When they arrive, newborn babies are covered in all kinds of yuck from the birth process. But still, parents fall in love and snuggle their fresh little ones, even without a bath. That’s because the hormones mom has rushing through her, plus the biological connection between her and the baby, don’t care about the ick factor when baby’s brand spanking new. But within a few hours, most moms start to notice the dried blood or sticky vernix on their little ones, and a whole new slew of concerns pop up.
How soon is too soon for baby’s first bath? How messy do newborns get? What are we up against when it comes to keeping the baby clean, not just in the first few days of life, but the next handful of years, too?
New parents usually have nurseries stocked with countless diapers, boxes of wipes, endless combinations of tiny adorable outfits, and even stacks of shoes for babies that won’t touch feet to the floor for nearly a year or more. All of this is meant to help keep baby clean, comfortable, and presentable to his or her adoring fans, but it also means more work for parents. But even if your baby wears only a diaper for his first year of life, you’ll run into plenty of snags when it comes to keeping him clean and smelling halfway decent.
15 Blame The Double Chins
Newborn babies often smell delicious, even when you skip the in-hospital bath. Experts like those at ChildrensMD even say that delaying a newborn’s bath until at least 48 hours after birth has benefits like reducing their risk of infection, stabilizing their blood sugar, improving their temperature control, and promoting bonding with mom, which also helps breastfeeding success.
But expert opinions aside, you’ll know when it’s time for baby’s first bath. Apart from spilled milk turning sour and explosive diapers soiling everything within arm’s length, babies often start to smell funky in their neck areas. That’s because their adorably chubby baby rolls harbor bacteria and whatever else gets stuck under their double chins. Washing thoroughly is hard because babies are wiggly and you don’t want to hurt them, but cleaning out the neck cheese is important for their health and their smell!
14 Starting With Scary Snips
Remember how this adorable baby pranked her dad as he was trying to cut her nails? One of new parents’ (and let’s be honest, all parents’) greatest fears is that we’ll accidentally hurt our babies while clipping their impossibly tiny nails. This little girl had the same reaction most babies do- fortunately, she was only messing with her dad, who apparently was just as scared as the rest of us.
Babies’ nails seem to grow so fast, so you’ll have to get used to clipping them regularly. Otherwise, newborns can scratch their faces, while older babies might decide to, or accidentally scratch you and everyone else. Odds are low that you’ll draw blood while snipping their nails, but it sure feels like handling a ticking time bomb. Unfortunately, that feeling will stay with for a few more years, or until the kids can cut their own nails.
13 Checking For Hairy Problems
Hair tourniquets have become increasingly common lately, but odds are, this phenomenon has always happened to infants, but social media has allowed us to spread the word more effectively. Parents Scott and Jessica Walker had the scare of their lives when they discovered their fussy baby had a hair tightly wrapped around one of her toes. Fortunately for baby Molly, her parents were able to remove the hair and everything turned out okay.
Mom and dad told Today that they were thankful their daughter didn’t have any complications, and they’re glad they were able to spread the word on social media. Luckily, checking for hairs in your baby’s socks or on their fingers is simple to do, although removing the hair can be nerve-wracking. Doctors recommend using a narrow object like a bobby pin slid against the skin to break the hair without harming baby.
12 Picking On Cradle Cap
You might be shocked when your newborn baby starts to develop what looks like dandruff. But the condition, nicknamed cradle cap, is common in young babies and usually doesn’t hurt them. But it is unsightly, especially if it erupts in yellowish or brownish scales or is accompanied by redness, both of which are common according to Dr. Axe.
It’s tempting to pick at the flaky skin, especially if you’re worried that the unsightly appearance of cradle cap will make people think you’re not cleaning your baby well. But Dr. Axe recommends leaving mild cases alone, but you can massage baby’s scalp gently to loosen the flakes, then brush to sweep them away. Other remedies like applying coconut oil or choosing a gentler baby shampoo can also help, but you shouldn’t use adult dandruff shampoo on your little one.
