Baby Development: Bathing Tips

I’d always imagined a baby’s bath time to be a joyful experience, full of laughter, splashing, and bubbles. But as it turns out, this particular element of baby development can be rather nerve-wracking and scary! Isabel, my firstborn, seemed pretty hefty at birth (she was 8 pounds and 9 ounces), but at her first baby bath, she looked scrawny, small, and very slippery.

However, we both got the hang of bath time after some practice, and it became something we looked forward to. Here are my top tips for a successful soak.

Prep Ahead
I wouldn’t start washing Isabel until I had every item right by my side, including shampoo, soap, a washcloth, a cup for rinsing, towels, and at least one fun squeaky toy. I organized it all before she went into the tub. This way, I wouldn’t have to look away for even one second during the baby bath.

Consider the Tub
After Isabel’s umbilical cord fell off, she was ready to move from sponge baths to actual baby baths where she was submerged in water. But because the big tub in our bathroom was cavernous, I used a little blue one designed for babies under 12 pounds, and propped her rubber ducky on the edge. Then, I filled it with the recommended two to three inches of water.

Stay Warm
For safety during this baby development, I always made sure to hold Isabel securely while she bathed. The plastic tub served to prop her up so her head didn’t wobble, but it also meant that some of her body was out of the water. To prevent her from getting too cold, I carefully poured the warm bath water over her upper body throughout the duration of the soak.

Get Cozy
The best part of our baby bath time was the après bath snuggle. Being tucked inside the towel and cradled in my arms was calming for Isabel. In fact, it was so soothing that a bath quickly became part of our bedtime routine. She learned to associate the end of the bath with sleepy time -- making the nights easier for both of us.

Your baby’s first baths may seem tricky, but stick with it (putting safety first, of course). With a little practice, you’ll also find that an evening soak makes for a great bonding activity for you and your new baby.

First Baby Bath

When my daughter, Morgan, turned 7 days old, I noticed that we’ve reached a big baby development milestone-- her umbilical cord stump fell off. Until then, we gave her washcloth baths to avoid getting that area wet.

Under the instruction of her doctor, we knew once her cord fell off that it was safe to give her a tub bath, so I started preparing my baby bath time toolkit. It included:

  • Towel with hoodie to keep her cozy and cute from head to toe

  • Gentle baby shampoo and wash for that irresistible clean baby smell

  • Washcloth to get inside her fingers, behind the ears, under the neck and in her many folds

  • Diaper for immediate coverage, as “accidents” were a regular occurrence

When the time finally arrived, we took off her diaper and laid her in her baby bath seat, where she could be comfortable and supported. Although we knew she was ready for this baby development milestone, there was still a lot to do to keep her safe. To prevent her from becoming cold, we placed a warm washcloth on her belly. I quickly -- but gently -- washed her head to toe while my husband documented the experience. It was certainly a sprint, as I was terrified of her uncontrollable bowels.

Of course we made sure there was still enough time for belly kisses and bath time tunes.

For a baby who was solely capable of lying like a blob all day, I was surprised at the level of grime she had accumulated. This came at the perfect time, since our little one was in desperate need of a bath!

Surprisingly, Morgan loved the water from the minute we put her on her baby bath seat. She seemed to enjoy the gentle massage of the washcloth, and I enjoyed staring in awe at this perfect little person we had welcomed into our lives a week ago.

Once the cleaning mission was accomplished, my husband held his arms with the towel while I lifted Morgan out of the tub. Little did I realize how slippery a wet and wiggly newborn is. Her body felt as though she was given a butter bath, but all 7 pounds of her couldn’t escape my loving hold.

As we wrapped her up and dried her off, I knew we had rocked this baby development milestone, and that our bath time future would involve playful giggles, water kicks, and rubber toys. But for now, belly kisses would do just fine.