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How to Give A Baby A Sponge Bath

Based on content from the baby care experts at JOHNSON'S® Baby Care Basics: The Essential Guide for New Parents.

Keeping your baby's skin clean is essential to good health, and bathtime is also a wonderful bonding experience. Most pediatricians recommend bathing newborns two or three times per week, increasing the frequency as your baby gets older. Even though you may not give your baby a bath every day, make sure that the diaper area is kept clean at every diaper change, and that his face, skin folds under the chin, and hands are cleaned after every feeding.

Baby's bathtime should be uninterrupted and enjoyable. You should be calm and confident, so if you've had a busy, hectic day, sit down for a few minutes and relax first.

It's better to bathe your baby before a feeding, as long as he's not too hungry. Bathing too soon after a feeding may make him uncomfortable and he may spit up.

Remember: NEVER leave baby alone in the bath or on a changing table!

Preparing for Your Baby's Bath

Make sure the room is warm (24°C, 75°F), because babies lose heat from their bodies quickly. The more organized you are, the more successful and enjoyable your baby's bath will be. So open all the necessary items and have everything ready in the order in which you will be using them.

You'll need:

  • Baby bath or tub filled with water that is at a comfortable temperature. Test it with your hand or wrist - it should feel warm but not hot.
  • A large, soft, hooded towel.
  • A soft wash cloth.
  • Cotton squares or rounds.
  • A mild cleanser specially formulated for babies, such as JOHNSON'S® Baby HEAD-TO-TOE® Baby Wash.

After bath:

Steps in Giving Your Baby a Sponge Bath

  1. Provide Reassurance

    First put warm water into a basin, adding warmer water as needed. Take a few minutes to talk to your baby and provide reassurance. Now undress him, except for his diaper, and wrap him in a towel.

  2. Eyes

    Holding your baby's head, gently wash around each eye with a cotton round or cotton square dampened with warm water. Cotton rounds or squares are good to use because they don't shed pieces of lint.

    Use a new cotton round or square for each eye and always wipe from the inside corner of the eye, outward. If there is no crust (dried mucus), there is no need to wash the eye area. Do not wash the eye itself.

  3. Face

    Using a soft washcloth wipe around your baby's mouth, nose and whole face, working from the middle outward, using only plain water. Pay special attention to behind the ears, under the chin and creases in the neck. Remember: never put anything into the ear canal or nose. Gently pat dry.

  4. Hair

    Keeping your baby wrapped in a towel, put your arm under his back and your hand behind his head. With your free hand wet your baby's hair with the washcloth. Apply a small amount of gentle baby wash, such as JOHNSON'S® Baby HEAD-TO-TOE® Baby Wash, which is specially formulated to not sting his eyes, and gently massage over his whole head. Your baby's head has a soft spot (called fontanels) where the skull has not yet fully closed. Having this soft spot allowed his skull to mold during his passage through the birth canal. It is safe to gently touch and wash this area. Rinse your baby's hair with water until all the cleanser is removed. Lay baby down and dry his head gently and lift the hood of the towel over his head to keep him warm.

  5. Body

    Next wash your baby's body using a gentle, trusted, soap-free baby cleanser. JOHNSON'S® Baby HEAD-TO-TOE® Baby Wash is mild enough for your newborn's hair and skin: in fact, it's used by more hospitals for bathing newborns than any other baby wash.

    Keeping his head covered with the corner of the towel, unwrap your baby and remove his diaper. Wet and lather your hand or washcloth and begin to wash the rest of your baby's body. Wash the neck to his waist, including his arms and hands, and thoroughly rinse and pat dry. Cover his upper body with a towel to keep him warm and move down to his legs, feet and toes.

    Remember to rinse and dry well in all the creases, because excessive moisture can lead to skin irritation. Wash the diaper area last using clean warm water: for a baby girl, just wipe the area gently from front to back. For an uncircumcised boy, wash the penis and genital area, avoiding pulling back the foreskin, and also wipe front to back.

  6. Cord Care

    Before cleaning your baby's umbilical cord, you can put his shirt and diaper on to keep him warm. Remember to avoid covering the cord with the diaper, because the cord area should be kept dry and clean at all times.

    Clean around and in the base of the cord with a cotton round or square. Do not be afraid to clean the cord; the quicker the base dries, the sooner the cord will fall off.

  7. Dressing

    Before dressing your baby, you can apply mild baby skin care products to moisturize the skin and keep him comfortable. JOHNSON'S® Baby Lotion or JOHNSON'S® Baby Oil are both allergy tested and mild enough for your baby. You can use JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder Pure Cornstarch with Magnolia Petals and JOHNSON'S® Baby Powder with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E to keep your baby dry and to help absorb excess moisture. Remember to apply the product to your hand and then gently apply to your baby. It's also a good idea to use a pediatrician-recommended zinc oxide barrier cream, such as DESITIN® Maximum Strength Original Paste or DESITIN® Rapid Relief Cream, at each diaper change to soothe and protect your baby's irritated skin.

    Now dress your baby and wrap him in a receiving blanket to keep him warm. Hold your baby close and enjoy your time together.