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Bathing Baby: Tub Bath Techniques

Martha Stewart Baby, Volume 1 Special Issue 2000

A newborn's first bath at home is the tub bath. After the umbilical cord falls off, in about the third week, a sponge bath is appropriate. The following techniques were offered by Desiree Perez Rodriguez, certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Saint Vincent's Hospital in New York City, and Lois Honcharuck, certified pediatric nurse practitioner in private practice in Summit, New Jersey. The baby featured is Sydney Nebens.

View the techniques or download printable version to keep.

1. Ready your supplies: a waist-high sturdy table, a plastic tub, two washcloths, two or three towels, cotton balls, a cup, alcohol wipes, unscented mild soap such as Dove or pure castile soap, and baby shampoo.

2. Take the baby with your dominant hand around the back, and grasp your baby's shoulder with your thumb and forefinger so your forearm and wrist are supporting her head and neck. Maintain this supportive shoulder hold throughout the bath. Place your other hand under the buttocks, and sit her in the water.

3. Take your hand out from under the baby's bottom, keeping the head and shoulder supported with your dominant hand. Start by washing the face: With a clean corner of a washcloth or moistened cotton ball, wash each eye, moving from the inner to the outer corner. Use only warm water. Wash the nose with another clean corner of the washcloth and the mouth with another.

 4. Wash the baby's neck, chest, belly, and back.

 5. Using a small amount of soap, wash legs and feet, and rinse. Be sure to clean all the little folds, and rinse well. Leave the genitals and buttock area for last, after you have washed the baby's hair.

 6. To get ready for the shampoo, slide the baby forward in the tub, and tilt her back so that the water will drain away from her face. Keep your supporting arm under the baby's head and shoulders. Use your free hand to gently pour water over the crown of the head.

 7. Using a pea-size amount of shampoo, lather the baby's hair, and rinse. If the baby has dandruff or a scaly scalp, oil her head before the bath with a small amount of olive oil or apricot-kernel oil. Massage the oil into the scalp, and leave on for about 15 minutes. Comb out dandruff, then shampoo.


8. Rinse the baby's hair, pouring the water over her head, away from the face. When you are finished with the hair, wash the genitals and buttock area with a small amount of soap, and rinse.

9. Turn the basin so you are face to face with your baby. Maintaining a supportive head-and-shoulder hold, lift her from the basin, and place her on a towel laid flat next to the basin.

10. Wash genitals and groin, front to back. For girls, open the vulva with your thumb and index finger. Clean gently. For boys, clean the outside of the penis. Do not pull back the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis. On a circumcised penis, use a cotton ball dipped in warm water. Lift testicles, and clean.

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