Welcoming a newborn baby home is one of the most joyous and memorable moments any parent will ever experience. After 9 long months, their family is finally complete and they can’t wait to see what the future will hold.
While it’s certainly a happy time, it can also be completely overwhelming. Once the realization that mom and dad are completely and totally responsible for that little life sets in, they often feel a bit panic-stricken. From feeding to changing and everything in between, a newborn relies on their parents for absolutely everything.
Something that’s high on the list of care-taking priorities that moms and dads must attend to is cleaning their new little one.
At first, this might seem like an easy, no-brainer task. In reality, it can be a bit frightening. When it comes to hygiene, newborns require very specific care. If that care isn’t provided properly, the baby could be at risk of some serious complications.
Obviously, no mom or dad wants to put their baby’s life in jeopardy, so they want to make sure that they are practicing proper hygiene. To ensure that your little one is squeaky clean from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, here’s a look at 15 newborn hygiene tips (and 5 things that you should completely avoid)!
20 Don't Soak The Baby In Water
Though it might be tempting to give a newborn a bath in a sink or an infant tub, don’t do it. Submerging a newborn in water can damage the umbilical stump, delay healing time, and potentially cause an infection.
Until the stump has fallen off and healed, it’s best to avoid taking a traditional bath.
How can you bathe your newborn without putting him or her in water? Give the baby a sponge bath with a washcloth and dye-free and fragrance-free soap. Fill up a bowl with warm water (test it first to make sure that it isn’t too hot or too cold), undress the baby and lay him on a flat surface. Leave the diaper on and wrap the little one in a towel.
Add soap to the water, dip a washcloth in the water, and wring it out. Work from the head down, exposing only the area that you are cleaning and keeping the other parts of the body covered with the towel. After washing each section down, cover it back up with the towel. Save the diaper area for last. Carefully remove it and wash down the area. Use a towel to pat dry and put a new diaper back on immediately.
Apply lotion, dress the baby, and voila, you’re all done!
19 Warm Water Only
Icy cold water might seem refreshing on a hot day and hot water might seem soothing on a chilly day; however, newborns should never be exposed to either type of water. Instead, the water temperature you are using to bathe your newborn (whether you are sponge bathing or giving her a real bath after the umbilical stump falls off) should be about 100 degrees F, states Nationwide Children's. This temperature is perfect for a newborn, as it will prevent her from catching a chill and it will avoid a burn. Use a thermometer to test the water.
If you don’t have one available, dip your elbow in the water and make sure that it feels warm; not hot or cold.
Using cold water could chill your baby. If the water is too hot, it could burn him. Of course, the last thing you want to do is harm your baby, so make sure that the water is perfectly warm before bathing.
If it seems like it’s too chilly for you, it’s definitely going to be too cold for the baby. If the water seems too hot, your little one could be subjected to burns. Always make sure the water is a comfortable temperature.
18 Lie The Baby On A Flat Surface
Until the newborn’s umbilical stump has fallen off and is completely healed, bathing in a sink or an infant tub should be avoided (as previously stated).
Until that time, make sure that you always lay your little one on a flat, secure surface when you are giving her a sponge bath. It could be a counter top, a changing table, or even the floor. Whatever surface you choose, it should be reiterated that it needs to be secure. If it wobbles, there’s a chance that the baby could tumble (newborns do tend to squirm quite a bit). You also want to make sure that you never, under any circumstances, leave the baby unattended. Doing so could result in disaster.
Another point to note about giving a sponge bath on a flat surface: make sure that the baby is lying on her back. You can gently prop her up to wash her back, but washing her will be much easier for you and safer for her if she is lying on her back.
Again, work from the head down and make sure that the baby is kept warm throughout the process. Cover any areas that aren’t being cleaned with a towel.
17 Pay Attention To The Umbilical Stump
During the first few weeks of a baby’s life, parents need to pay close attention to the umbilical stump: the remaining portion of the umbilical cord. Once it falls off, a cute little belly button will be left behind, but it can take a week or more for that to happen.
Until it does (and even immediately after), you need to make sure that you are caring for it properly.
