Have you heard the saying "it takes a village" around the postpartum period? Have you then thought: "Well that's cute,...
Note: there are links to some products in this post, but I am not a paid affiliate!
Also: some photos courtesy of Erika Matkovich.
My baby’s first bath was one to remember…
…in the best ways possible. I want to share my experience with you.
Bubs was two or three days old. Tiny little thing! And so brand new.
Indeed, it was time to bathe her, and I had thought about what I wanted to do for baby’s first bath a little bit beforehand. All I needed was the help of my Postpartum Doula to make it as close to perfect as I dare go.
I wanted baby’s first bath to be a family bath.
Yes. You read that correctly.
Thanks to my larger sized bathtub, I wanted to take my immediate postpartum body, baby, and spouse–our new trio–into the bathtub together. (And with the supervision of our cat Daisy, of course!)
Our family’s awesome ‘baby’s first bath’ experience
Ain’t no new parent got energy for showering!
Undeniably, in the first few days postpartum, I–and my body–were exhausted. I certainly did NOT have the energy to a) stand up in the shower and wash myself, or b) bathe Bubs!
Now this was obviously a dilemma, because I didn’t want to miss baby’s first bath!
So I followed my instinct and decided that the family bath would be a great solution.
And–spoiler alert– it was!
Our amazing Postpartum Doula got it all set up for us, and even took some great pictures of the scene, too.
Candles were lit, twinkle lights were illuminated, post-birth healing bath salts & herbs from New Life Co. (online shop coming in 2021!) were dissolving and steeping in the warm water, towels were laid out… it was a magical, spa-like scene.
Gimme allllll the oxytocin!
As I stepped into the water, it surrounded me like a hug. Instant relief. As far as post-birth recovery goes, it was exactly what I needed. My achy joints, bones, and muscles breathed a deep sigh of relief. My tired mind relaxed. Bliss.
And then my hunnie joined in with me. I was pretty comfortable naked, and he put on swim shorts. Doulas are supportive of postpartum bodies, so I felt free around our Doula.
She then brought bubs in– stripped down and ready to have their first bathing experience after coming out from her aqueous womb.
The Doula placed bubs in my arms, and I brought her down onto my chest. Honestly, it reminded me of the moment at birth where she also was placed on my chest. That’s how blissful the moment was.
Hunnie and I alternated pouring warm water on her small, wrinkly back. Clearly, she was feeding off of my relaxation, because she was SO CALM! She pretty much fell asleep on my chest, in that warm place that would remind her of her previous home. Yes, she was home.
While we relaxed and bonded as a new family, our Doula offered to take photos. What a gift that was. She captured these precious moments that left such an impression on me. They are beautiful photos, wouldn’t you agree?
Following your instincts
After minutes of relaxing, as newborns do, bubs got hungry. Hmmm, should we get out? But it’s still so cozy in here and I’m waaaay too relaxed!
You guessed it: I breastfed her right there in the bath.
Correct me if I’m wrong folks, but is this stuff taught in prenatal classes? Honestly, you can do anything. Let your instincts guide you. If it doesn’t work, you’ll learn for next time!
Bubs fed happily, and I got to relax even further, thanks to the hormones oxytocin and prolactin surging through me. And following my instincts on this added a coin to the new parent confidence jar. Maybe I can do this.
Potentially setting the stage for calmer baths?
Now this part is pure speculation; but my baby loves baths.
Could it be?
Could it be that that first experience really set the tone for a secure attachment to water out here?
I don’t know, and I never will. But isn’t it a lovely thought, nonetheless?
I will honour myself and keep this thought and experience close to my heart forever.
Before my cheesiness nauseates you, let me tell you how this blissful baby’s first bath experience ended…
Hunnie was holding bubs on his chest for a little while after the feed, and — she pooped on him! It was honestly HILARIOUS. A natural and memorable ending to a natural and memorable experience!
Don’t let that turn you off, though. He showered off and all was well. We had an amazing laugh about it. Our Doula grabbed bubs into her towel, and we hopped out.
Is baby’s first bath a source of anxiety for you? You’re not alone!
Keep calm and carry on
If you have anxiety surrounding baby’s first bath, I’m here to validate that and say that’s COMPLETELY NORMAL, and super common.
Like a lot of things as a new parent, I find that a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach works quite well! Meaning, if you don’t feel confident, trudge on as best as you can anyways and pretend you’re confident! That will achieve 2 things:
a) it will get you through the initial nerves until the confidence can fester on its own and you get the hang of things, and
b) it might assure your baby that you’ve got them and there won’t be as much outward nervousness for them to feed off of.
With all this being said, if you’re dreading or just not looking forward to baby’s first bath, please call me and we can work it out together!
