When Should I Give my Baby Their First Bath?
Your baby's first bath is such a special milestone in the early days, but its something that a lot of parents are often a little anxious about. We understand. Babies don't come with an instruction manual, sadly, so believe us when we tell you that we've all been there before. Hopefully we can help to ease your concerns a little- starting with the age old question: when should I give my baby their first bath?
There's no rush
Once upon a time, babies were given their first bath in hospital before being sent home with their parents. In a lot of ways, this made sense at the time- baby bathtime can be a daunting prospect, after all, so having an expert show you how to hold them and bathe them is always a good idea. However, research in resent years has shown that it actually is better for baby if you wait a while before giving them their first bath.
Your baby is born with a creamy coating on their skin, called vernix. While your baby was in utero, this vernix protected their skin from the amniotic fluid, and once delivered, it helps regulate warmth- not to mention the fact that it has antioxidant and antibiotic properties too. Vernix is also a pretty awesome, natural moisturiser which nourishes the skin, so it's better to leave it on there for as long as possible.
Your baby also needs to stay warm in those precious early hours too, so your midwife is unlikely to wash them straight after birth either. Most likely, they will be wiped down and then handed to you for lots of cuddles- the first bath can wait!
In general, the World Health Organisation recommends delaying baby's first bath for at least 24 hours after birth, or 6 hours if that isn't possible due to cultural reasons.
Before the bath
Some parents decide to delay baby's first bath for a few days after birth, which is absolutely fine. If you decide to wait too, you can always do a top & tail wash to make sure baby is clean and comfortable. We recommend using just warm water and a soft bamboo washcloth so gently clean under baby's chin, their face and the nappy area. Gently clean around the umbilical stump, taking care to let the skin around it air dry before putting on a new nappy. Read this post on how to do a top & tail wash
Baby's first bath
When you're ready, baby's first bath can- and should- be a special occasion. But remember, this is all new to them, and chances are they might not be huge fans at first! Its important to stay calm, keep baby as warm as possible, and to keep the whole thing as short as possible too. We've written a post on how to do baby's first bath here- take a read.
Baby's first bath might be up to a week after birth, or it could be the next day. Either is absolutely fine and we always recommend doing whatever works best for you and your baby.
Your bathtime routine
In last week's post we wrote about how often to bath baby, and we mentioned that it really doesn't need to be every single day. You might not even have a solid bathtime routine for a while, either- and that, again, is fine! The most important factors to consider are:
1. baby is calm and content- doesn't need a feed
2. baby isn't ready for a sleep
3. you have everything you need for bathtime
4. you've followed basic bathtime safety guidelines.
Once your baby is a little older, you can increase the frequency of bathtime if you wish- until then, top & tail washes in between are fine, if they work better for your day to day routine.