Bath time is a great way to bond with bubba. Here’s how to do it right!
Lee Yang Yi
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Bathing your newborn can be a messy and sometimes stressful affair, especially if you’re a clueless new mum or dad. There’s nothing more nerve-racking than washing a fragile baby who is screaming in protest. The entire experience can be traumatising for both you and bub, but it will get better, we promise!
Having a daily bath routine for baby can be extremely beneficial, notes Dr Wong Boh Boi, a senior parentcraft educator at Thomson Medical . “Water therapy can be very relaxing for your infant and it can also function as a bonding activity between parent and child.”
It’s also an environment that newborns are familiar with because if you think about it, they were swimming in amniotic fluid the entire time they were in utero.
You can start bathing your baby as early as 24 to 48 hours after delivery, notes Loh Lee Lian, a parentcraft coordinator at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. “Babies tend to lose heat easily and they need to establish body temperature control after coming out from the mother's womb,” she adds.
So what can you do to maximise the benefits of bathtime while ensuring you’re doing it right? Dr Wong and Loh point out common mistakes parents make and offer top tips to rectify them. Scroll through our photo gallery for top expert advice.
MISTAKE #1: Making bubba’s bathwater too hot or too cold
The ideal water temp for bathing a baby is between 37 and 39 deg C as it accurately mimics your amniotic fluid’s temperature. Make sure it’s not below 36 deg C or above 40. It may seem like a slight difference in temp for you, but it’s a big deal to your newborn’s sensitive skin. For best results, bath baby in a bathtub filled with a mixture of warm and room temperature water. Use a thermometer to confirm the temperature before putting baby in. If a thermometer isn’t available, Loh says you can check using a tried-and-tested trick. Dip your elbow in, the bath water should feel comfortably warm. Also make sure the water level reaches baby’s neck, says Dr Wong. Too low and bub might catch a chill.
MISTAKE #2: Bathing your newborn using the showerhead
Not only is normal shower tap water too cold for a baby, the tickling sensation the shower head makes can also be painful for your peewee. “I usually advise parents to use the showerhead only when their child is a year old,” adds Dr Wong.
MISTAKE #3: Installing bath mats in the toilet
Bath mats can trap soap scum if they aren’t washed routinely, notes Dr Wong. When bacteria starts breeding in the trapped scum it increases your baby’s risk of:
* Oral thrust (when your mini-me touches the dirty surface and puts their hands into their mouths)
Avoid these by removing the bathmats or ensuring they are washed thoroughly every week.
MISTAKE #4: Not realising that quality of tap water differs in other countries
Quality of tap water differs from country to country. For example, in the UK and other parts of Europe, the tap water can be a bit “hard”, says Dr Wong. This means it contains higher amounts of minerals that can dry up your cherub’s skin. You can fix this by adding one to two drops of mild unscented baby soap into the water to make it gentler on bub’s skin. “Parents should also apply a bit of moisturiser [on baby] after bathtime because the weather can be cold, harsh and dry,” adds Dr Wong.
MISTAKE #5: Not holding your baby correctly
There is a wrong way to handle your baby during a bath, and if you’re not careful it can end up being fatal. If you’re worried, follow these easy steps:
* Slide your hand over baby's shoulder to grip the opposite upper arm
* Let the back of baby's neck rest on your wrist
* Lower the bottom part of baby’s body into the bathtub
* Keep wiping bub’s face with a clean piece of cloth to ensure soap and water doesn’t get into their eyes.
Remember to always hold onto bub when they’re in the tub and never leave them unattended. “An inch of bath water is all it takes to drown your baby,” warns Dr Wong.
MISTAKE #6: You are missing the creases and skin folds
In her decades of experience, one of the most common things Dr Wong sees in her little patients is infection due to trapped dirt in skin folds and creases. “Parents should pay more attention to the spot behind the ears as well as the arm pit,” she advises.
Always check to see that all residual soap has been washed off as it can cause an infection or dry out bub’s gentle skin. And make sure baby is thoroughly towelled dried after a bath. “Keep the folds and crevices around the neck, armpit, groins, between the fingers and toes dry as any moisture may cause the skin to become sore,” adds Loh.
MISTAKE #7: Overlooking the importance of cord care
Your newborn’s umbilical cord stump can stay in place up to 21 days before it falls off. During this time Dr Wong says it’s critical to cleanse the stump and the area around it at least three times a day and keeping it dry always. Failure to do so will result in a build up of dirt and result in an infection (look out for redness around the area). Here are simple ways to keep it clean:
* Wash using cooled boiled water
* Spray on some cord spirit
* Clean the area using a disposable medical swab.
MISTAKE #8: Taking long baths
A newborn’s bath time shouldn’t exceed two minutes, says Dr Wong. But if baby seems to be having a good time, you can extend it to five minutes. There’s a reason for keeping it short. “This is so that their nails — including the ones on their toes — do not become too brittle, which they usually do, if it has been soaked in the water for extended periods of time,” explains Dr Wong. However, as your little one starts growing, you can increase bath time to up to 30 minutes.
MISTAKE #9: Ignoring your baby’s tears
Bathtime should be relaxing for you and your mini-me. “When they start kicking and screaming, it is a sign that you’re probably holding them incorrectly or that the temperature of the water may be too cold or hot,” says Dr Wong. Instead of ignoring bub’s cries in the hopes that he or she will get used to the routine, take a step back and examine what’s causing their distress. If you’ve corrected everything and the problem persists, Dr Wong advises you to seek help from trained professionals like Parentcraft coordinators at Thomson Medical.