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One of the best things about being a parent is experiencing all of your baby’s “firsts” right alongside them. One of the very “firsts” that you will get to experience together is your baby’s first bath! However, most babies are not ready for a bath right away.

Babies typically come home from the hospital with the stump of their umbilical cord still attached, and it can take a couple of weeks for it to fall off. Until their umbilical cord stump has dried up, fallen off, and healed completely, the experience of their first bath will have to wait. In the meantime, you can still be creative in making sure that your newborn is clean and cared for!

Umbilical Cord Care

Typically, after about 1 to 3 weeks, the umbilical cord stump will dry up and fall off. However, it is important to continue caring for the umbilical cord until the area completely heals. The ideal way to do this is to moisten one end of a cotton swab with water, gently clean around the base of the umbilical cord stump, and dry with the other side of the cotton swab.

Although moisture and drops of blood around the belly button are normal during this period of time, keeping the area clean and dry will help fight infection and prevent delayed healing. Infections are rare, but be sure to watch for the warning signs that one may be arising. If it is sensitive or painful to the touch, red, smells foul, or has a continuous yellow discharge, it may indicate a possible infection and medical treatment may be needed.

Overall, you want to ensure that your newborn’s umbilical cord is kept clean and dry. It is helpful to fold your baby’s diaper down away from the belly button area, or purchase newborn diapers that already have a cut-out space for the umbilical cord stump. Also, if the weather permits, it is ideal to dress your baby in a loose-fitting t-shirt and avoid bodysuit-type undershirts.

It is important to remember to never pull on the umbilical cord stump, even if it looks like it is mostly dried up. The area will heal much better if you allow the umbilical cord stump to completely fall off on its own.

Keeping Your Newborn Clean

Until the umbilical cord falls off, it is best to give your baby sponge baths. This will help keep their little hands, feet, faces, and bodies clean, while keeping their umbilical cord stump clean and dry! A sponge bath is truly only needed 1-2 times per week, as too frequent bathing can cause newborn skin to become dry or irritated. Check out our blog post on how often you should bathe a baby for more information on this.

Before you start, be sure to gather all of your needed bath items and keep them within arms reach. You will want to have mild soap, a couple of washcloths, a plastic cup filled with warm water, a bigger towel, a clean diaper, and a fresh change of clothes nearby. Your newborn will be more comfortable if the room is warm and cozy before getting them undressed.

While some parents choose to lay out a towel and sponge bathe their baby on any soft and comfortable surface, others find it easier to place their little ones in an infant bathtub lined with a large, dry towel.

When you are ready to begin sponge bathing your newborn, start from the top of their head and work toward the tips of their toes. Use a wet washcloth with a dime-sized amount of mild soap to wash your baby with soft, gentle strokes. Be mindful of their eyes, ears, nose and mouth, avoiding any prolonged contact with the suds from the soapy washcloth.

Pay special attention to crevices and small spaces such as under the neck, between their little fingers and toes, and behind the ears. As you wash your baby, you can place a second, warm washcloth on the areas that you are not currently cleaning to help keep your newborn comfortable and warm. Once finished, rinse the washcloth with warm water (or use a second washcloth) to wipe away all of the remaining soapy suds.

Always support your baby’s head and neck, and be careful to keep the umbilical cord dry. If it does get wet during the sponge bath, just be sure to dry it quickly. Finish up by wrapping your little one is a towel, and soaking up all of the fresh, newborn cuddles. Their umbilical cord stump will soon fall off and heal, and your baby will be ready for a full bath in no time! Once that time comes, check out some fun baby bath toys to make it a special and fun bonding time!