American Pregnancy Association reports that pediatricians used to suggest cleaning the stump with rubbing alcohol, as doing so would remove any bacteria and germs, and would also help to dry it out faster. But, now experts advise parents not to use alcohol, as it can cause irritation that could actually prolong healing.
Try to keep the stump as dry as possible. In other words, don’t submerge the baby in water into the stump falls off, and if you do, make sure that you dry it completely by fanning it, not by rubbing it, as that could irritate it and cause it to fall off prematurely. Also, make sure that the cord is frequently exposed to air, as doing so will increase the rate of healing.
Make sure that diapers never cover the remaining cord. You can purchase newborn diapers that have pre-cut out notches specifically for the stump, or you can fold a standard diaper over. Also, always look for signs of infection. Oozing, redness, and foul odor are all signs that there may be a problem and you should seek medical care.
16 Gently Clean The Eyes
Don’t forget to clean the newborn’s eyes. Not the eyeballs (obviously!), but the eyelids and the area surrounding the eyes. Dust, dirt, debris, and those cute little baby sleepies can build up around those sweet little peepers.
When cleaning around the eyes, make sure that steer clear of any soap. You should only use water to cleanse this highly delicate area. Even if the soap or shampoo you are using claims to be “tear-free”, there is definitely a chance that it can cause irritation. Also, make sure that you are using a soft, clean cloth; not a sponge or a loofah.
To begin, soak the washcloth in water and wring it out. Then, wipe from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner.
The tear ducts are located at the inner corner of the eye and if you wipe out to in, there is a chance that germs could enter them, which could lead to an infection or a blocked tear duct. Make sure that you use a very delicate and gentle sweeping motion. Do not apply any force, as you don’t want to irritate the eyes or the sensitive skin that surrounds it.
After cleaning one eye, make sure you rinse the washcloth and wring out any excess water before cleaning the second one.
15 Only Bathe Every Other Day
A lot of parents are tempted to wash their newborn every day – or even several times a day. That’s understandable because you want to reduce the risk of illness, and bathing seems like the best way to keep bacteria at bay. However, washing your newborn too frequently actually isn’t a good thing. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic, newborns only need to be bathed about three times a week.
Over-washing a newborn can irritate his highly delicate skin. It could dry the skin out and increase the risk of eczema.
So, unless there’s a real reason to do a full-on bath (a dreaded diaper blowout, for example), try to avoid washing too frequently.
To clean your newborn between baths, use a damp, soft, and clean washcloth with water and mild soap. Give the little one a spot wash, making sure to concentrate on the areas that are prone to getting dirty, such as the diaper area, underneath the chin, the neck, the underarms, behind the knees, and between skin folds. Once you’ve finished your spot wash, pat your little one dry with a soft, clean towel. Again, make sure that any areas that aren’t being cleaned are covered with a towel to keep your LO warm.
14 Don’t Forget To Moisturize
A newborn’s skin is very thin, which makes it extremely fragile, sensitive, and prone to drying out. If it’s allowed to dry out, the skin can become irritated and the risk of developing eczema, a condition that causes itchy, scaly, and sometimes painful bumps, increases.
To keep your newborn’s skin baby smooth, make sure you apply moisturizer on a regular basis. If your LO appears to have normal skin, moisturizing once a day – after bathing, especially – should be sufficient. If your newborn seems to have dry skin, you should apply lotion a few times a day.
Use a dye-free and fragrance-free lotion. Alternatively, you could use petroleum jelly. Make sure that you apply a liberal amount and that you work it in very well. Concentrate on areas that seem dry, but don’t forget to moisturize all of the skin – even the areas that don’t seem like they may not be dry.
Also, it is important to note that you should make sure that any lotion or petroleum jelly you apply is worked in very well before picking up your baby. The last thing you want is to have slippery hands when you pick up your newborn.
13 Treat Cradle Cap With Care
Parents are often alarmed when they discover that their newborn has cradle cap. It appears as scaly, yellowish-white patches on the top of the head and it often looks much worse than it actually is.
In fact, cradle cap is absolutely harmless and it’s extremely common.
The patches that are associated with cradle cap mainly appear on the head, where a cap would be worn, hence the moniker. It’s essentially dandruff and it doesn’t cause any discomfort; however, the patches that are associated with it can become very thick and difficult to get rid of, according to Mayo Clinic.
