by Sally Michener
This article covers topics such as: Questions About Bath Time, How often should we bathe our baby?, Which soap and shampoo should I use when bathing our baby?, Should I use powders and oils on our baby’s skin?, My baby screams every time I try to give her a bath. How can we both enjoy bath time more?, Keeping Baby Comfortable, how should I dress our one-month-old at night?, how warm should we keep our baby’s nursery?, is it better to put our newborn down to sleep on her stomach or her back?, how soon can we take our baby outside?. There will be two more parts to this article so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
The high-maintenance stage of the first two years is often tedious, sometimes fun, but it’s also a chance to get to know your baby. In this article you will find practical ways to take good care of your baby — and enjoy it.
Questions About Bath Time
Here are some questions new parents commonly ask about the bath-time routine.
How often should we bathe our baby?
Bathing is primarily playtime. Babies don’t get dirty enough to need a daily bath. For busy parents this is good news. Once or twice a week is enough bathing, providing you clean your baby’s diaper area sufficiently well each time there is a bowel movement. Daily spot cleaning is necessary in areas that get particularly sweaty, oily, or dirty, such as behind the ears, in the neck folds, in the creases of the groin, and in the diaper area.
Which soap and shampoo should I use when bathing our baby?
Baby’s skin especially a newborn’s, is sensitive, and all soaps are mild irritants. The function of a soap is to suspend particles and oils on the skin surface so that they can be more easily removed from skin with water. Without soap, some oils, dirt, and surface secretions would simply stick to the skin and require vigorous rubbing with a cloth and water to remove them, which in itself would irritate the skin. Every baby’s skin has an individual tolerance to different soaps. How much soap, how often, and which kind can be determined only by trial and error, but here are some general guidelines:
* Use soap only on areas that are caked with secretions, such as oil or sweat, that are not easily removed with plain water without much rubbing. Do not use soap on the face.
* When first using a soap, try a test rub on one small part of the body. If, over the next few hours, the skin reddens or dries or noticeably changes in any way relative to other areas, ban that soap and try another.
* Use milk soap. Baby soaps are regular soaps with fewer additives such as anti-microbials, fragrance, or abrasives.
* Limit the soaps time on the skin to less than five minutes to avoid drying or irritating the skin. Wash it off as soon as possible and rise the skin well.
* Above all, avoid vigorous scrubbing of any area of the skin with soap.
If your baby is prone to eczema or has allergic dermatitis, use a moisturizing soap such as unscented Sensitive Skin Dove.
Shampoos are similar to soaps, and overuse can irritate the scalp and rob the hair of natural oils. Shampooing once a week is enough for most babies. Use a mild baby shampoo; like baby soaps, baby shampoos contain fewer additives than other commercial shampoos. It is seldom necessary to massage shampoos deep into the scalp. If your baby’s scalp is covered with the flay, crusty, oily substance called cradle cap, after shampooing massage a vegetable oil in to the crust to soften it, and remove it carefully with a very soft toothbrush.
Here is a final thought about soaps and shampoos that many mothers have expressed over the years. Sensitive mothers feel that too much soap and shampoo (and scented oils and powders) camouflage natural baby scents that mothers find irresistible. Also, it is better not to mask the mother’s natural scent, which baby needs, and perfume is irritating to some babies.
Should I use powders and oils on our baby’s skin?
Gone are the days when a baby was sprinkled with perfumed talcum after every bath. Powders and oils are unnecessary, since you baby’s skin is naturally rich in body oil, and they may be irritating and even harmful. Moisturizers such as Soothe and Heal with Lansinoh may be used on patchy areas of dry skin; otherwise, they are unnecessary. Powers easily cake and build up in skin creases and can actually contribute to skin irritation and rashes. Powders, if inhaled, can irritate baby’s nasal and air passages. Cornstarch is not recommended. It can serve as a medium for the growth of harmful fungi.
My baby screams every time I try to give her a bath. How can we both enjoy bath time more?
If your baby screams every time you try to put her into the water, it either means that she is hungry, the water is too hot or cold, or you have a baby who doesn’t like to be alone in the water. Her security may be threatened. Here’s how you can enjoy bathing your baby. Take your baby into your bath with you. Get the water ready, slightly cooler than you usually have it, then undress yourself and undress your baby. Hold her close to you as you get into the water and then sit back and enjoy this warm skin-to-skin contact. If your baby still protests, sit in the tub first, showing that you are enjoying your bath. Then have someone else hand your baby to you while you are sitting in the bathtub., Mothers, don’t be surprised if you baby wants to breastfeed at this time. It is natural result of being close to your breast. In fact, if you baby still fusses upon entering the water in your arms, relax her by putting her to your breast first, slowly ease your way into the tub, then gradually let your arms lower baby into the water as she continues to suck. This is a special way to enjoy mothering and bathing your baby. As you baby gets older, bath toys such as the traditional rubber ducky may entice the reluctant bath taker. When bathing together in a tub, take special precautions to avoid slipping. while you are getting used to bathing with baby, it is safer to hand baby to another person or place her on a towel rather than holding baby as you get in and out of the tub.
