“Doctor, how to give a baby bath? What should be the temperature of the water? Should I use soap or liquid cleanser? Should I use baby oil skin before or after a bath?”

Having passed this stage myself, I have researched all of the above questions from a dermatologist point of view and summarised them in this article. Read further to know how to give a baby bath and use baby oil in 7 simple steps.

A baby in the womb of the mother is used to the warm and moist environment as their skin is dipped in water called amniotic fluid during the nine months of pregnancy. When the baby enters the real world, his/her skin faces a number of challenges as tabulated below-

  • Environment change: The moist and warm skin of the baby in the womb is exposed to the opposite of dry and cold environment just after delivery; more so because of the increased use of air conditioners or heating without humidifiers.
  • Dryness: The skin of the baby is drier than adults because it has less natural moisturising factors and has the tendency to lose them very easily.
  • Frequent soiling: The constant soiling due to urinating and defecating and also the frequent exposure to cleansers and water make their skin drier and sometimes even flaky and red leading to diaper rash.
  • Alkaline pH: The pH of adult skin is acidic which helps in protecting against germs while the baby skin has higher or alkaline pH. This alkalinity is further increased if we use alkaline soaps for bathing.
  • Non-functional sweat glands: The sweat glands of babies are still not fully functional, so they are more likely to get prickly heat when they are exposed to high temperatures.
  • Inability to conserve body heat: Similarly, babies are more prone to damage because of cold temperature as they are still learning to conserve their body heat during the cold weathers. This maintaining of optimum temperature around 24- 28 degree Celsius is important for your little one.
  • More body folds: Babies have more folds on their skin (especially on the neck and thighs) and over that they are unable to wipe off sweat and dust in these folds making this area prone to fungal and bacterial infection.
  • Diaper area: Diaper area of babies is exposed to urine and faeces very frequently and hence frequent or wrong cleansing can make this area prone to Diaper dermatitis.
  • Weak skin barrier: The infant skin barrier is still evolving and hence certain substances can be absorbed easily through the skin into the blood.

There are no set of rules defined for bathing your kid, but I have created a simple regime to execute this herculean task especially for new parents.

STEP 1- Preparation for bath

Before you undress your baby, make sure you have all the stuff you need within your arms reach especially if you are alone. Keep clothes, towel, cleanser, moisturiser, etc. of your baby and make sure the temperature of the water is warm (not too hot or cold) to touch.

STEP 2- Undressing your child

Please switch off all the fans and air conditioners. If you reside in a cold climate, make sure the room is warm but not hot.

STEP 3- Oil Massage

There are a lot of controversies regarding this step. Few people believe the baby should be massaged after a bath, but most of the parents would agree that the baby is so hungry after a bath that he/she would barely give time for applying baby lotion. If you have less time, you can skip this step and massage the baby in the evening, but an infant deserves an oil massage twice a day.

Use coconut or sunflower oil for the massage and avoid olive or mustard oil.  Do not forget to warm your hands before you touch your baby. Gentle massage for 15-30 minutes would not only keep the skin moisturised but also helps in gaining weight, improves mental well-being and relaxes your child.

STEP 4- Bathing

You should prefer liquid cleansers specially formulated for kids over the soap because the alkaline soap can be more drying and would raise pH of the skin of your baby. Begin with wetting skin with tepid water followed by the application of the cleanser. Make sure you apply the cleanser on the folds of the neck, arm and thighs by gently pulling the skin apart. Ideally, the bath should be quick because overexposure to water would further dry the skin of your infant.

STEP 5- Towelling

Always pat dry the skin of your baby rather than rubbing. Please spend some extra time in pulling apart the folds of skin on the neck, arms and thighs followed by a gentle pat drying. Cleaning and thoroughly drying the folds is critical to avoid infections and diaper dermatitis.

STEP 6- Oiling

Water and cleansers remove all the natural moisturising factors from the skin of your baby, so you need to replenish it by applying the moisturising lotion immediately after pat drying. Choose a fragrance-free and hypoallergenic body lotion specially formulated for kids. Please note, sprinkling powder on the folds is no more recommended.

STEP 7- Dressing

Dressing your child should be done without delay. Most of the parents overdress their kids which can result in prickly heat. The general rule is, babies need one extra layer of clothes than you and also, maintain the temperature of the room so that it feels warm, neither cold nor hot.


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