Caring for a baby may seem like a blur of feeding them, changing them, and putting them to sleep, but there's so much more to it than that. There are tons of different tasks involved in raising a little one, especially when it comes to their health and hygiene. A baby's delicate skin, teeny tiny fingernails, and wispy little head of hair all need to be cared for, and there's so much to remember about how to do all that grooming safely. When you add in keeping their adorable little bottoms clean, it can actually become kind of stressful.
Handling some of these hygiene tasks can be really scary in the beginning. Every time I trimmed my baby's nails for the first few months of her life, I was convinced I was going to leave her bloody and screaming (thankfully, that never happened). Things we do to take care of ourselves without giving it a second thought suddenly become nerve-wracking and confusing when we try them out with our baby.
If you're wondering what to do about those dangerously long baby nails, that nasty diaper rash, or that patch of dry skin on your baby's body, you don't have to guess.
Here are answers to 20 common questions about keeping your baby clean and healthy.
20 How Do I Care For A Circumcised Area?
If you decide to circumcise your baby boy, it'll probably be at least a week until the penis is healed. During that time, you'll need to be super diligent about keeping it clean. Every time your baby boy poops, you'll want to make sure that you rinse his penis with soap and water to make sure no bacteria gets in. You'll want to avoid submerging him in a bath while his penis is still healing as well, so stick with sponge baths. Your doctor may or may not want you to keep this penis bandaged, or perhaps might tell you to keep it covered with petroleum jelly— always check with them for specific care instructions. And of course, the best thing you can do besides keeping the penis clean is to look it over every time you change a diaper for any signs of infection or indications that it isn't healing properly.
19 How Do I Care For An Uncircumcised Area?
If you choose not to circumcise your baby boy, his foreskin will remain attached to the head of his penis, so you should never try to retract or pull it back. Instead, just simply clean it with soap and water like you do with the rest of his body— it's not necessary to try to use a Q-tip to get a deeper cleaner and in fact, that'd be super dangerous. While an uncircumcised penis doesn't require any special cleaning until the foreskin separates (which could happen over the course of several months or years), you will want to monitor it and make sure the hole in the foreskin is big enough to let your little boy urinate properly. As your son gets older, you'll want to make sure he knows the basics of good hygiene so he can start keeping the area clean himself.
18 How Do You Keep Feces Out Of A Baby Girl's V?
When I found out my first child was a baby girl, I was kind of relieved. I hadn't had much experience with babies and diapers, and I figured having all the same parts as her would make it a bit easier. But that was so not the case! I was totally surprised by how tough it can be to keep a baby girl's vagina clean when there's a poop explosion. Wiping from front to back is a no brainer, but all those folds of skin meant I'd have to be really vigilant about making sure she was truly clean. It can feel a bit uncomfortable and invasive, but you do need to gently separate her vaginal lips and make sure you've cleaned out all the poop— leaving any behind could give her a painful infection.
17 How Do You Care For The Umbilical Stump?
Your baby's umbilical cord stump will usually be attached for a week or two after birth, but caring for it during that brief time can be a bit nerve-wracking. But for the most part, you'll really just want to leave it alone. You should let it be uncovered and exposed to air as much as possible because that's thought to speed up the healing process— you might need to fold down the top of their diapers to do so. You'll also probably only want to give sponge baths until the stump is off, because you want it to stay as dry as possible and not be submerged in a tub. You'll need to monitor it for any signs of bleeding, pain, or pus that could indicate an infection and let your doctor know if something seems off. And of course, you'll need to resist the temptation from prodding it or pulling it off yourself.
16 How Do You Treat Cradle Cap?
No one really knows why some babies get cradle cap, but we do know that thankfully it's harmless. It's also really icky looking, unfortunately. It can be stubborn and last for months, so you might want to try some treatments rather than waiting for it to go away on its own. You can try massaging the scalp or using a soft brush to get the cradle cap to flake off. You can also try putting something like coconut oil on the scalp before brushing, too loosen it up even further. If home remedies like these ones aren't working, you could also look for special baby shampoos that target cradle cap. After trying lots of different things with my own daughter, however, the solution that finally worked was really simple: soaking her scalp in breast milk and then brushing away the flakes.
15 Is It OK To Let A Baby Sleep In A Dirty Diaper?
They say you should never wake a sleeping baby, but what do you do when you know they've got a loaded diaper on a sensitive butt? This one may come down to your personal preference and what your baby will tolerate. Sleeping in a wet diaper shouldn't do much harm— most diapers these days wick enough moisture away from your baby's skin that you shouldn't have to worry about them developing a diaper rash while they get a few more hours of sleep. A poopy diaper, on the other hand, may merit a change. Sitting in poop could cause an infection, especially in baby girls. Plus, the longer you leave a stinky diaper on the more likely it is to leak. I'll take dealing with a baby who's angry about being woken up over cleaning up a diaper blow out any day.
