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When—and how—do I give baby a bath?
Until your baby's umbilical cord stump falls off, give a full-body sponge bath every other day. Sit in a comfy (and waterproof!) chair, and bathe your baby in your lap. Use a sponge or cloth wet with warm water to wipe baby, who should be dressed from the waist down as you wash the chest, arms, and back, and vice versa, ensuring comfort. And it's fine to wash baby's hair with water and baby shampoo right from the start—remember the fontanels are delicate, but tough enough to withstand gentle washing.

Cleaning details
While you shouldn't be overly meticulous (i.e., don't clean your baby too often), there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • For the first few weeks, avoid your baby's cord stump and, if you have a circumcised boy, his penis.
  • There's no need to clean the folds of a girl's genitals or under the foreskin of an uncircumcised boy's penis.
  • A wet cloth is all you need. Wipes can help, but use ones without alcohol.
  • Apply ointment or petroleum jelly after cleaning, which prevents nappy rash by protecting baby's skin from rubbing.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education