Bathing your baby for the first time is a wonderful experience that will stay with you for a long time and is a great opportunity for bonding. Your baby’s first bath is one of the earliest milestones new parents will reach, making it a really special moment.
Some parents worry about the first bath. It can feel overwhelming as you might not yet be entirely comfortable handling this tiny person and might be unsure of the safest way to bathe them. But we promise you will do amazing. With a little preparation and a relaxed approach, you will be a sponge-bath pro in no time.
Here we touch on how long you should wait to give your new arrival their first bath, safety tips and a step by step guide to their first sponge bath at home.
When should you give your baby their first bath?
If you give birth in a hospital, it used to be the norm for the midwifes to take your newborn pretty much straight away for it’s first bath. However, advice has shifted and changed over the years and it is now recommended to wait at least a few hours, if not a whole 24 hours before baby’s first bath. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend a 24 hour delay. An initial good towel rub from the midwife is all that’s needed to remove any amniotic fluid, blood and meconium for now.
There are multiple physical and emotional benefits to why it’s best to wait. Your baby is born with a natural waxy coating on their skin called vernix. This is a natural moisturiser and cleanser, it also protects against infection. So, the longer your little one can soak in this natural moisturiser the better as it will help to stop their skin from drying out. Delaying the first bath for 24 hours also helps to naturally regulate blood sugar and body temperature. Taking your baby away from you for a bath in those early few hours can also get in the way of that natural skin to skin parent and baby bonding time, as well as possibly interfering with establishing breastfeeding.
When is the right time?
Once you get your little one home, there is no rush to bath them. WHO recommend to wait at least 24 hours, but if you want to wait even longer that is completely fine. There is no set timetable or date you need to do it by, it’s at your own pace and when you feel it’s the right time. You may feel you need time to recover from the birth and get used to handling your baby before you are ready to bath them.
It’s sponge bath time
When the time comes for your baby’s first bath, it is important to note that for the first few weeks it is recommended to only give them a sponge bath. Your baby won't be ready for the infant tub until the umbilical cord stump falls off, this usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks. In the meantime, you'll be giving your newborn a sponge bath. Once the umbilical cord has come off, you can move onto bath’s in their baby tub.
Newborns won’t need a sponge bath every single day. Normally three times a week is perfect, as long as you clean their face, neck, hands, and diaper area daily.
What will you need?
What will you need for your baby’s first sponge bath? Below is the full list of everything we recommend having so you are fully prepared for their first sponge bath;
- A sponge like this natural one from CuddleDry or a wash cloth picked from our organic cotton favourites. Whichever you choose you will need 2.
- A hooded towel. We always recommend the Cuddledry Apron Baby Towel. It’s clever apron design means you can pop it securely round your neck so both of your arms are free to hold and dry your little one safely.
- A bowl of warm water.
- Organic and natural baby wash. We always opt for the Baby Wash & Shampoo from Green People, it is 100% organic, contains zero harmful chemicals and uses only natural ingredients designed to protect delicate skin.
- Moisturiser or baby lotion. The Balmonds Skin Salvation is always our top recommended.
- A reusable nappy.
- A new and clean outfit
Step by step guide
So now you have everything you will need, you’re ready to go! Go through our step by step guide to the perfect first baby sponge bath. Remember, your little one might not love it at first, but they will eventually love this special time that becomes a special ritual for you both.
Get everything near you
Having everything you are going to need by your side is very important. You shouldn’t leave your baby unsupervised at any point during bath time, so having everything you think you will need in arms reach will mean you won’t need to step away or take your eyes off them. If you forget anything – ask your partner or family member to grab it for you, or take baby with you to grab what you need.
Get your water ready
Fill your bowl or basin with warm water. The water temperature should be comfortably warm, so test it with your elbow or the inside of your wrist, since those areas are more sensitive than your fingertips.
Get your little one ready
First, undress baby cradling the head with one hand. Leave the nappy on as we will wash that area last. Wrap baby in a towel, exposing only those areas that you are washing. It helps to think of a sponge bath as a step by step approach. By this we mean that you will do each area of their body in stages; washing then pat drying and covering each area back up with the towel before moving on to the next area. This will help to keep your little one warm and comfortable.
Wet your sponge or wash cloth and put some mild baby wash on a soft washcloth, like our favourite from Green People. But don't overdo it, a little will go a long way. Using your baby bath sponge or wash cloth, clean one area at a time. We start behind the ears, then move to the front and back of the neck. Then move onto the knees, between fingers and toes. Pay attention to the creases under the arms and round the neck to make sure they are clean. Rinse the soap off with a second damp cloth, drying and rewrapping your baby with a towel as you go. Don't wash the umbilical stump, and try to keep it dry.
The hair comes towards the end of bath time to prevent baby from getting cold. If your baby hasn’t got any hair, a simple wipe with a damp cloth will be enough. If you baby is born with a head of hair, you can use a shampoo from Green People to gently create a lather. Fill a cup with water and gently pour it over your baby's head to rinse off.
Wrap and dry
Even though you have been pat drying as you go, just take the time to make sure every bit of your little one is dry, including their private parts and folds of their skin. Remember to pat dry, rubbing will irritate the skin.
Once your little one is dry it’s the perfect time to get in some baby massage and bonding time by rubbing in some soothing moisturiser or skin lotion to keep their skin nourished.
Nappy and dress time
Your baby is now all clean and their skin will be super soft. Pop on a clean nappy and a fresh new outfit and give them a big cuddle for successfully having their first sponge bath!
The first baby bath may feel daunting, but having everything you need near by and a confident step by step guide will help you feel more confident. It will quickly become one of the highlights of parenting as it becomes part of your routine and special bonding time.