“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 on the 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.

 

Why babies need special skin care?

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 skin of the baby is exposed to moist and warm amniotic fluid  in the womb. After delivery, dry and cold environment because air conditioners or heating without humidifiers is detrimental according to experts.

Dryness: The skin of the baby is drier than adults. It has less natural moisturising factors and has the tendency to lose them very easily.

Alkaline pH: The pH of adult skin is acidic which helps in protecting against germs. But, baby skin has higher or alkaline pH. So avoid using alkaline soaps for bathing. Studies show that products that are used on infants should not interfere with skin surface pH or perturb the skin barrier.

Non-functional sweat glands: The sweat glands of babies are still not fully functional. They are more likely to get prickly heat in high temperatures.

Inability to conserve body heat: Babies are still learning to conserve their body heat during the cold weathers. Therefore, keep room temperature should be kept around 24- 28 degrees.

More body folds: Babies have more folds on their skin especially on the neck and thighs. Overthat, they can’t wipe off sweat and dust in these folds. Thus, body folds are more prone to fungal and bacterial infection.

Diaper area: Babies are exposed to irritants in urine and stool often. They are also frequently exposed to cleansers and water. This makes their skin dry. Sometimes, even flaky and red leading to diaper rash.

Weak skin barrier: The infant skin barrier is still evolving. Certain substances can be absorbed easily through the skin into the blood.

 

7 steps to give baby bath and use baby oil

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- Undress

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- Massage Baby Oil

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

Use coconut oil or ghee 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- Give Bath

You should prefer liquid cleansers specially formulated for kids over the soap. Alkaline soap are drying. They 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- Put Moisturiser

Water and cleansers remove all the natural moisturising factors from the skin of your baby. Apply 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- Dress

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.

Are there any guidelines on giving baby bath and applying oil?

According to Indian Academy of Pediatrics, following are the guidelines for giving first bath to baby:

  • First bath should be delayed until 24 hours after birth.
  • Duration of bath should not exceed 5-10 minutes.
  • Liquid cleanser with acidic or neutral pH is preferred.
  • Cord stump must be kept clean without any application.
  • Diaper area should be kept clean and dry with frequent change of diapers.
  • Massage with sunflower oil, coconut oil or mineral oil are preferred. Avoid vegetable oils such as olive oil and mustard oil.

I hope this article was helpful. Have a look at this list of skin care products that are recommended by dermatologist for use on delicate skin of your baby.

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