From Sponge Baths to Tub Baths: Step-by-Step Tips

Here's what you need to know to keep baby clean, from the first sponge bath to splashing in the big tub.

Sponge Baths

Bathing a baby can fill a new parent with trepidation. You're still not entirely comfortable handling this tiny person, and it feels awkward getting her in and out of that little tub. The fact that your baby is not likely to be happy about her first real bath -- and may express her annoyance rather loudly -- doesn't help your state of mind.

Don't worry. It won't take long until bath time is one of her favorite rituals. She'll perk up as soon as she hears the water running, and you'll have a hard time coaxing her out of the tub. In the meantime, here's your reward: There's nothing more delicious than the scent (and sight) of a freshly bathed baby bundled in a towel.

The end result of a bath is definitely one of the best photo opportunities you'll ever have. Here's how to bathe a baby, plus a collection of the supplies you need.

Sponge Bath Supplies

  • Baby body wash (often can double as shampoo)
  • Two washcloths
  • A towel
  • A bowl of warm water
  • Several cotton balls
  • Lotion (optional)
  • A diaper
  • An outfit to change baby into

Baby's First Sponge Bath

Baby won't be ready for the infant tub until the umbilical cord stump falls off (and the circumcision has healed, if your son had the procedure), which usually takes about two weeks. In the meantime, you'll be giving him a sponge bath.

1. Wash baby's face before you take off any of his clothing. Dampen a cotton ball or washcloth and wipe his eyelids from the inside corner out. Use one cotton ball for each eye. With another damp cotton ball, clean around his nose.
2. To clean outside baby's ears, use a damp cotton swab or washcloth. Don't clean inside baby's ears; using a swab could puncture his eardrum.
3. To shampoo, support his spine and hold his head back slightly. Sprinkle his head with warm water and squeeze on a drop or two of soap. Lather, scrub gently, and rinse with a wet washcloth.
4. Dry baby's head with a towel.
5. Now you can undress him and lay him flat.
6. Put a little bit of soap (don't overdo it; newborn skin is prone to irritation) on a soft washcloth to wash his body.
7. When he's clean, pat him dry with a towel, apply lotion if you like, and get him dressed.

Sponge Bath Tips

  • "Down there" care: If your son was circumcised, do not attempt to pull back the foreskin; in fact, until the circumcision wound heals, avoid using soap on the area. After the penis has healed, you can wash it as you would any other part of his body. Clean a girl's genitals by wiping from front to back. Don't use soap in her groin area; it may cause irritation.
  • Location, location: "Bathing my newborn on my bed (I put a towel on top of a plastic tablecloth) works well. I talk to her softly, play relaxing music, and she never cries."
    --C. Smith
  • Warm and dry: Newborns get cold quickly. Try to dry and cover with a towel the areas you just washed to keep your baby as warm as possible.

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