Bath and beyond

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Bathing beauties

There’s no need to bathe your baby every day. Instead, it’s typically OK to bathe her two to three times per week – any more often and you risk drying out her skin. Focus on the face, hands and nappy area, just washing the dirty areas.

Because young skin is more delicate, it’s more susceptible to becoming dry. To prevent and help dry skin conditions, cut bath time down to about ten minutes. Use warm water – not hot – and soap up sparingly. Once you take your child out of the bath, quickly pat her dry with a towel, and then apply moisturiser immediately. Applying the moisturiser within minutes of taking your child out of the tub will seal in the moisture from the bath.

Heads up

Don’t wash your baby’s hair every day – there’s just no need, particularly with newborns. Aim for a quick shampoo when you bathe your baby, which doesn’t need to be more often than a couple of times a week.

If your baby has cradle cap – a common, but harmless, scalp condition that will eventually go away on its own – then you can massage your baby’s head with your fingers and baby shampoo to help loosen the scales. Do not rub, or you might irritate the skin. Before you rinse off the shampoo, brush your baby’s hair with a soft baby brush to remove the loose scales.

Baby bits

As a general tip, change your baby’s nappy as often as possible to avoid irritating that sensitive skin with faeces and urine. You can also use a nappy rash cream to create a moisture barrier to help prevent nappy rash.

Gently clean the skin with wet cotton or wipes, from front to back to avoid spreading germs. Be sure to gently clean in the folds and creases of their skin. If your baby boy is uncircumcised, don’t try to retract the foreskin. The foreskin may not be able to retract for several months or even years, since it takes this long for the foreskin to separate from the penis. If your baby boy is newly circumcised, clean his penis with soap and water during normal bathing.

The eyes have it

These precious organs need proper care and good hygiene. Dampen a cloth or cotton ball with a little bit of warm water. With the baby’s eyes closed, gently wipe the eyes from the inside to the outside corners. Use a different part of the cloth or a new cotton ball for each eye.

That new baby smell

Unless your baby’s nose is dirty, you don’t need to clean it. You don’t have to clear a stuffy nose either, but it will probably make it easier for your baby to breathe, eat and sleep. Get a rubber bulb syringe, which generally works pretty well. Start by squirting a little nasal saline into your child’s nose to moisten and loosen up the mucus before you try to suction it out.

Aim for a quick shampoo when you bathe your baby, which doesn’t need to be more often than a couple of times a week.

Hear, hear

Simply clean the outer part of your baby’s ears with a cotton swab moistened with oil or peroxide, or a washcloth moistened with warm water during the bath. Never insert a cotton swab or anything else into your baby’s ear canal; you could easily puncture the eardrum that way. Earwax is nature’s protection for the ear canal, and there’s usually no reason to try to get it out of your baby’s ears. If you’re concerned about a build-up of earwax, ask your baby’s doctor about it.

Say, “Ahhh”

To clean your baby’s mouth, wet a clean cloth or gauze with clean warm water and then wrap it around your index finger. Using the cloth, gently try to remove the white coating or patches on your baby’s tongue (milk residue) and gently massage the gums. Clean regularly and thoroughly, but gently.

When teeth erupt, you should start cleaning the baby’s teeth twice a day. At first, just use a piece of gauze moistened with water to wipe plaque from your baby’s teeth and gums. Once your baby has several teeth, you might try using a small toothbrush with just two or three rows of very soft bristles. Once your child turns one year, you can start using a stage one toothpaste.

Tiny talons

The best time to cut baby’s nails is right after a bath, when the nails are softest. Use a pair of baby scissors or clippers made especially for use on tiny fingers. Press the finger pad away from the nail to avoid nicking the skin, and keep a firm hold on your baby’s hand as you clip. While cutting tiny nails, be careful not to over-trim – keep a thin white area extending from the nail.

A little off the top

In some cultures, parents shave a newborn’s head; in others, it’s customary to wait until a child can speak to cut his hair for the first time. So, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding first haircuts. But, in general, waiting until your baby is able to support his head on his own while you hold him on your lap will make that first haircut a lot easier on everyone involved.

If your baby has a lot of hair and you feel it needs trimming before you want to take him for a professional haircut, you can do the job yourself at home. Just be prepared for a less-than-perfect outcome. A good, clean pair of shears will make it easier to cut quickly and evenly – old scissors can pull hair, causing uneven cuts.


Jeanne Hauguel is a mother of two and doula who helps families through birth and post-partum. To learn more tips like these, join her Babies Essentials antenatal classes in Causeway Bay. Learn more here.

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