Baby's Bath: What You Do and Don't Need

newborn baby bathWhen you're a new parent, there are few experiences as nerve-racking as giving baby his first real bath. Newborns are awfully small and slippery, and the potential for disaster seems so high: What if the water is too hot? Too cold? Soap gets in his eye? Or what if I can't get those neck folds clean and they start to stink? It's easy to let the anxiety motivate you to spend a ton of money on every bathing gadget and tool imaginable.


But as experienced parents will tell you, once you get the hang of it, bath time is actually fairly simple and can be fun for both you and baby. The good news is that you also don’t need to spend a fortune to gear up for that first bath. Here, moms who've been there and done that share the items that will make bath time a breeze -- and those you simply don't need.

Baby Bath Must-Haves

Secure bathing area: There are no hard and fast rules about where you must bathe baby. Whether it's your kitchen sink or a portable plastic tub, you want somewhere that makes it easy for you to hold on to your little wiggler. Brandy T. of Des Moines, Iowa, says, “I suggest having a setup that allows you to be standing during the bath. I think it's easier to hold on to a newborn when you aren’t bending over, like in a tub. If you use one of those plastic tubs, put it on the kitchen counter, so you can stand and keep a hand on baby.” Once baby's bigger, heavier, and moving around more, you'll probably want to switch to the tub.

Thin washcloths and gentle baby wash: You don’t want to scrub baby too hard or use a regular bar of soap (too drying for new skin), so definitely stop in the baby section for those soft baby washcloths and a baby wash that best suits your little one’s skin. I always liked a mild all-in-one soap and shampoo for newborns, and for my baby with sensitive skin I preferred a fragrance-free option.

Hooded towel: Not only are the hooded bath towels for infants adorable, but as Kelsey J. of Saint Paul, Minnesota, says, “Babies get cold quickly, so you want to wrap them up right after bath and cover their little heads so they don’t get the shivers.” Lay the towel out in advance, so you can use both hands to lift and lay your wet baby in it quickly after the bath.

Baby hair brush: If your little one has cradle cap, the bath is a good time to gently wash hair and use the brush to clean off any loose flakes.  

More from The Stir: There Is No Bath Seat Safe Enough For Your Baby

What You Don't Need

Tub thermometer: Yes, it is important to make sure the water isn’t too hot, but you have skin, right? Go old-school and use your elbow or run your forearm under the tap. If it feels hot on your more sensitive skin, it will feel too hot for baby.

Fancy sink insert: “I bought this adorable flower-shaped insert that was supposed to make giving baths in the sink more comfortable for the baby," says Janelle R. of Ames, Iowa. "That thing never dried all the way, so it ended up being a breeding ground for mildew. Yuck. Besides, I was more comfortable just holding her.”

Towel warmer: Heather H. of Lansing, Michigan, is still rolling her eyes about this well-meaning but useless baby shower gift: “My mother-in-law bought me a $50 baby towel warmer. Do I really need that? No. All you need is a nice soft and dry towel to warm up and dry baby. I returned that sucker fast. I’d rather spend that money on diapers.”

Tons of toys: My 3-year-old will happily play in the bath for an hour as long as she has her bucket of toys, so I do think bath toys are a great buy eventually. But new babies definitely don’t need toys. You’ll generally want to get them in and out of the bath pretty quickly so they don’t get chilled and so their skin doesn't dry out. Once they're able to grasp objects and play, they’ll enjoy a plain plastic cup as much or more as they would a fancy squirty toy that's likely to become a mildew trap.

Spa tub: A baby tub with jets? A shower attachment? All the latest bells and whistles? Buy it if you want to, but remember #1 on the must-have list: All you really need is a safe, shallow place that makes it easy to hold on to baby. If you don't get the spa tub, you and baby will probably never miss it.


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