Do not hesitate to ask for help; your nerves will thank you for it! Like I said before, a lot of folks find baby’s first bath anxiety-provoking.
That being said…
… Babies are resilient! Even newborns!
Yes they might cry, but don’t assume you’re scarring them for life (I know, easier said than done). It’s their way of communicating! Maybe they don’t feel like being naked at that moment. Maybe the water is a bit of a shock they weren’t expecting. Maybe they have no idea what’s going on and it’s confusing! Maybe the water is too warm or too cold and they are telling you about it.
Point is: if they cry, it could be a million things. Maybe the water is making them miss the womb! Maybe the lights are bright. Maybe they’re hungry.
But guess what: there’s not always a fix, although I know we desperately wish there could be. Your babe will be okay. Even if the baby does slip out of your hands (which probably rarely ever happens but it’s a common fear), you will pick them right back up and all will be well. They are resilient creatures! They’ve worked hard to get here; they’re not going to let one bath ruin them, if you’re right there with them.
Give yourself credit, for you too have grown so much in becoming a parent already, even though you feel like it’s the very beginning. In a way it is, but in another you’ve been at it for MONTHS already! Have faith in your instincts and abilities.
And if you need help, I’m here for you and ready for you.
“But Naomi, how can I have faith if I don’t even know what to do?”
I’ve got you. Read on, my friend.
Guidelines & Considerations for baby’s first bath
Safety first: do not leave your baby unattended in the bath at all! If you need to leave the room for some reason, wrap baby up in a towel and take them with you.
If you’re “sponge bathing”, here’s how to:
- Try to warm up the room. You can do this by running a hot shower for a few minutes, or grab a space heater.
- Have a change pad or small basin for baby, a small bowl of lukewarm water, a couple washcloths, some baby soap, baby shampoo, a scalp massage pad, and an extra towel or small blanket on hand.
- Spread out a change pad and cover that with a towel to catch any rogue fluids. You could also rest baby in a small basin. As you begin washing one part of your newborn’s body, you could keep the other parts of their body nice and warm by covering them with the other towel or blanket.
- Clean one of your baby’s eyes with a fresh, damp soft cloth. Repeat with other eye and with fresh cloth. Continue to clean the rest of your baby’s face. You do not need soap to do this.
- Wash the rest of baby’s body with mild soap lathered on a soft washcloth. Clean under all your babe’s body creases and folds, such as in their neck, under their armpits, and behind their ears. Wash the diaper area last (unless they had a poopsplosion then you might wanna take care of that first!?). There is no need to clean any of your baby’s inner orifices, such as inside their ears, because they are self-cleaning. Make sure to rinse off any body areas that you cleaned with soap.
- Shampoo your babe’s hair (if they have any) once or twice a week at most. To do this, cradle baby with your arm in a football hold, with your hand supporting their head. Hold their head over the sink and use your hand or a cup to gently run lukewarm water over their head, away from eyes. Add a small amount of baby shampoo onto the scalp massage pad and massage baby’s scalp (this may help prevent/manage cradle cap), rinse well, and towel dry right away.
- When your baby’s sponge bath is done, wrap them up in a towel and pat them dry. They’re so darn cute all wrapped up!
Which bath products are right for your family?
Yes, with babies, the more natural the better. But please don’t take that as a cue for guilt if you’re not using handmade all-natural soaps and shampoos made with all organic ingredients.
Look at your budget, then look at the ingredient list (unless your paediatrician has specific recommendations). Babes will be just fine! There are good affordable options available.
If you are interested in affordable, handmade, natural products, the other small company I’ve co-founded called New Life Co. sells a natural, gentle soap that we love using with our babe (and one bar lasts months!!). They are also coming out soon with a natural body butter that is wonderful on babe’s skin too after the bath.
The online shop is coming in 2021, thank you for your understanding! If you are interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about that precious umbilical cord stump?
The umbilical cord stump will fall off on its own between 5 and 15 days after birth. Keeping it clean and dry is the main recommendation to prevent infection.
Especially if you choose the family bath route, just make sure to dry the area well afterwards by gently patting it dry with a clean, dry cloth.
A good tip as well is to fold the front of the baby’s diapers down to prevent it from rubbing and iritating the umbilical area.
Furthermore, you can wash your hands before and after diaper changes and baby baths.
Choose loose-fitting clothing to allow air flow to the stump.
Avoid using antiseptic on the stump, as it can kill good bacteria that actually helps with the healing process.
Reference: BabyCentre UK
Baby hair and scalp care
As mentioned earlier, baby’s hair can be washed once–twice max–per week. This to prevent it getting stripped and damaged!