14 How Often Should I Bathe My Baby?
The answer to this one will depend on a couple of different things: your personal preference, and how messy your baby gets. Newborns who don't do much besides eat and sleep don't need a bath every day— a couple of times a week is probably fine. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that for the entire first year, up to three times a week should probably suffice— bathing too often could dry out your little ones skin. Some parents also prefer to do a nightly bath as part of a bedtime routine that helps their kiddo relax and get to sleep faster— if that the case for you, you might want to skip the soap or shampoo. As your kid gets older and messier, they'll probably need to bathe more often.
13 When Should I Start Brushing My Baby's Teeth?
Good oral hygiene can start even before your baby has any actual teeth to speak of. Doctors recommend keeping babies' gums clean by wiping them down with a wet washcloth or piece of gauze. This helps get rid of bacteria, which if left uncleaned can damage teeth as they do start to grow in.
Once your baby's first teeth appear, you can start using a soft-bristled toothbrush. It's safe to use a small drop of fluoride-free baby toothpaste. Your baby might not be a fan of brushing, but as they start eating solid food they'll definitely need it to keep that first set of teeth healthy. When they're about three years old, your kid should be ready for regular toothpaste— just keep it to about a pea-sized amount and make sure they don't swallow it.
12 How Do I Clean My Baby's Ears?
While cotton swabs may seem perfectly shaped to fit into an ear, no one— adult or baby— should be using them to clean their ears. They can actually just shove wax further inside, and can also potentially damage your ear if you put them in too far. With a wiggly, squirmy baby, that risk would be many times higher. If your baby's ear is filled with gunk and your desperate to get it out, however, all you need is a simple washcloth. That's typically more than enough to keep them clean. If you think the wax is building up to such an extreme that it's effecting your baby's hearings, let your doctor know. They might be able to recommend drops to clear it out, or even refer you to an ear, nose, and throat doctor that can help.
11 How Do I Keep My Baby's Nose Clear?
When your baby gets their first cold, hearing them sniffle and struggle to breathe through their stuffy nose can be both scary and heartbreaking. Luckily, there are a few different ways to try and keep the nose clear that should give them some relief. First off, try to keep them propped up as much as possible. Lying down often makes congestion worse. Second, you can sit in a steamy bathroom with them or run a humidifier in their nursery to try and open up their nasal passages. And third, if it's really bad, you can try a couple of different tools. A nasal bulb can clear any gunk out of the nose with suction, while a nasal aspirator lets you suck it out yourself (with a filter in the way to prevent you from getting a mouthful of snot, of course).
10 Is It OK To Use Bubble Bath?
Your little one might look adorably hilarious with a bubble beard or mohawk, but hold off on putting a drop of bubble bath into your baby's tub. Bubble bath has been known to cause urinary tract infections in babies, so it's typically best to wait until your child is at least 3 years old before you start using it. That age is recommended because your child will likely be old enough to tell if it hurts them or if their private parts start to bother them in any way following the bath.
It's also not just bubble bath that you need to be careful with, either. Any kind of soap or body wash with a strong scent could irritate your baby, especially if it isn't rinsed off thoroughly. If you do decide to pick some up, make sure it's fragrance free.
9 How Hot Should Bath Water Be?
Getting the temperature just right in the baby bath can be tricky. You don't want it too hot or it'll hurt your baby, but letting it get too cold might leaving them shivering and uncomfortable. You're aiming for about 98 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 or 38 degrees Celsius), which isn't as high as it might sound. You should use your wrist to check the temperature, because the skin there is more sensitive than your fingertips. If you don't trust your ability to judge the water yourself, there are plenty of thermometers on the market that will take all the guesswork out of it. You should also always make sure that your little one can't accidentally grab the faucet and turn the water much hotter or much colder than you've set it.
8 Do I Really Need To Use Special Baby Laundry Detergent?
Given how much babies just love to spit up and poop on themselves, don't be surprised if you find yourself going through several outfit changes a day— which of course means tons of laundry. If you've seen pricy bottles of baby detergent at your local store, you might be wondering if you truly need to shell out the money for one. The answer sort of depends. If your baby has sensitive skin or a condition like eczema, special detergent could make them much more comfortable. If not, using whatever product you use on your own clothes should be fine. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of washing everything together, test out one item of your baby's clothing in regular detergent to make sure he or she doesn't have a reaction to it. If it's all good, you'll save yourself a ton of money.
