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Clean-up Time: Bottom-up Basics

Bathing baby

Bath time can be a special bonding time for the two of you, but many new moms are too tentative with their wriggly, wet little creature to actually relax and enjoy it. But if you follow these simple tips, you'll be able to relish the moments you have with your "water baby."

As long as their faces and their bottoms are kept clean, most babies don't need a full bath more than once or twice a week. Just use a warm, wet washcloth to keep skin creases clean as necessary. Also remember — until the belly button is completely healed, you should stick with sponge baths to keep that area dry.

When you are going to bathe your newborn, it's important to have everything you need on hand, right by the sink or tub. Once the baby is in the water, you won't be able to walk away to retrieve a forgotten washcloth or bar of soap.

Scrub a dub dub — get these essentials in the tub:

  • A baby wash or soap, like Maclaren Beginning Baby Soothing Delicate Soap or Aveeno Calming Soap. Adult soaps are too drying for newborn skin.
  • A clean washcloth and sponge
  • Cotton balls
  • A baby shampoo, like Johnson's or Mustela
  • A towel — hooded towels make it easier to wrap baby (we love the Lion Hooded Towel by Mullins Square)
  • Q-Tips or other cotton swabs

For easiest cleaning, a tiny baby can be washed in the bathroom sink. As she gets bigger, a baby tub like the First Years Sure Comfort Tub by Learning Curve can be placed in your own tub to make bathing more manageable.

Make sure the bath water is warm, not hot, as babies are easily scalded. Some tubs, such as 4 Moms The Clean Water Infant Tub, come with built-in thermometers, or you can buy a floating bath tub thermometer such as Safety First's Floating Bath Pal. Bath water should be approximately 90 degrees, or warm and comfortable to your touch.

Use cotton balls to gently clean the baby's eyes before the bath. Put your baby into the water slowly, and use a cup to pour water over him so he doesn't get cold. Use soap sparingly, and gently clean the baby front to back, top to bottom. Rinse using the sponge or by wringing clean water from the washcloth over soapy areas.

Wash baby's head once or twice a week using baby soap or shampoo. Rub gently, then rinse using a clean washcloth. Then wrap baby in a towel and pat her dry.

Diapering baby

Of course, the genital area should be cleaned with each diapering. To properly diaper the baby — and keep this area clean — follow these simple steps:

  1. Gather your supplies. You will need your choice of diapers, a changing pad or cloth diaper (to keep surface clean), fasteners (if not using disposables), and diaper wipes or a clean wet washcloth. Some moms may also choose to use an ointment, such as A&D Ointment, or a petroleum jelly like Vaseline to treat or prevent diaper rashes.
  2. Place baby on diaper pad, and remove the dirty diaper. (Hint: the dirtier the diaper is, the further out of reach you should place it. Babies have been known to kick indiscriminately.)
  3. Using the diaper wipe or washcloth, clean your child's genitals from front to back. Lift the baby's legs by the ankles to reach all areas, and don't forget to clean those adorable chubby creases where — er — dirt can hide.
  4. After wiping, dry the baby. Then lift the baby by the legs again, and slip diaper beneath. (An alternative: place the diaper on the pad before putting baby down on it. This works best when changing doesn't involve a poopy diaper.)
  5. If desired, put ointment or Vaseline on the baby's bottom.
  6. Close diaper and fasten, using attached tape (if using disposables) or pins (if cloth).

Special side-note for mothers of boys — you may want to place a diaper or clean, dry washcloth over your son's penis before you begin the diapering process, or you may learn how appropriate the nickname of "little squirt" can be.

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