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The baby’s encounter with water

Since from the very first days the baby will get into contact with water in the bath tub.
The bath time is not only a way to be bathed but it is also a way to get to know oneself and let oneself be known. The relationship with water allows to establish a bigger physical contact than that you can get out of it; the water allows the physical sensations to be free, allows to get to know oneself better, to have the right perception of oneself, to move free.

For newborn babies it is fundamental to favor the physical contact and the tonic play: hold them, cradle them, massage them and pamper them.
This exercise is further improved in water. In the water the newborn experiences and seeks for the stability skills that will be the basis for walking, running, bike riding. In the water your baby will feel free and with more freedom of movement. The water is for your baby synonym of relation, discovery, play, risk, emotion, pleasure.

The benefits

The bath has relaxing powers and it’s just the right solution for a tranquil and peaceful night. It is not just naturally necessary from the very first days to ensure the right personal daily hygiene, but it is also a magical and playful experience at the same time that reinforces the circulatory, respiratory and skeletal system. Through this experience the affective relationship and the psychological development are stimulated by the relationship with parents.

How often should you bathe your baby

You can bathe your baby every day even when the umbilical cord is still there: in this case it’s enough that, when you’re done with the bath, you carefully pat dry the umbilical cord.

The best way to give your baby a bath

The presence of a competent adult is essential, one that is able to hold and keep the baby in the baby bath tub and that will keep always an eye on the baby; the restraint points inside the bath will grant the correct support for the baby.

The room where you’ll give your baby a bath must have a temperature between 20-21 degrees Celsius; it could be necessary to pre-heat the room with a thermic device (i.e. electric heater). If it’s a portable thermic device, for safety reasons it must be kept away from the baby bath and must be turned off before starting bathing your baby. Please avoid any current of air (open windows, people passing by).

Prepare in advance all necessary bath accessories close at hand. For the newborn it’s desirable to pre-heat the water-absorbent towel (i.e. put it for a few minutes on the heater) above all in the coldest seasons.

The duration of the bath must be a few minutes for the newborns and babies; up to 10-15’ for the older babies.

The baby bath must be placed in a comfortable position (the right height for adults) and must be stable, in order to avoid any overturning. Fill the tub with the right quantity of water, about 50% of its capacity, with warm water: the ideal temperature for newborns/babies is about 37/38 degrees Celsius, similar to the body temperature.

After one month of life it is possible to reduce the water temperature by 2-3 degrees Celsius, balancing it with the environmental temperature. Despite the thermometer (essential) it is desirable to check the water temperature with your finger (not with your hand). It is also desirable, above all during the first month of life, to use hypoallergenic products that do not have to be rinsed, and that can be poured in water.

After bathing your baby it is important to use the right technique to lift your baby out of the bath. Lift your baby with one hand supporting his neck and head and your other hand under his bottom, with your thumb and forefinger around one thigh. You need to move carefully and hold your baby tight because newborns can be very slippery.
It is important to wrap your baby in a towel and pat him dry before dressing him up.

Some practical tips

Place a big towel and everything you need on a large surface near the baby bath.

Wash your hands and, after checking again the water temperature, undress him completely and gradually slip your baby into the tub (feet->inferior limbs->pelvis->torso); hold him with your left arm so that your thumb is on his left shoulder and your other fingers will be under his left armpit; the baby’s head will comfortably rest on your forearm.

Wash his face and then his body, cleanse the dirtiest parts last (genitals and feet). Wash his scalp with a pH neutral cleanser (it is desirable not to use the shampoo before the third month of life). After taking the baby out of the water, lay him down on a hydro absorbent towel (the spongier the better) and pat him dry starting from his head paying attention to his inguinal folds and armpits.

Report provided by:

Dott. Gianpaolo Mirri

Specialized in pediatrics

Specialized in Neonatology and Neonatal Pathology

Corporate Health Manager in Neonatology and neonatal intermediate care

Hospital “Alessandro Manzoni” Lecco.