clean face, head, and neck area first.
- Wash baby’s body using gentle circular motions.
- Rinse washcloth frequently to keep soap from building up.
- Clean diaper area last, gently rinsing genitals and bottom.
- Lift baby from tub and pat dry with hooded towel.
- Diaper and dress baby in fresh clothes.
- Bond with clean, snuggly baby!
The first bath doesn’t need to be fancy. Focus on keeping your newborn warm, comfortable, and secure throughout the process.
What do you need for bathing a newborn?
Preparing the right supplies will make your newborn’s first bath safe and easy. Here are some bath time basics to have on hand:
- Basic baby tub: Choose an infant tub with a nonskid bottom and contoured design to help hold baby.
- Washcloths: Use soft, gentle washcloths meant for newborn skin.
- Hooded towel: Look for supersoft, highly absorbent hooded towels to gently dry baby.
- Newborn soap: Pick a gentle, tear-free baby wash without dyes or perfumes.
- Newborn hair brush: Try a soft brush designed for delicate newborn scalps.
- Diapering supplies: Have a clean diaper, cream, and clothing ready to go.
- Bath toys: Add a few soft, plastic bath toys once baby is older.
- Bath mat: Use a nonslip mat or towels on the floor for safety.
- Room thermometer: Monitor room and water temp during bath time.
With the right baby bathing supplies in place, you’ll be prepared to make bath time fun and safe starting with that very first wash.
Common newborn bathing mistakes
When bathing your newborn for the first time, there are some precautions to keep in mind. Here are some common newborn bathing mistakes:
- Bathing too early before vernix absorbs
- Waiting too long between birth and first bath
- Bathing without a second person present
- Leaving newborn alone in bath seat or tub
- Letting phone/distractions interfere with supervision
- Using harsh soaps or washcloths
- Failing to support baby’s head during bath
- Incorrect water temperature
- Getting soap in newborn’s eyes or face
- Not thoroughly rinsing off all soap residue
Avoid these missteps by planning ahead, having help, focusing fully on your newborn, and using only gentle products designed for babies’ delicate skin.
FAQs about newborn bathing
How often should newborns be bathed?
For the first year, bathing 2-3 times per week is sufficient for most babies. More frequent bathing can dry out newborn skin. Sponge baths can be used for quick cleanups between full baths.
How long should you bathe a newborn?
Newborn baths should be brief, ideally 5-10 minutes for the first few months. Until babies can hold their head up, keeping baths short and sweet prevents stress or overcooling.
What if my baby cries during baths?
It’s common for newborns to get upset during baths. Crying doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Offer reassurance, keep baths brief, and remain patient as baby adjusts to bath time.
When can I use baby lotion and bath products?
Fragranced lotions and bath products can wait until after the first month when skin is less sensitive. Use plain water or gentle baby wash only for the first few weeks.
When can I bath with my newborn?
Parent-baby bathing can be introduced once baby has head control and can sit upright, typically around 6 months old. Take safety precautions and do not leave baby unattended.
|Age||Recommended bath frequency|
|Newborn||2-3 times per week|
|3-6 months||3-4 times per week|
|6-12 months||Daily or every other day|
While new parents are often eager to bathe their newborn, the first bath is best delayed for a few days after birth. Waiting until 3-5 days allows time for medical procedures, skin stabilization, and bonding. Ideally the first bath will occur once mom and baby are settled after hospital discharge. Pay attention to medical guidance, your newborn’s cues, and your own comfort level when deciding on bath timing. With the right supplies and preparation, baby’s first tubby time will be a safe, special milestone!