The exact cause of cradle cap is unknown, though it’s believed to that it occurs when the sebaceous (oil) glands produce an excessive amount of oil. Since the scalp has a high volume of these glands, this is where the condition tends to form.
The condition will eventually clear up on its own, but you can help it along. Make sure that you wash your newborn’s head with a mild shampoo that is free of dyes and perfumes. Washing more frequently can also help to clear up the condition. Use a soft-bristled brush and gently rub the scalp to encourage the scales to fall off. You can also apply lotion, petroleum jelly, or olive oil to the affected area.
Never use excessive force to remove the scales or “pick” them off. Doing so could cause irritation.
12 Don’t Forget The Ears!
Just like every other part of the body, a newborn’s ears have to be cleaned. And, just like with every other part of the body, care needs to be exercised when cleaning the ear. In fact, this part of the body requires a bit more care when cleaning than other parts because the ears are very delicate.
Therefore, you should never use a cotton swab to clean them out. In fact, you should never shove anything into your little one’s ear – including your fingers.
Doing so could result in a ruptured eardrum or push any wax buildup further into the ear, which could cause a painful blockage.
To properly and safely clean the ears, there are a few methods you can use: first, you can try the washcloth approach. Wet a clean, soft washcloth with warm water. Wring it out to remove excess water. If you don’t, water could get trapped in the ear. Rub the outer ear with the washcloth, using gentle pressure. Don’t put the cloth into the ear.
If your little one has excessive wax build-up in the ear, you can try using earwax drops that are made specifically for babies. However, before using them, make sure you check in with your pediatrician. If you get the OK, warm up the solution by rubbing the bottle between your hands. Fill the dropper with the appropriate amount of the solution, hold it over the ear, and gently drip it into the ear canal.
11 … And The Nose
Just like grownups, newborns little noses fill up with boogers (sorry, there’s no other word to describe it). Since their nasal passages are narrow, leaving those boogers in place could result in a stuffy nose and make nose breathing difficult. When the nose is stuffy, eating can become difficult because they can’t breathe properly while their feeding.
Plus, they can become uncomfortable, which could lead to irritability and can even impact sleep. Moreover, clearing out the nose can help to reduce the risk of an infection.
To prevent a clogged nose, you need to clean out those little boogers. Newborns can’t blow their noses, so you’re going to have to do the job of getting rid of those snots.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to remove the buildup of boogers and snots is with a bulb syringe. Make sure you choose a small one that is made just for babies. Squeeze the bulb to expel air, place the syringe in the nose, and then release the bulb to pull out any snot and boogers.
Another option is to use saline nasal spray. Simply lay your little one down, gently tilt her head back, and then squeeze a few drops into each nostril.
10 Practice Oral Hygiene
Even though a newborn isn’t born with teeth, that doesn’t mean that oral hygiene isn’t important. Underneath the gums lie little tooth buds, which will start emerging before you know it. Cleaning your little one’s mouth now will ensure a good foundation for healthy teeth.
Oral care for your newborn might seem a bit tricky at first. Don’t be surprised if she squirms about and fusses. Eventually, that fussing will subside and she’ll get used to having her mouth cleaned.
With that said, when you first begin, make sure that your LO is lying on a flat, secure surface, or that you are securely cradling her in your arms.
Wet a clean, soft cloth with lukewarm water and wring out any excess moisture. Rub the cloth over both the top and bottom gums. You can also wipe the surface of her tongue, but make sure that you don’t reach too far back you could activate the gag reflex.
Clean your little one’s mouth at least once a day, though you can clean it several times a day, if you would like to. Doing so will rid her mouth of any breast milk or formula that has accumulated in her mouth and will set her up for a healthy smile once those teeth start coming in.
9 Give Manicures And Pedicures
Of course, a newborn can’t get a real manicure or pedicure (imagine how cute it would be if they could?!?) But mom and dad can – and should – give their little one’s manis and pedis on a regular basis.
Newborn fingernails and toenails grow rather quickly. If they aren’t trimmed, dirt can get trapped underneath them, which could possibly lead to illness when they suck on those little fingers and toes.