11 Curing The Pimply Little Person
Baby acne isn’t a sign that your baby’s skin is dirty, but rather a sign that there’s something hormonal happening in his or her body. It could be post-birth hormone surges, but most babies develop at least a mild case of baby acne in their early days. That said, it’s tempting to moms especially, who stare at their newborn babes almost constantly, to try to cure this typically painless skin spotting.
But to get rid of baby’s pimples, you might need to apply a somewhat messy topical ointment, according to Smartmom. Coconut oil is one natural treatment, but it will grease baby’s skin up and attract fuzzies and dirt in the process. Breastmilk is another option, but beware applying it directly from the breast, since you might end up with an eyeful of milk. A cornstarch paste may also draw out oils, but it’s another fix that means more mess.
10 Handling A Slippery Tot
Obviously, keeping baby clean in the early days can mean simple sponge baths. But when it’s time to submerge them in a baby-sized tub or sink, most parents’ nerves go haywire. Not only do baths make babies particularly slippery, but most little ones don’t enjoy the experience. The combination of high-pitched wailing and soapy bubbles can make for an unsettling experience for moms and their little ones.
Luckily, there are plenty of baby products that can help ease the experience, if you’re willing to shell out the cash. From little bath chairs to flower-shaped cushions that fit in the sink, there’s help out there for parents who are paranoid over dropping their delicate newborns into a soapy bath. And, perhaps the best news about little babies is they don’t need baths that often, barring unforeseen poop explosions or milk spills.
9 Caring For A Crusty Cord
Although the rest of your newborn is unbelievably sweet and precious, that gnarly looking cord stump probably isn’t too cuddly. It can take up to a couple of weeks for the cord stump to fall off on its own, but there’s always the chance the cord can become infected and warrant extra attention. If you notice weird smells or oozing from your baby’s cord, it’s a good idea to visit the pediatrician.
Otherwise, keeping the area dry and avoiding baths (sponges only) until the cord falls off should be enough. But you’ll want to keep a close eye on the site, since redness, swelling, prolonged bleeding, pus, or pain can be signs of a problem. There’s also the possibility of an umbilical granuloma, American Pregnancy explains, which requires cauterization via silver nitrate.
8 Struggling With Wound Care
If you have a baby boy and choose to leave him intact (not circumcise), then diapering is relatively simple- you just wipe baby’s privates like a finger, leaving the skin covering his bits. But if you choose to have your son circumcised, there’s a lot of after care involved. Apart from ethical concerns over permanently altering an infant’s body with no medical indication, dealing with an open wound in a diaper isn’t a walk in the park.
Circumcision removes the foreskin of infant boys, leaving a surgical site that’s susceptible to infection. Parents are usually instructed to apply cream and gauze. The good news is, circumcision isn’t necessary for boy infants’ health, just like female genital cutting isn’t necessary for girls’ health, according to the Huffington Post. Ultimately, there’s no reason to deal with this unsettling aspect of infant care whether you have a son or daughter.
7 Dealing With Diapering
In contrast with diapering an intact boy, changing a baby girl can be far more challenging. The most unsettling thing about changing a poopy diaper on your infant daughter is trying to make sure you get all the poo off and out of her private areas. This can make dads uncomfortable, but moms aren’t excited for it either. Just because we have the same equipment doesn’t mean we’re equipped to deal with diaper explosions that get into all the crevices and folds.
Perhaps the best advice for dealing with a truly messy diaper, regardless of whether you have a son or daughter, is to just take them to the tub. Unless your baby is the type who lies placidly while you use a hundred wipes to clean them, running a bath might prove a more effective alternative- but get used to doing it multiple times per day.
6 Going Mobile With Baths
Whether you’ve drawn three baths already this morning, or you’re in a hurry to leave the house, at some point in your early parenting life, you’ll wind up giving your child a sponge bath out of necessity. And by sponge bath, I mean a bath with wet wipes, because at least you can throw those away. New parents are told to expect to need a surplus of baby wipes and diapers, but you might not expect to use wipes for literally everything.
