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Baby Bathing 101: Newborns

If only you were sent home from the hospital with a how-to manual, administering your baby's first bath would be easy. You're on your own with this task, but it doesn't have to be scary. Your newborn is delicate, but as long as you're gentle bathing him you won't hurt him. Go slowly, soothe him with lullabies and look forward to the delicious smell of a clean, warm baby.

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Timing Basics

Don't pull out your brand-new baby tub just yet: Until your baby's umbilical stump falls off, which usually takes a few weeks, give him only sponge baths. His sensitive skin can easily be irritated through too-frequent bathing, and since he doesn't do much to get dirty, your newborn doesn't need to be bathed every day. About three times a week is sufficient, says HealthyChildren.org. There's no perfect time of day to wash him, but you can make adjustments as you learn his temperament. If being bathed soothes him, do it just before putting him down at night. If he gets agitated when wet, bathe him just after a nap to help him wake up.

Gathering Supplies

Wash any towels and washcloths with gentle detergent before using them on your baby for the first time. You'll also need a gentle, unscented baby wash. To limit your baby's exposure to chemicals pick one brand and stick with it, Dr. Albert Lane, a professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Stanford University, suggests to "Parenting." You'll also need a clean changing pad or a thick towel on which to rest your baby and a basin or large bowl of warm water (or a clean baby tub once he's past the sponge-bath stage). HealthyChildren.org also suggests using a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer on your clean baby, and you'll want to set a clean diaper within reach. Give him a sponge bath on a floor or changing table. Later on, set up his baby tub in the sink or bathtub.

Giving a Bath

Whether he's lying on a pad for a sponge bath or seated in a baby tub with a few inches of warm water, start by washing your newborn's face with a wet washcloth. When he's smelly or visibly dirty, add soap to the basin of water or tub and dip the cloth in, then use it to gently wash his body. Otherwise, says the Mayo Clinic, use just plain water. Pay special attention to his neck and any folds of skin. In a sponge bath, use a clean wet washcloth to wipe away any soap; in a tub bath, use a cloth or small cup to scoop up water and rinse him. Dry him with a clean towel, rub moisturizer over his body and put a clean diaper on him.

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Bathtime Considerations

Because it's not safe to leave your baby alone even for a few seconds when he's in water or lying on a surface above the floor, all your bathing supplies should be within reach before you undress him. A newborn with no hair doesn't need to be shampooed, but if he already has locks, add another step to your bathing routine. After the rest of the bath is done and he's toweled off, cradle him in one arm with his head over the sink or tub. Wet his hair using your hand to scoop warm water from the faucet, rub in shampoo and rinse it out. Towel-dry his head. If you prefer to rinse him using a cup, test the water temperature with your hand each time.

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