Have all the things needed before starting to undress the baby.
An infant quickly loses body heat, so it is important that the room is warm and that there are no drafts from open windows or doors. A wall thermometer is useful. A bathinette or a plastic tub three-quarters full of lukewarm water should be placed within arm’s length. Also needed are a small bowl of warm water in which there is a squirt of liquid bath soap; two small sponges; cotton balls; cotton swabs; disposable wipes; baby oil; soap; shampoo; lotion; talcum powder; a fine-toothed comb; a bristle hairbrush; and a baby comb. A waterproof apron is also required, preferably one with a Turkish toweling surface, together with several soft, absorbent towels for patting the baby dry; a fresh diaper; diaper pins; plastic pants; and a set of clean clothes.
Newborn babies heartily dislike face-cloths. Until the baby is one month old, use moistened cotton balls or disposable wipes to wash his or her face. Afterward, use one of the sponges for the face and the second sponge for the buttocks area when a soiled diaper is removed.
Most babies have diaper rash at one time or another, usually caused by prolonged contact with stools and urine. A physician will recommend an ointment to get rid of the rash. Diaper rash can usually be prevented by spreading on a little petroleum jelly in the diaper region after the baby’s bath, and by checking the baby’s diapers often and changing them when needed to avoid prolonged contact with urine and stool.
Dry skin is common among newborn babies. Baby oil, gently massaged into the skin, can relieve the condition. But test the oil first on the baby’s ankle to make sure that there is not an allergic reaction.
Cradle cap, a patch of yellowish, greasy crusting on the baby’s head, should be treated at bath time. After the baby is nursed, massage some oil into the scalp and leave it for several hours until the next meal. By then the scaling should be easy to lift with a fine-toothed comb. At bath time, shampoo and rinse the baby’s scalp and dry carefully. Brush the baby’s hair.
Throughout bath time reassure the infant by speaking softly. A newborn infant is frightened by loud noises and quick, jerky movements and responds by crying.
Handle the baby gently when dressing him or her. Babies much prefer being undressed.
Clothing should be simple to slip on and take off because the baby may be crying and perhaps stiff and rigid from exertion. Loose clothes with snap fasteners are preferable to clothing that has to be pulled over the head.
The Bath. In the early weeks, bath-time may take longer than anticipated because both parent and baby do not know quite what to expect. As soon as a routine is established, the baby will feel more secure and tolerant of handling.
Make sure in these early days that the room and bath temperatures are kept constant throughout the bath-time. For the first six weeks, the temperature in the room should be 70-75 Fahrenheit degrees (21-24 Celsius degrees). After six weeks it may then be 65-70 Fahrenheit degrees (18-21 Celsius degrees). The bathwater should be kept at 100-104 Fahrenheit degrees (37-40 Celsius degrees), slightly higher than normal body temperature. Keep a pitcher of warm water near the bath to top off the bathwater should it cool down too much.
Be kind to the baby; handle him or her with warm hands; speak softly in a soothing voice.
Most babies love being in the water, but hate coming out of it; they cry, showing signs of insecurity and shivering. The baby should be wrapped immediately in a towel and held tightly for a moment. This helps a baby to relax again. Now slowly start to dry the baby, either on your lap or on a changing mat. Be sure that a soft, absorbent towel covers the plastic mat before you lay the baby on it. Now gently open the towel in which the baby is wrapped and pat dry with a second towel. Always try to keep covered the parts of the body that are not actually being dried.
When the baby is dry, you may apply ointment to the diaper area if you wish, and then begin to dress the baby. Put on the undershirt first to keep the body warm, then the diaper, and finally the nightgown. All this time, the baby may be impatient to be nursed. But do not let loud complaints distract you from what you are doing.