From snotty noses to milk spills to poopy diapers, wipes will save your life in the early days and into the toddler years, too. Especially with a newborn, who might be especially difficult or delicate to handle, wipe baths sound like a good alternative to full submersion in a bubbly bath.
5 Sopping Up Sweaty Messes
We already know that babies have their own distinctive smells, but did you know that your baby can also be just as sweaty as mom or dad? Although they haven’t hit puberty yet, and therefore shouldn’t smell quite as rank as a teenager, even newborns have sweat glands that are active (or overactive) at birth.
But according to Parenting.com, excessive sweating can either be parents’ fault, or a sign of a serious health condition. If you tend to over-bundle your little bundle, that can explain sweating during naps or outings. But if your little one has other symptoms like sweating throughout the day or during feeding, it’s possible they can have a heart issue or nervous system disorder. Regardless, sweaty babies are difficult to handle because of the slipperiness, but you’ll also need to clean them more often as their bodies offload toxins and oils.
4 Winning At Wardrobe Changes
If you’re the parent of a toddler, then you’ll understand completely the challenge that is keeping your tiny human clean and clothed. When they’re infants, leaky diapers and spit up are the reasons behind many wardrobe changes. But even as they grow, you’ll likely have to change clothes multiple times per day. Your tot might be fond of wearing their food, or maybe they just like to roll around in the mud.
Although it’s not strictly a problem to change clothing, especially when well-meaning gift givers have showered you with a hundred and one piece baby wardrobe, it gets old, and fast. You’ll not only be struggling to fit impossibly large heads into impossibly small necklines, but you’ll also have to (eventually) wash the discarded laundry. Then rinse and repeat for the next 18 or more years.
3 Sniffing For Smelly Signs
Pre-parenting, I never believed I would actually smell my child’s bottom to check for bathroom activity. But here I stand now, mom of two boys, with countless tushy sniffing sessions under my belt. It’s preferable to opening a diaper that’s dry, I promise, especially when your toddler is trying to roundhouse kick you to get away.
It’s also better to know what you’re getting into before you disrobe the kid, IE whether or not you need extra wipes or possibly a bottle of disinfectant. Those diapers that indicate whether baby is wet with a colored line on the front also help, but they’re not usually available in bigger sizes, so parents of newborns can only reap the benefits. For the rest of us, it’s (unfortunately) diaper sniffing for the win.
2 Extra Careful Ear Cleaning
As an adult, you might cram cotton swabs into your ears in an effort to clean them out. But for babies, you have to be much gentler. One wrong move and you can damage baby’s ears, and her hearing, for life. Plus, while you might feel squeaky clean after a deep cleanse with a Q-tip, you’re actually not supposed to stick ear swabs into your ear canal.
There are even special cotton swabs made for babies because of parents’ seeming inability to judge depth and ear safety. The baby version is bulbous at the end, making it impossible to stick the swab into an adult’s ear canal, let alone an infant’s. But even if you’re using a special baby version, it’s important to work delicately so you don’t break any skin in your little one’s sensitive ears- easier said than done when you’re trying to immobilize them without injury.
1 Soothing With A Snot Sucker
Nasal aspirators are all the rage these days, as parents turn to them as a more natural method of cleaning baby noses. The perks are obvious- no mold-filled bulb snot sucker to contend with, and no picking at baby’s delicate little nostrils. But using a snot sucker isn’t as easy or painless as you’d think, especially if your baby isn’t having any of your nasal draining attempts.
The thing is, if your baby has a cold or other illness and mucous is practically choking him, you as a parent will do anything to get him some relief. Since most doctors don’t advise using medication for small babies (and even bigger kids depending on the illness), a nasal aspirator might be your best bet for blowing snot out without tissues or the kid’s cooperation.