There’s no denying that a clean baby smells simply entrancing, especially that teeny tiny delicious head. Seriously, what kind of crazy magic is emitted by that baby head anyway? Even baby products themselves have tender scents that stir up such strong feelings of adoration for those tiny humans.
Hints of lavender, baby powder, or other delicate smells cause a person to get into rocking and cuddling mode.
But many new parents feel like they're at a loss when it comes to the art of cleaning a baby. What might seem like a simple concept at face value, is actually a mystery until it becomes a regular part of the routine.
If it weren't a mystery, baby bath time and hygiene wouldn't be the subject of countless articles and even entire websites. And that's also why baby cleaning 101 is typically taught by the nurses right in the delivery room. It gives new parents the confidence to take on the responsibility by showing them how simple and doable it really is.
Though cleaning a baby boy and a baby girl is quite similar, there are a few key differences to be aware of, pertinent to the wellbeing and care of a brand-new little one. Boys and girls obviously have different territory and different traditional gender regimens that require particular attention. But don’t worry, it’s not overwhelming, just different.
Let’s look at 15 major differences between cleaning a baby boy versus a baby girl:
14 Baby folds
Boys and girls naturally come with different folds and topography. Such a news flash, I know! But it's worth noting the differences when it comes to cleaning a boy versus cleaning a girl. It will just be a bit different navigating around the scrotum versus the labia.
When you have a baby that's a gender different from your own, it may take some getting used to a different layout, and that's OK. It won’t take long.
You just need to remember that a boy's urethra is outside the body and a girl's is inside. A girl’s perineum is also closer to her urethra than a boy’s, so it’s more accessible and susceptible to bacteria growth. Girls tend to be just a bit trickier, but it’s nothing to be overwhelmed about.
See point #13. In the big picture, these are small details that aren’t worth being overly concerned about.
13 Baby Girls Have Discharge
Baby girls often have benign discharge that it’s important to be aware of, so you know what’s normal and what to do about it. The first type of discharge is bloody spotting. Though that might sound quite alarming, it’s actually pretty normal for baby girls in their first week of life.
Hormones left in their system from mom may cause bloody discharge and is usually nothing to be concerned about. Typically it will clear up a few days after birth, and it doesn’t require any extra cleaning aside from regular diaper changes.
The second type of discharge is white discharge. Normal vaginal discharge for any female looks like egg whites and requires no wiping or cleaning. In fact, it’s best to leave this type of discharge alone as it’s the body’s natural way of regulating pH and self cleaning. It’s actually more detrimental to wipe it up than to leave it alone.
12 Doodoo Duty
Girls require a little more attention than boys when it comes to #2. When tending to girls, you always want to clean out the vaginal area first and then move to the outside from there, wiping everything away from that susceptible area.
Again, remember that a girl's urethra is inside the body and is closer to the perineum, which makes it much more susceptible to contamination. Both boys and girls require a thorough cleaning of course, but girls require a little extra strategy to help prevent infection.
Removing poop is the only time you might need to clean inside a girl's labia. You’ll want to make a quick check to see if there is any poo lingering in there. If there is, you’ll want to remove it in as few swipes as possible to prevent stripping away “good bacteria.” If there is no poo inside, that part should be left alone to clean itself.
11 Wiping Direction
For boys, there’s less strategy involved in wiping. As long as you get it all, wiping a baby boy's bottom doesn’t require any special instructions. But for girls, it’s important to always wipe from the front to the back. This is because poo can have bacteria in it that can cause a urinary tract infection. Another important tip to be aware of is to use a wipe to swipe just once and then throw it away.
It might surprise you that boys actually get more UTI's before the age of one than baby girls, but girls are more likely to get a UTI sometime during childhood than boys. Approximately 8% of girls and 2% of boys will get a UTI during their youth years. That's why it's so important to do everything you can to keep those little bottoms clean.
10 Uncircumcised Boy Under 2 Yrs Old
Cleaning a boy whose skin doesn’t retract yet is pretty straightforward. You just need to do a quick once-over cleaning on the outside of the penis. It's inadvisable that you try to retract his foreskin, and really all you need to clean the uncircumcised boy's penis with is warm water.
In fact, attempting to retract skin that isn’t ready for it yet can cause scar tissue to form and could potentially cause lasting damage. Don't worry, your uncircumcised baby boy isn't at an increased risk for UTIs. There's only the slightest chance that your baby boy will ever get a urinary tract infection, and it likely won’t be because you didn’t clean his penis correctly.
It’s important to keep the penis clean, but not painstakingly so. It’s just like cleaning any other skin.
9 Uncircumcised Boy Over 2 Yrs Old
Every boy is different, but typically the foreskin of an uncircumcised boy will retract between the ages of 2 and 5. When the foreskin becomes fully retractable, you should be able to push the foreskin back and clean thoroughly underneath it every day.
Teach your son how to care for his penis properly and clean it on his own. Give him regular reminders so that proper penis hygiene becomes normal routine for him. Proper penis hygiene is also a typical conversation that pediatricians will have with uncircumcised boys at their yearly checkups, so use that as another learning opportunity for your son on proper cleaning technique.
Cleaning inside the foreskin isn't any different than cleaning inside any other crease in the body, and keeping it clean may help prevent skin infections. Maintaining proper hygiene of the uncircumcised penis is easy and straightforward.
8 Changing Accidents
When cleaning up and re-diapering, you’ll find one significant difference between boys and girls when it comes to their accidents on the changing table. If you leave a boy bare-bottomed while you work on cleaning him up, you may be subjected to the good ole water fountain.
And usually, it sprays in the most unpleasant places, the wall, their clean clothes, your face! One simple way to prevent that disaster is to drape a wipe or cloth over his penis while you’re busy working.