Here’s another trick for enticing the reluctant bather. This involves getting baby into the mind-set that a pleasant event will follow one that he or she may have mixed feelings about. After the bath you may have a special cuddle time. Or follow the bath with a soothing massage. Baby will develop an association with the bath as the wet stage to put up with in order to get the total body massage.
There is not one right way to bathe baby, just one that works for you sagely with a minimum of hassles. Regard bath time as more of a parenting ritual than a cleaning regimen; that way the pressure is off in case we miss a crevice. Enjoy bathing your baby and bathing with your baby as just another ritual for getting in touch with your infant.
Keeping Baby Comfortable
New parents also ask about their baby’s general comfort. Here are a few common questions.
How should I dress our one-month-old at night?
As a general rule, dress and cover your baby in as much or as little clothing as you would wear yourself, plus one more layer, such as a blanket of appropriate weight. Get used to feeling your baby’s body temperature. Cold hands and feet indicate the need for more warmth; hot, sweaty head means a need for less clothing and/or a cooler sleeping environment. If your baby was premature or weights under eight pounds and has little insulating body fat, dress him even more warmly. Cotton clothing is best because it absorbs body moisture and allows air to circulate freely. Your baby’s clothing should be loose enough to allow free movement but well fitting enough to stay on the proper body parts. If your baby’s sleepers do not contain feet, cover these cold little feet with cozy bootees. Avoid dangling strings or ties on your baby’s sleepwear (and yours as well), since these could cause strangling. While blanket sleepers are great for babies who sleep alone, a baby who shares his parents’ bed also shares their body warmth and can easily become overheated, which will cause him to be restless. In this situation even a think polyester sleeper can be a problem and cotton would be better.
How warm should we keep our baby’s nursery?
Regarding the temperature of your baby’s room, the consistency is more important than how hot or cold it is. Premature or small babies under five and a half pounds have incompletely developed temperature-regulating systems at birth and need a reasonably consistent temperature to avoid cold stress. Term healthy babies over eight pounds usually have enough body fat, and their temperature-regulating systems are mature enough to feel comfortable in an environment in which an average adult would be comfortable. Since babies do not adjust to marked swings in room temperature in the first few weeks, a consistent room temperature around 68-70 degrees F (20-21 degrees C) is preferable.
Besides the temperature of baby’s environment, humidity is important. Best is a consistent relative humidity around 50 percent. Dry air may lead to a stuffy nose, a common contributor to night waking. A warm-mist vaporizer in your baby’s sleeping area helps maintain an adequate and consistent relative humidity, especially with central heating during the winter months. And the constant hum is an additional sleep inducer. As a rule, if the heat goes on, so should the humidity. When traveling with a baby during the winter, take along a vaporizer, especially if you are staying in motels or cabins with electric heat. Heating, particularly dry forced air or heat from electric baseboard heaters, is drying and not conducive to sleep. Unless it’s very cold, turn off central heat at night. Here’s a healthier alternative: An inexpensive warm-mist vaporizer (available at pharmacies and department stores) adequately heats and humidifies a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot room with normal ceiling height.
Is it better to put our newborn down to sleep on her stomach or her back?
Unless advised otherwise by your doctor, put your baby to sleep on her back. Most newborns do seem to sleep “better” on their stomach than on their backs, accounting for the traditional advice of putting babies down to sleep on their tummies. But research has shown that sleeping “better” may not equate to sleeping safer. New insights into infant sleep patterns have resulted in a reversal of the traditional tummy-sleeping position to back-sleeping, mainly because of the reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in infants who sleep on their backs. “Back to Sleep” campaigns have reduced the incidence of SIDS by 50 percent. Babies who sleep on their backs awaken more easily and sleep less deeply than tummy sleepers, and easier arousability from sleep seems to be a protective mechanism against SIDS. Be sure to check with your doctor to see if your baby has any medical condition that necessitates front-sleeping, such as small jaw bones or other oral structural abnormalities that my compromise the airways when she is sleeping on her back; a mucus-producing respiratory infection; or gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD).
How soon can we take our baby outside?
Follow the guidelines mentioned in the preceding discussion about baby’s clothing and room temperature. Consistency of temperature is still necessary in the first month. A newborn’s immature temperature-regulating system may not tolerate exposure to extreme temperature swings. Traveling from a heated house to a heated car maintains this consistency. If you baby is term, healthy, and has enough body fat (usually with a weight of at least eight pounds), baby is mature enough to tolerate brief exposure to extremes of temperature (such as house to car and back). If your baby is premature or small and does not yet have a generous amount of body fat, avoid extreme temperature changes for at least month. In climates where the inside and outside temperatures are similar, you and your baby can enjoy a walk outside within the first few days. Passersby love to stop and peer at a tiny baby. To avoid unnecessary exposure to germs, shun crowds, shopping malls, and handling by — or being within sneezing distance of — persons with colds. Going outside won’t make baby sick. Being around sick people will.
There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.