I also mentioned shampooing with the scalp massager. Using it is a way to stimulate the scalp and rub off skin flakes (which is commonly associated with cradle cap or eczema). Talk to your babe’s healthcare provider (HCP) for more information on scalp conditions. The massager also works up a nice lather with the shampoo.
If baby does get a scalp condition, again talk to your baby’s HCP about actions you can take if necessary. You can ask them about massaging the baby’s head with a gentle oil. New Life Co. sells one but you could also use an oil from your pantry. Just so you know, cradle cap is common: it affects 10% of infants up to the ages of 1 month, and 70% by 3 months of age.
Temperatures: cozy but not toasty!
Babies are sensitive to temperatures! The goals are to minimize heat loss and to prevent burning. Test the water with your wrist instead of hands (the wrist is more sensitive), or use a bath thermometer and look for 37-38 degrees Celsius.
You can also try to keep the room warm while you bathe the baby, if possible.
Whew you did it! No, you don’t need to do that every day. Unless you really want to!
For more information on baby bath safety, here is an article from BabyCentre.ca.
Perhaps my favourite part: how your Postpartum Doula can help!
1. One word: fa-cil-i-tation. AKA make everything go smoother
When you’re exhausted, hormonal, and sensitive like in the immediate postpartum, sometimes someone there to help out and make things go smoother can be worth their weight in gold. Doing anything while exhausted is a lot more difficult! Especially if it’s something brand new, like bathing a newborn.
Your Postpartum Doula can be that person who, without judgment, will help in any way possible to make things go smoothly and easily. No questions asked. Your Doula doesn’t want to see you push yourself any harder than you absolutely need to in those early days.
Let me set everything up, brew you a tea, grab anything you need, take the baby so you can dry off, and empty the tub and clean up afterwards. Or bathe babe myself! whatever you need.
2. Capture those precious memories (even if it wasn’t exactly peaceful!)
Speaking from experience here– it is SO nice to have pictures that someone else took of your family in a special moment! Baby’s first bath can be one of those special moments that would only be captured by someone else, because your hands will be wet and occupied! And babies grow so fast; you’ll treasure those pictures as a brand new family.
3. Bathe baby while you do something nice for yourself
You do a lot for your baby– they are demanding! It is so crucial to keep yourself on the priority list too. Trust me on this, self-care is NOT frivolous or selfish. If your cup is more full, you will have more to give to your family, too, and generally feel happier and more able to cope. That’s important with a newborn around, as well as hormone fluctuations, and sleep deprivation.
Maybe bathing babe is something I can take off your list that day so that you can do something nice for yourself with those extra precious moments. That would be my pleasure!
In conclusion: YOU’VE GOT THIS!
I hope this post has helped you feel jazzed up about baby’s first bath. Remember to (try to) enjoy the process (if circumstances allow). If not, call me in and I’d be happy to assist!
Book a discovery call here to discuss how I can help your family.
And it would make my day if you shared this post with anyone you know who’s expecting their babe any day now or just had them!
And lastly, I want to know: how did baby’s first bath go for you!? Drop a comment below!
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Note: there are links to some products in this post, but I am not (yet) a paid affiliate! Photos of us: Erika...
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“We have three kids who were all under 2.5 years old during our time with the Doula. Naomi worked through the night a couple nights per week to give my husband and I some rest, as we had toddler twins and the newborn to look after through the day. We couldn’t have gotten through the days without the rest we got at night thanks to Naomi!” -B.F.
“Naomi saved us! We had twins and really needed sleep. She gave us a break! She was/is kind, caring, compassionate, and understanding. We felt very comfortable leaving our boys with her which is rare, given we are new parents. She exceeded our expectations tenfold! My husband, myself, and our two boys love her!” – A.F.
“…reminding me to hydrate; listening; trying to find some solutions; was very soothing, and the other kids also felt more cared for, I believe. For a third time mom, it’s so much more about the other children… It’s so difficult to find time for myself, whilst having to take care of a newborn and worrying if the older ones will be a little left behind… no mom of more than one would enjoy the pampering and the attention and care if she felt not all the children were being looked after. So when Naomi minded them, it was bliss. In this context, not usually having the time for myself, the nutrition part was especially important. I was constantly reminded that for the family to be well, I had to prioritize my own wellbeing.” – M.B.
Helping new families have a supported and transformative post-birth period.
Imagine: You’re in a pitch black room, and you know there is a door somewhere in that room. That door symbolizes sanity and wellness post-birth. Eventually, by feeling around, you will find the door– despite obstacles along the way. I believe in you. But imagine how much easier it would be to find the door if there was a little candle by the door, guiding you and making you feel a little less lost and disoriented, and more confident. That’s what a having a Postpartum Doula is like.