When a girl has an "accident," on the other hand, she'll soak whatever’s underneath her, such as the changing pad or her clean clothes. In this case, you'll want to get the new diaper under her bottom immediately after you take the old one off. In my own experience as a mom of one of each, my little girl actually had way more changing table accidents than my little boy.
7 Diaper Checks
When checking to see whether or not your baby needs a diaper cleaning, you'll also take a different approach for a boy than you will for a girl. With a boy, it’s most sensible to do a diaper squeeze check on the front of the diaper as that's where the natural location of his penis will direct the urine first.
On the other hand, it's easier to check the lower back of the diaper on a girl as that's where her pee will travel first.
During the squeeze check, you might notice that a girl’s diaper still feels dry on the front but squishy on the back and vice versa for a boy. Diaper manufacturers have gone so far as to make gender-specific diapers with strategically-placed padding because of this difference in where the pee tends to soak first.
6 The Right Baby Products For Boys And Girls
Don’t be tempted to use talc powder, deodorant or douche with your baby girl. You might be more inclined to use certain cleaning products on a girl, or you may want to try out a delicate fragrance on your daughter.
However, products with extra chemicals and fragrances disrupt pH levels, dehydrate delicate skin, and are completely unnecessary for the care of a baby girl. This is especially true when using adult beauty products like lotions and harsh detergents on her.
Almost every scented product contains phthalates. Dyes, fragrance and parabens are also worrisome for a baby’s delicate skin. It’s important to use baby-specific products with as few dyes and fragrances as possible. Unscented, gentle products are always the best. In many instances, warm water is all that's needed to rinse any dirty areas and from there, nature will take care of itself.
5 Cleaning Frequency
Most cleaning habits are going to be largely the same for boys and girls. Bath frequency, for example, shouldn't be any different between a girl and a boy. And typically, experts recommend bathing babies every few days as opposed to daily because of their delicate skin and because they don’t have the same hormone-induced excretions as adults.
The only time you might want to be a little more attentive to a girl is when it comes to diaper changing frequency. Since girls are at a higher risk for infection due to her anatomy, her caregivers need to be more responsive, cleaning diapers as soon as they notice they're soiled.
Not that you want to leave a baby boy sitting in it by any means, just that you need to keep a closer eye on a girl. Don’t wait for the next commercial before you get up to change her.
4 Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are typically understood as a female problem, particularly an adult female, but they can affect babies and boys too. However, baby girls are particularly vulnerable to yeast infections because candida is a natural byproduct of the vagina and a baby girl’s diaper poses a potential risk as a bacterial breeding ground.
Candida is a normal substance in the vagina that is normally stable and unproblematic. But sometimes it can become overgrown if "good bacteria" has been compromised, particularly if it’s wiped out by antibiotics.
You can help prevent your baby girl from developing a yeast infection by making sure her diapers are promptly changed and that she’s thoroughly dried after a bath. Allowing her bottom to have some dry air time is also a good way to keep bacteria from getting out of control.
3 Circumcised Boy
Care for the circumcised penis is pretty simple and should be kept completely external. After you take your circumcised boy home from the hospital, it's important to avoid washing the head of the penis with anything other than warm water until it’s completely healed.
You'll also want to avoid fully submerging your baby's skin in the bath until he's fully healed. Your doctor may recommend you put petroleum jelly on the penis or diaper to reduce friction and provide a protective barrier around the penis.
Once the skin is healed, you can clean the penis like any other skin on the body with gentle baby soap and warm water. There are no extra requirements or considerations to take for the circumcised penis. Because there is no foreskin, there’s no chance for the extra skin to become infected. Straightforward and simple!
2 Point It Down
This tip about penis tucking direction is meant to help prevent extra unnecessary cleaning. When diapering a boy, you'll want to point his penis downward as you secure the diaper. Just take my word for it. Pointing the penis down will help prevent your little man from peeing out the top of his diaper and up the front of his shirt.
That's the direction his pee will just naturally flow, of course. You'll have a lot less cleaning and extra laundry to do if you follow this simple little trick. And don't worry, pointing it down doesn't hurt him at all. Just make sure you don’t secure the diaper too tightly to cause any unnecessary, uncomfortable pressure.
And finally, this trick isn’t recommended on newborn circumcised boys that are still healing from circumcision as it could cause unnecessary pain.
1 All That Hair
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="900"] Via: Dee Dunham Photography[/caption]
It's pretty typical to allow a baby girl's hair to grow out more often than a boy’s. And though you may be tempted to style a girls’ full head of hair, her skin and hair are ultra-sensitive at this age. Nothing more than a gentle baby shampoo is required or recommended to clean her hair, and even that shouldn't be done on a daily basis.
Parents should also avoid using hairsprays or other styling products on their little girls until she's much older. Chemicals from sprays and other products can be inhaled into the lungs, get in the eyes, and inflame sensitive skin.
These are all detrimental side effects that can be prevented by using baby-specific products with as few synthetic ingredients as possible. Besides, baby cowlicks are oh-so adorable, so just learn to love and flaunt them instead.
Additional Info: For Parents Getting Their Babies Ears Pierced
If you are thinking about piercing your baby girl’s ears, it’s important to note that you will need to take extra precautions against infection with a proper ear cleaning routine.
The professional who performs the piercing will likely give you cleaning and care guidance, but cleaning usually entails wiping the ear lobe with alcohol twice a day and twisting the earring once a day to prevent infection. The professional may recommend using an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment as an extra precaution.
You won’t want to remove the earrings for at least six weeks while they’re healing. It’s also important to keep an eye out for signs of infection such as fever, redness, pain, swelling, bleeding and discharge as infection requires immediate attention. It’s also important to keep the pierced area dry, especially after bath time, because bacteria tends to thrive in moist areas.