7 What If My Baby Has A Lot Of Gunk In Their Eyes?
If your baby's eyes seem to be oozing pus or some other unidentifiable gunk, there may be a simple solution. The culprit is very often a blocked tear duct, a problem that's both very common and thankfully, very treatable. Simply wipe it away whenever you see it, and massage the tear ducts a few times a day and that should get them unblocked. Some moms also swear by putting a few drops of breastmilk into the eye as well (way easier and cheaper than a prescription for eye drops). If none of those things are helping, let your pediatrician know. If your baby is approaching a year old and it's still an issue, they may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist who can open the duct for good with a tiny probe.
6 How Do I Care For Pierced Ears?
Ear piercing has become a hot topic in the parenting world these days, but for many, it's a cultural tradition that they wouldn't dream of skipping. It can be done safely for babies who are just a few weeks or months old (although the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend waiting until your little one is old enough to care for the piercing on their own). If you're doing it in the newborn stage, make sure you don't take out the earrings for at least six weeks, or else the holes could close back up. You should twist the earrings at least once a day, and also rub down the ear lobe with rubbing alcohol. You'll also need to keep an eye out for any redness or swelling or for a fever, which could mean your baby has developed an infection from the piercing.
5 Why Won't This Diaper Rash Go Away?
You might assume that if you diligently change your baby's diaper the second there's a drop of pee in it, they'll never get a diaper rash. But there are tons of different things that cause rashes, so it's not always enough to keep their bottom clean and dry.
Sitting in a dirty diaper for too long is of course a major culprit. But if you're changing your baby regularly and their bottom is still sore, you'll want to investigate some other causes. Things like introducing a new food, switching to a new brand of diapers or wipes, or a yeast infection can all cause irritation. If you've investigated all these things and it's still not going away, it's probably time to check in with your pediatrician to rule out a skin condition or food allergy.
4 How Should I Treat Dry Skin?
Babies have famously soft and smooth skin, but it's also not uncommon for them to be plagued by dry skin with rough, scaly patches. There are a couple different things that can give a baby dry skin, or make it worse. It often becomes an issue in the winter due to the dry air, but there can be more serious causes. Eczema is a common skin disorder that causes redness and itching. Luckily, eczema and any other type of dry skin can usually be controlled with some relatively simple remedies— regularly applying a hypoallergenic moisturizer should make a big difference, as should running a humidifier to keep the air in your home from getting too dry. As always, talk to your doctor if these tricks aren't working— you might need a prescription cream.
3 What's The Best Way To Trim My Baby's Nails?
Trimming those teeny tiny little baby nails can be terrifying for a parent. And even worse, since they seem to grow at a ridiculously fast rate, it's something you'll probably need to do pretty frequently to make sure your baby doesn't scratch themselves. You can make the process a bit less scary by waiting until your baby is asleep, and doing it after a bath when their nails may be a bit softer. You might want to invest in a nail clipper with a magnifying glass attachment on it if you're having trouble seeing exactly what you're doing. Good lighting should help, too. If you're too scared to keep them trimmed as short as possible, baby mittens will be a big help— though you might feel otherwise when one half of the pair inevitably goes missing.
2 How Often Should I Disinfect Toys?
If you looked at your baby's toys under a microscope, you'd probably find an appalling number of germs. From being dropped on the ground, tossed out of strollers, and of course, being chewed on and drooled all over, anything your baby plays with is going to get germy. Most of them will probably be harmless, but if your child has been sick or has been sharing their stuff with a sick friend, you'll definitely want to give everything a good cleaning. The easiest way do that is to toss everything into a bucket or fill a sink with water and simply scrub with soap and water. To make it even faster, some toys can even be tossed right into the dishwasher or laundry machine (just make sure they don't have any batteries or parts that could come loose and break off).
1 Do I Need To Sanitize Bottles And Pacifiers?
Back in the day, your mom probably regularly tossed all your baby bottles and nipples into a big vat of boiling water to sterilize them. While it's not a bad idea to do that when you're opening a brand new package of bottles for the first time, it's not something you need to do all the time. If you have a dishwasher, that'll effectively clean and sanitize everything. If not, a good scrubbing works just as well. Of course, if your baby has been sick recently, you might want to sterilize everything just to make sure the germs are gone for good. And if your baby's immune system is compromised in any way, you'll want to sterilize your things frequently. You might be able to save yourself some time with the process by buying a bottle sterilizing machine.
Sources: NHS.uk, ImproveEyesightHQ.com, Baby Center, Parents, The Mayo Clinic, HealthyChildren.org, American Pregnancy Association, HuffPost, Healthy Kids, Ask Dr. Sears