When Should Babies Have Their First Bath? Probably Not As Soon As You Think

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Giving your baby a bath for the first time is a big moment for most any new parent. But figuring out the specifics for babies and bath time can take a little effort. For instance, when should babies have their first bath? Are they kind that self-clean for a few days, or do you need to dunk them in the tub right away? In general, newborn babies may be a lot cleaner than you expect.

For the first few days, a quick wipe with a warm, dampened washcloth is all the bathing your baby needs, as noted in Baby Center. In fact, parents should generally wait about two weeks before giving a newborn baby a tub bath, or at least until the umbilical cord has fallen off, as further noted in Baby Center. And hospitals will be sure to tell you not to submerge submerge your baby's body in water until the umbilical cord has self-healed and fallen out on its own. Unlike older kids and adults, who spend all day getting sweaty and dirty and handling who knows what, newborn babies stay pretty clean. They don't need a lot of major washing right away.

In fact, some childcare experts are even delaying the newborn's first "bath" that is typically offered at the hospital. "Babies are not born dirty," said Michael Farmer, head of the Department of Family Practice and postpartum medical director at BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre, in Today's Parent. "At BC Women’s, there is no urgent need to get the newborn baby bathed, and this can be delayed at the parents’ request." You can give it a few hours or even a whole day. If you want to wait, and give your baby a little more time to get used to life outside the womb first, then that's totally OK.

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Plus, those first baths don't have to be major undertakings or anything. A simple wipe-down sponge bath every few days is probably sufficient, because your newborn isn't out rolling around in the mud or anything. And even once your baby is ready for tub baths, they don't have to be a big production. You might not even need to use soap. "There’s no harm in using a natural, scent-free soap, but warm water and a cloth is plenty to get them clean,” said Justin Smith, a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Medical Center, in The Bump. Remember, because your newborn's diaper area is thoroughly cleaned at every changing, the most important parts are already covered, so to speak.

Plus, not all babies are thrilled about the initial transition to tub baths. If your month-old baby get super fussy whenever you try to give a tub bath, then it's totally fine to switch back to sponge baths for a few more days, as noted in WebMD. The whole bath thing is a learning process for both of you.

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On the other hand, some babies absolutely love bath time from the get-go. In fact, baths can help babies feel safe and sleepy, as noted in What To Expect. For some kids, a warm bath is basically a one-way ticket to snoozeville. "Baths can help soothe babies who are fussy and be part of a healthy sleep regimen," said Sabrina Fernandez, MD, a pediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, in The Bump. If a nightly bath is what works for your little one, then that's perfectly fine as well.

As with so many things related to babies, the perfect timing for that first bath, as well as the frequency of following baths, depend on so many factors. Perhaps most important is the way your baby reacts to the whole bath process, and whether it's perceived as the best thing ever or something to avoid. But by paying attention to your baby's reactions, you'll know what's best.