Plus, if they're allowed to grow too long, they can become dangerous. Those nails are sharp as daggers and can scratch their faces, eyes, and any other part of their bodies – and anyone else who holds them, too!
To give your newborn a mani and pedi, make sure that you thoroughly wash his hands and feet while bathing, and even during wipe downs between baths. Once the nails become long enough, use a baby nail file to shorten them and smooth them out, which is probably the safest method, as it will prevent the risk of cutting that delicate skin.
You can also clip the nails using a scissor designed specifically for baby nails, or a baby nail clipper, which has a smaller clipping section and a larger, chunkier handle with a non-slip coating so you can control it better.
8 Have All The Supplies Ready
Whether it’s a diaper change, a sponge bath, or a bath in the sink, before you start cleaning your newborn, it is imperative that you have all of the supplies that you will need ready and placed within easy reach.
A general list of things you will need to have ready before you start your cleaning regiment include: diaper, powder, washcloths, towels, a basin of warm water, baby soap, lotion or petroleum jelly, an infant brush, a clean change of clothing, a nail file or baby nail clippers (if you’re doing a mani and pedi), and a ball syringe (if you’re cleaning out the nose)
You should make sure that all supplies are in arm’s reach. Also, ensure that you are in a safe and secure environment. And, always make sure that you have at least one hand on your newborn the entire time. Your little one may not be able to roll over yet, but he can be quite squirmy. If he is left unattended even for a split second, there is a chance that he could fall off of whatever surface you are working on and sustain a very serious injury. If you are unsure of yourself or unsteady, you might want to enlist the help of another person.
7 Keep The Water Level Low
Once a newborn’s umbilical stump has completely healed and is time to make the transition into having an actual bath, make sure that you keep the water level low. Whether you’re bathing your little one in the kitchen sink, a baby bathtub, or in a regular bathtub, there is no need to fill the vessel up with water.
Newborns don’t have to be fully submerged in water. In fact, it’s safer for them if they aren’t. Heaven forbid something happens and your little one slips and falls into the water.
They’re wriggly and super slipper when they’re wet. A newborn can drown in just one inch of water! So, make sure that you keep the water level low to avoid a tragedy.
To get your LO wet, use a cup to pour the water over her head and body. Also, don’t leave the water running. The temperature of water flowing out of a faucet can change drastically and without notice. One second, it might feel like it’s the perfect temperature, and the next it could be scalding and your little one could sustain a serious burn.
When it comes to bathing a baby, safety is always the first priority.
6 Use Hypoallergenic Products
There are tons of products on the market that are made specifically for bathing babies. In fact, as you walk down the baby care aisle of whatever store you are shopping in, you might find yourself feeling dizzy because there are so many options to choose from.
It might be tempting to pick products that contain lavender and other scents that are supposed to induce sleep because, after all, who doesn’t want their newborn to sleep as restfully as possible?
But while those products might smell delightful, it’s better to skip them.
Why? Because they contain fragrances and dyes that could potentially irritate your little one’s skin. You see, babies – particularly newborns – have very thin skin, which means that it loses water very quickly and that it contains less natural moisturizers. These factors can make that skin much more prone to drying out. Additionally, a newborn’s skin absorbs whatever it’s exposed to quickly, which means that those dyes, perfumes, and any other harsh chemicals that the products you are using contain will quickly penetrate into the skin, which could result in irritation.
To avoid problems, opt for hypoallergenic products. These soaps, shampoos, lotions, powders, etc are all formulated and extensively tested to ensure that they are safe for use on a newborn’s delicate skin.
5 Mistake: Over Washing
Top on the list of mistakes that parents tend to make when it comes to bathing their newborns is over-washing.
While there’s no better smell in the world than a newborn that has just been bathed, washing too frequently could be damaging to the skin.
Newborns (as we’ve stated several times) have very delicate skin. It’s much thinner than an adult’s skin, which means that it dries out quicker. It also absorbs the products that are used to cleanse it quicker, which means that it could be easily irritated. Therefore, washing your baby too much is actually not considered a good thing. Instead of bathing every day, your little one will do just fine having a bath about three times a week.
Between those baths, make sure that you do give a general and modified wash down with a clean cloth and hypoallergenic supplies. Don’t forget to concentrate on areas that get the dirtiest, such as under the chin, the diaper region, behind the knees, under the arms, and between those cute little rolls.
