Baby Grooming 101
We put many of our daily rituals on autopilot. Waking up, putting the coffee pot on, getting into the car and driving to our destination, making small talk in the grocery line. Then there are other things that seem like they should be on autopilot, but we quickly realize we have no idea what we’re doing. Bathing baby? That’s definitely one of them.
Sure, we clean and groom ourselves every day, but tending after our sweet one – whose skin is highly sensitive, and who can’t do anything on her own yet – is a whole other ball game.
What we’re saying is that if you feel silly for Googling, “How to groom my baby,” know that you are not alone and that this isn’t an inherent skill. With the help of two doulas, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know.
How – and When – to Bathe Your Baby
Unlike adults, newborns aren’t doing a whole lot and therefore don’t get very dirty. As such, they only need to be bathed once every two to three days.
“During the first few weeks, a quick sponge bath with lukewarm water and a small amount of mild soap is they need,” says Aliza Bancoff of the International Doula Institute. “Take special care to clean the diaper area and all of baby’s folds. If they are prone to spit up, it’s also important to keep the area under their chin and their throat clean.”
She says to pay special attention to these specific areas in between sponge baths, as well. To clean up, use a soft, damp wash cloth or baby-approved wipes.
After the first several weeks, Bancoff says you can transition to using a small infant tub with chemical free, fragrance free, baby-approved cleansing products.
“In the early days, you will want to keep baths short so your baby doesn’t get too cold. Newborns have a harder time regulating their body temperature,” she notes. “Also keep a couple towels handy – one to wrap them up in as soon as bath is over and one as a backup in case they pee or poop – and get them dry and cozy as soon as bath time is over.”
Ears, Hands, Feet and Hair
In addition to cleansing the whole body, you’ll want to give special attention to are ears, feet, hands and hair. These areas may be intimidating to clean because of how tiny and delicate they are, but with practice you’ll become more comfortable with the process.
Bancoff says to gently wash the outside of their ears with a soft washcloth that’s been thoroughly wringed out. If necessary, you can use a cotton swab to clean the outside folds, but never put a cotton swab in your baby’s ear canal.
“As for feet and hands, you simply need to wash them with a damp washcloth and mild soap during their bath,” she says. “When it comes to toes and fingers, it’s a good idea to inspect them and make sure there aren’t any stray hairs or threads wrapped around them. They can quickly become tightly wound around your baby’s tiny toes or fingers and cause a lot of pain if not removed.”
While on the topic of fingers, note that your baby’s nails can get very sharp. This leads to self-induced, accidental scratches. To combat this, you’ll want to use a newborn-sized nail file, or nail scissors when they get long. Bancoff recommends waiting to do this until your baby is in a deep sleep so he doesn’t notice and so he remains still.
Washing hair is pretty straightforward, as well. Simply wash with a little baby shampoo, as you would your own, and then carefully rinse.
“Most newborns love having their hair washed and scalp massaged,” says Beth Salerno, a doula based in New Jersey. “Hair can be brushed with soft-bristle baby hair brush or comb. If you want to add a little style to longer hair, consider a dab of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil—they will give a little weight to flyaways while conditioning baby’s hair gently and naturally.”
When brushing, be mindful of your baby’s sensitive scalp and skin, as well as her soft spot. If your baby’s hair is long, or prone to tangles, use a detangling spray and work the knots out gently with a comb.
“If you want to use hair accessories, look for ones that can be easily put in and taken out, and will be soft, gentle, and not too tight on your baby’s head,” says Bancoff. “Remember that young babies will not have the tolerance to deal with too much styling, so keep it simple.”
And really, as long as babies are clean and happy, they’ll be adorable no matter what!
Wendy Rose Gould is a writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including InStyle, xoVain, Refinery29, Revelist, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or at WendyGould.com