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Bathing a young baby or child for the first time is a big step for the parents. They want to make sure that bath time is a fun time but they also want to make sure that it is a safe time too. There is always a risk that bath time can get out of hand and become dangerous if the right precautions and preparations aren't taken out before bathing. When a parent is bathing a baby they need to be relaxed and confident in what they are doing to avoid making the baby feel uncomfortable, baby knows if something is wrong. There is no set time to bath a baby but it is generally accepted that bathing is best done before a feed has taken place.

What do I need?

In order to bath a baby you will need a number of things. Before you prepare the baby for bathing you will need to collect the equipment together so that you are thoroughly prepared. You will need :

  • A baby bath – these are usually made from moulded plastic with rounded edges to avoid cuts. They should be suitable to place on a bath stand or firmly on the floor.
  • A small container – this is used to hold pre-boiled water that will be used to clean the babies face. Different water from the bath water is used to avoid infection.
  • Cotton wool – it is best to use cotton wool for the cleaning of the face as it is soft and more than one piece can be used for each eye, etc to avoid any spreading of infection over the babies face.
  • Bath towels – you will need around three towels, one to use for the cleaning of the face, one for the body and one for laying on the floor in case the water tips out of the baby bath.
  • A waterproof apron – for the parent who is bathing the baby bathing a baby is a messy job and water usually ends up on the parents at babies tend to splash around quite a lot at the start of the bathing.
  • A clean set of clothes – once the baby is bathed you want to be able to dress the baby almost straight after drying to avoid the baby becoming cold, irritable and upset.
  • A clean nappy – although after a bath it is reasonable to let the baby have some time without a nappy on it is suggested that a baby needs a bit of airing space from a nappy to avoid nappy rash.
  • Toiletries

    Some parent’s feel that they need to buy every possible toiletry on offer for their babies and this is just not the case at all. You do not need to buy your baby the latest shampoos or creams because they just won’t appreciate it and there is simply no need. Most parents like to equip themselves with some kind of box to give a home to the toiletries and accessories they need, you can buy boxes that are specially designed for the job but if you cannot afford this a basket or general storage box will do just fine. As the skin of new babies is very delicate there is no need to use any type of products for the first six weeks as these products irritate the baby’s skin. However, after six weeks special baby products can be used at they are unlikely to irritate the babies skin as many are hypoallergenic.

    Bathing a young baby

    1. When you are filling the bath you must always ensure that you put the cold water in first, this is to ensure that you do not scald the baby. It is better to let the baby be cold than burnt. Before the baby is put into the bath it is wise to test the temperature of the water using an elbow or wrist, the water only need to be about 5-8cms deep.

    2. Undress the baby and clean the nappy area before wrapping the baby in a clean towel. Clean the face with damp cotton wool - using cooled boiled water, damp a cotton wool ball and wipe each eye gently from the inner part of the eye to the outer part. Use a new cotton wool ball for each eye to prevent the risk of spreading any infection. Some parents try and clean ears and noses but they simply clean themselves, however, if you do want to try and clean them use cotton wool balls but never be tempted to poke inside the ears or noses. Hold the baby carefully under one arm, supporting the back and head, and wash the baby's head.

    3. Unwrap the baby and lift the baby into the bath supporting the head, neck and bottom. Allow the baby to relax in the water, letting it kick and splash about whilst you talk to the baby and reassure it that everything is O.K. If the baby knows that everything is O.K. bath times will be happy, fun times for them. Keep one hand under the baby's shoulders so that the head is kept away from the water and gently use the free hand to wash the baby, paying particular attention to the areas where there are folds and creases in the baby's skin.

    4. When the baby is clean lift the baby from the bath, wrap the baby in a warm towel and dry him thoroughly. Though babies do lose body heat quickly, if the room is warm enough they often like a few minutes of freedom before they have their clothes put back on.

    Bathing an older baby

    It is highly unlikely that by the age of six months they are still small enough to fit in their baby bath. It is at this time that they will have outgrown the baby bath and will be ready to be introduced to a normal sized bath. To get babies used to this it is a good idea to but the baby bath into the normal bath so they can get used to their surroundings. When using a bath with a small child, precautions need to be taken out to ensure that no injuries occur. It is advisable that a non-slip bath mat is placed at the base of the bath to make sure that the baby is safe whilst sitting in the bath. Add the cold water first and then top it up with hot until it is of a reasonable temperature. The water will need to be checked before the child is placed into the water, this can be done with an elbow or wrist to avoid scalding yourself instead of the baby.

    The water only needs to be relatively shallow - twelve centimetres is usually the average a bath should be filled up to for a young baby. Once the bath is filled the taps should be turned off tightly and they should then be covered with a flannel. The taps need to be covered because if a small hand touched them they could easily be burnt. Whilst bathing an older baby you must keep an eye on them to make sure they do not stand up in the bath, apart from the obvious danger of them falling they could also frighten themselves and not want a bath again.

    Caring for the hair and scalp

    A baby's hair and scalp should be washed daily if possible; however, it is not necessary to use any products for the first few weeks. Parents often worry when scaly patches, often red, appear on their babies head. There is absolutely no reason to worry, this is just cradle cap and it will clear up without any treatment at all. It is best if it is just left alone and parent should not pick at it in any circumstances. When shampoos or lotions are used for hair washing it is very important to use not-sting varieties and to ensure that none of the products go into or even near the baby’s eyes. Only a small amount of products is needed which should be lathered and rinsed away quickly. Whereas adults usually wash their hair twice there is no need to do so with a baby, once is quite enough!

    To dry the babies hair use a towel. Do not even attempt to use a hair dryer, for a start a baby does not have enough hair for there to be a need to use a hairdryer and for another thing a hairdryer would just scare the baby. You need to remember that anything that scares the baby may mean the baby is frightened to ever have a bath again, not making any mistakes is crucial. To towel dry the hair use a soft towel, which is preferably quite small so the towel does not cover the face of the baby, and gently rub the head.

    And remember, have fun!

    Once babies can sit up unsupported they will enjoy having baths even more! Bathing is not just about getting clean it is about having fun too, you should encourage your child to have a splash and a play in the bath. There are many bath toys on the market at the moment, such as boats, rubber ducks and many plastic animals. However, a child would be just as happy playing with an empty shampoo bottle or a plastic cup. Remember that whatever you give a child to play with you must make sure they are safe - by removing loose caps and small parts.

    Information from :
    My notes on: Caring for the toddler,
    The health section of: http://bbc.co.uk,
    My Mother: she had two children, after all!

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