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Newborn Basics

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A sponge bath is the recommended way to cleanse your newborn's skin until the umbilical cord falls off. To give a sponge bath, find a bathing surface that is the right height for you, such as the kitchen counter. Line up all your supplies beforehand so you don't have to leave the baby unattended for even a second. To avoid giving your baby a chill, keep him covered as much as possible. Wash his top half first, keeping his other half wrapped in a towel. Then wash his bottom half, while keeping his top half covered.

Before you begin your bath, make sure you have everything you'll need: Washcloth, mild soap, baby shampoo, cotton balls, hooded towel, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, diaper, clean clothes.

  1. Begin by washing your newborn baby's face with plain water, especially behind his ears and under his chin.
  2. Wash your baby's chest, arms and hands, making sure to cleanse thoroughly between his fingers. If you use a mild soap and cottonball or washcloth, rinse immediately to avoid drying or irritating the area.
  3. Wash your baby's back. With a washcloth or towel, gently pat dry the upper half of his body. Vigorous rubbing could irritate your baby's skin.
  4. Wash your baby's genital area from front to back, then the legs and feet, especially between the toes. Gently pat dry the lower half of his body.
  5. To wash your baby's hair, squeeze a bit of water on top of his head with a washcloth. Apply a dab of baby shampoo (a no-tears formula) and gently massage the scalp. Don't worry about the soft spot; it is actually tough underneath and you can do no harm as long as you're gentle. Remove all traces of the shampoo with a washcloth dipped in warm water.
  6. When you're finished, dry your baby thoroughly wiht a towel and put on a fresh diaper and clean clothes.


Tub Bath

Fill a plastic baby tub with two to three inches of water, and then place it at a convenient height. Never leave your baby unattended in the tub. You can also put the tub inside the sink or wash your baby in the sink without a tub. Just line the bottom to keep your baby from slipping, and turn the faucet away from your baby.

Before you start, gather everything you'll need and be sure the water is neither too hot nor too cold. To test the water, use your elbow or the inner side of your wrist. Try singing songs and playing while you wash your baby. This will help make bath time fun and special for both of you.

  1. You might find that it's easier to wash your baby's hair before you put her into the tub. First, hold your baby in a football hold and squeeze a little water on top of her head with a washcloth. Then, apply a dab of baby shampoo (a no-tears formula) and gently massage the scalp. Remove all traces of the shampoo with a washcloth dipped in warm water. Pat dry.
  2. To lower your baby into the bath, support her shoulders with one hand and her legs or bottom with the other. Even if she cries - and she probably will the first few times - keep smiling and talking to her as you place her gently and confidently in the tub. (Make those early baths quick if your baby seems upset.)
  3. As you bathe your baby, keep one hand under her armpit so that her head stays out of the water, and use your other hand to wash, then rinse, the front of her body.
  4. Now wash and rinse the back of her body.
  5. After your baby is clean and rinsed, lift her gently onto a towel and dry her thoroughly. Put on a clean diaper and clothes.

Tip: Wearing a pair of white cotton gloves can help you feel more secure as you hold your baby in the water.


Swaddling Baby

The first few weeks can be unsettling for a newborn, who's recently emerged from the security of the womb. Swaddling, or wrapping your baby snugly in a blanket, can help him feel secure as he adjusts to his new environment.

Reasons for Swaddling

  • If your baby is having trouble sleeping because he's easily startled or his own muscle movements wake him up.
  • If your baby seems uncomfortable for no apparent reason.
  • If your baby seems distressed by the free movement of his arms and legs.


  • Swaddling is only effective for the first few weeks after birth. After one month, swaddling, which inhibits movement, can restrict your baby's motor development.
  • Don't swaddle a baby in an especially warm room because overheating is a SIDS risk factor.
  • If your baby doesn't enjoy being swaddled, it's OK. Remember to take your cues from your baby - he'll let you know what he likes best.

How to Swaddle a Baby

  1. Fold one corner of your blanket down. (A receiving blanket works well.) Place your baby in the middle of the fold with his head above the edge.
  2. Pull the left side of the blanket snugly across your baby's chest, making sure his right arm is wrapped close to his body. Then lift your baby's left arm and securely tuck the blanket under his body.
  3. Bring the bottom of the blanket up and either fold the edge back or tuck it into the first wrap. Then pull the last corner of the blanket across your baby's chest, securing his left arm near his body.
  4. Tuck the blanket under your baby's back as far as it will go. Keep your baby snugly wrapped as you pick him up.

Tip: If baby wiggles his arms out while he sleep, don't panic. Some babies don't like having their arms confined. You can try keeping his arms outside the blanket while you wrap it. your baby might prefer this more natural position.

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