How To Bathe A Newborn Baby (Without Crying)
Let me start by saying congratulations! You have a newborn to bathe, which means you or someone you know has recently welcomed a little angel to the world. Bathing newborns is an honour and a sacred boding experience. It can be daunting, especially if they are really little, but have confidence in yourself and you will be able to do it.
If your baby doesn't like bath time or you're too scared to try it, call me. I have bathed hundreds of newborns tear-free and as little as four pounds. Bath time need not be traumatizing or scary. It should be a wonderful, beautiful bonding time. I can help you if you need it, either in-person (in Toronto) or through video call.
FY: I use female pronouns here because all the babies shown in photos are female, but the same steps apply for baby boys.
1. Find a time when baby is calm and you have someone helping you.
Wait at least 20 minutes after a feed to bathe your baby so her tummy doesn't get upset by the warm water. If you bathe her when she's hungry, she likely will fuss and want out quickly. If she is sleepy, it's still ok to give her a bath - lots of newborns sleep through bath time anyways! Read her signals and if she's calm enough and fed enough, get ready to bathe her.
Find a partner - mom or dad or your doula will do! Preferably someone who carries a sure enough energy that they will not make you nervous!
2. Set up your bathing space.
Create a calm environment - being relaxed yourself is an important part of it. Babies are energy readers and can tell if you're nervous. Take calm breaths and pick up your baby with steady hands so she knows for sure you've got her!
Turn on some music. Anything calming and spa-like will do. You can use my playlist on Spotify if you have it. My username is leahjay1426 - look for the playlist titled "ULTIMATE CALM." It will help calm your energy and your baby's.
Diffuse Young Living essential oils if you have them - if not, contact me for detail. I like to use lavender. I always put one drop on my chest and wrists before giving a newborn bath -- that way she can smell it on me and we'll both be relaxed!
I have used lots of different baby tubs and all of them have worked. If you don't have a baby tub (or even if you do) you can always use a big tub and go in with your baby (great place for breastfeeding). A sink may also do the trick. If you are using a baby tub, set it on the floor or a counter where you can easily hold on to your baby and you are sure it is safe. I like to place a towel underneath to keep the area dry and also so I have a spot to lay the baby before and after.
Check the water temperature with the inside of your wrist just as you would check a baby's bottle. The water should feel warm and not hot. Don't be afraid though - most babies would prefer the water rather warm over not warm enough. Fill a pot (from your kitchen) with water that is equally warm or even warmer than the water in the tub, and place it within arm's reach of the tub. That way, you can add more water as needed to cover your baby's body while maintaining warmth as the tub water looses heat.
Beside you, have a swaddle, a soft towel for "catching" the baby, and a facecloth ready. Have soap (optional) and massage oil or lotion of your choice handy.
3. Undress and loosely swaddle baby.
Lay the swaddle down in front of you (on top of the towel you have laid out) in the shape of a diamond and fold the top corner down about five inches. Place your baby with her head on the folded bit of swaddle and her feet towards you. You can undress her here and take off her diaper. Talk to her while you're doing this so she knows what's going on and you can release any nervous energy you're holding on to. Let this be a gentle learning process for both of you.
Once baby's naked, take the left corner of the swaddle and fold it over her. Take the right corner and fold it over and then under her. You've got it - your sweet little bundle!
Keep the swaddle loose enough that you can unwrap it easily after. It's just there to help her feel secure and keep her body and neck warm during the transition into the water.
4. Bath time!
Support her head, neck, and bum with your two hands and slowly place her in the water. I like to submerge their little bums first and slowly ease them the rest of the way in. Watch her facial expression, talk to her, be patient. If she screams, she's probably telling you the water is too hot. If you can ease her in, and she's quiet, you're fine. She might have a curious look on her face as this is a new experience for her! Pay attention to her energy and yours.
Always keep one hand under your baby's neck/head. Have your helper add more warm water to the tub if needed. Then use your cup or the pot to pour warm water over your baby (who is still swaddled). This should feel good for her, and she'll feel secure with the swaddle around her. As she gets comfy, you can unwrap parts of her where you want to rub, soap, or pour water. Make sure you wipe all the crevices around the genitals/bum, neck and behind the ears, and under the armpits. You don't really have to use soap with a newborn because they're not that dirty and their skin's sensitive, but it's up to you. Either way, give them a good wipe down with your free hand or a cloth.
Pour water on her to keep her warm. On her belly, her feet, her head. Keep water out of her mouth, it'll upset her tummy if she swallows it. When you're ready to wipe her face do so gently with a (damp) facecloth.
Talk to her the whole time, sing songs, coo. Let her know you're there and you've got her.
5. Time to come out!
Newborns don't need to be bathed for long. 5-10 minutes is plenty. Their skin is very sensitive and it's a big experience for their little bodies. I like to have mom "catch" the baby, meaning I have her hold the towel against her chest and I pick up the baby (leaving the swaddle behind) and place her in her mother's arms. This can be a really healing experience for women who've had less satisfying birth experiences.
Wrap her up nice and warm. If she's going to cry, it'll be now. But don't fret! She's just cold and enjoyed her bath so much she didn't want to come out. Having the room warm to begin with can help with this. In any case, pat her down so she's dry and put a hat on her head. When she's calm and warm, lay her down. Put a hat on her head to keep her warm.
6. Massage your baby
I like to use pure coconut oil but you can use whatever you'd like (preferably something mild). You can add 1 drop of Young Living lavender essential oil to 10 drops of coconut oil for a safe, aromatherapy experience for your baby. It will make her so calm!
Rub her feet, her toes, her heels. Just as you would like it. Hold her steady in your hands and give her a good rub down. Once you've done her feet, legs, and bum, put a diaper on her.
Massage her belly, always clockwise. Her shoulders, arms, hands. Turn her onto her side and massage up and down her spine. Babies love that! You can then do her head and face, if she's still loving it. Just keep it out of her eyes, mouth, and nose.
Don't forget any body part. As long as she's happy make it a full-body massage. Think back to the best massage you've ever had and apply what you learned here. If you liked having your ears pulled, why not do that for your baby? If you like having your forehead caressed, chances are your baby will love it too.
7. Dress your baby and show her some love.
When you're all done your massage (whether you or baby decides it's over) put her in some comfy clothes (including a hat) and cuddle her. You're baby is more in love with you than ever. Kiss her, snuggle her. If she's hungry, let her take your breast (or bottle if you're not breastfeeding). Newborn babies will often be hungry after bathing - it's quite the ordeal for them and takes a lot of energy, She'll be warm and happy against you after her bath.
If you are having a hard time bathing your baby without crying, contact me and I can help you through the process.