If you’re washing your little one too often, don’t be surprised if she starts to develop dry, irritated skin, or eczema, which is something that you definitely don’t want to happen.
4 Mistake: Leaving The Baby Unattended
Newborns can’t walk, crawl, or even roll over on their own. Basically, they can’t really move, right? WRONG! While it’s true that newborns can’t voluntarily move, they can certainly squirm, kick, flail their arms, and wriggle about.
That’s why it’s important to never, EVER leave your little one unattended. Period. End of story.
Unfortunately, however, many new parents don’t realize just how much newborns squirm, or they do realize it, but think that they’ll be fine for just a few seconds while they turn around to grab a diaper or to refill the baby wipes. What could happen in a few short moments? A lot; and not in a good way.
A newborn left unattended on a changing table, a bed, or any other elevated surface could quickly squirm his or her way right off of it and right down onto the floor. The result? Broken bones, trauma to the head, or something way worse.
Instead of risking it, make sure that you always have all of the supplies that you need within arm’s reach before you start bathing or changing your little one. Also, keep a hand on your baby, just in case. If you do find that you forgot something, take your newborn with you while you fetch it. The risks of turning around for even just a split second just aren't worth it.
3 Mistake: Skipping The Rolls & Dimples
Most newborns are full of cute little rolls and dimples, and they’re absolutely adorable; however, they’re also a welcome mat for dirt and debris. That’s why it’s so important to really focus on those rolls and dimples when you are cleaning your little one.
A lot of parents make the mistake of simply wiping over the rolls and dimples and not really cleaning in between them. Don’t make this mistake.
Make sure that you concentrate on washing between any areas where the skin folds together. Behind the knees, underneath the chin, the neck, the upper part of the legs, and that cute little tooshie, too! Spread the rolls open, if need be, and ensure you really clean between those rolls and dimples. If you don’t, germs and bacteria will flock to the dirt and debris that collects in those spots, which could put your baby at risk for various ailments, such as skin rashes, eczema, atopic dermatitis, and even illnesses.
If you do, you could end up unnecessarily putting your little one in a lot of discomfort and subject her to an illness. Take the time to get those chubby little spaces super clean.
2 Mistake: Forgetting To Check The Temperature
It’s time to give your little one a bath and as you’re getting her undressed, you let the water run so that it can fill (just about an inch or two). You do this not only save time, but so that you can dip your baby right into the water after she’s de-robed; you don’t want her to catch a chill, after all.
As you place your newborn into the water, she starts howling, and you realize that you forgot to check the temperature before placing her in it. Big mistake!
It’s imperative to check the temperature of a newborn’s bath water before placing her in it. If it’s too chilly, it could shock her and cause discomfort. If it’s too hot, there is a chance that she could sustain a burn.
The last thing you want to do is harm your baby. That’s why it is so important to check the temperature of your little one’s bath water before placing her in it. You can use a thermometer to check the water; about 100 degrees F is the recommendation. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, dip your elbow into the water to make sure that it’s temperate.
1 Mistake: Skipping The Cream
Although it’s already been stated several times, it’s important to mention again: newborns have extremely delicate skin. They are far more prone to dry skin, allergies, and certain skin conditions, like eczema.
The skin helps to regulate the body’s temperature, which is extremely important for newborns, since their temperature regulation system isn’t well developed. It also produces important vitamins, such as vitamin D, and shields the body from the dangers of the environment and prevents viruses and bacteria from infecting the body.
With all of that said, it’s important to practice proper skin care with your newborn, and moisturizing is one of the best ways you can do that. By moisturizing your little one’s skin, you can help to prevent the development of various skin ailments, such as atopic dermatitis.
Unfortunately, a lot of parents assume that they don’t need to moisturize their newborn’s skin.
This is particularly true if the baby’s skin doesn’t appear dry; but even dry skin needs regular moisturizing.
To moisturize the skin, choose a hypo-allergenic, perfume-free, fragrance-free lotion. If you prefer, you can use organic coconut oil as a substitute. Apply lotion to the entire body at least once a day, concentrating on areas that appear to be dry. Make sure that you really work the lotion into your little one’s skin.