The bath time ritual is probably the most important in a baby’s day. A massage, followed by a bath and then a swaddle to tuck the baby into sleep are said to be beneficial for a baby’s growth. Once you’re back home with your baby from hospital, managing the bath ritual yourself can seem daunting. Here are some common questions about a newborn’s bath answered by expert pediatrician Dr R. K. Anand through his book, A Guide to Childcare.
Body Massage: In most Indian families, it is customary to give the baby an all-body massage with oil or ghee to stimulate the nerves. I support this tradition as it provides extra body contact. Ideally the mother or a relative should give the baby a massage. In case you want to go for a maalishwali, hire a trained one, but she must be closely supervised to ensure that she does not give a vigorous massage.
If you are massaging the baby, apply some oil all over the body and gently rub the back, abdomen, legs arms, neck and face. Gentle stretching of the arms and legs should be done.
Bath: Bathe the newborn with plain, lukewarm water for the first 7 to 10 days of life. Soap and oil may be used later. There is no need to buy medicated soaps or expensive baby soaps and oils. In fact, some babies may develop skin rash with their use. Any non-scented bath soap and a locally preferred oil like coconut oil, sesame oil, groundnut oil or mustard oil is adequate. Refined groundnut oil available in most homes, is a possible substitute. There is no need to go for almond or olive oil.
Talcum powder, including special baby powder, irritates a baby’s nostrils and can affect the lungs. With time, it gets caked in the skin folds. Avoid using any types of powders. If you feel you must use it, restrict its application to the nappy area or where the skin tends to chafe. Never buy prickly heat powders; they are often medicated and unsafe for babies. Some children get skin rashes with the use of milk cream (malai). So it is best avoided.
I recommend a daily bath in normal circumstances. In the hospital, you may be shown how to bathe your baby in a bathtub and you may follow the same method. Many Indian women bathe babies without a tub. The woman sits comfortably on the floor with her legs stretched out in front of her. The baby is laid, on his back or stomach, between the woman’s bare legs and then massaged or bathed. I find this a very simple and practical method. Never leave the baby alone in water even for a few moments. Negligence can be fatal.
Genital Area: Do not try to push the foreskin of a male child’s penis to separate it from the soft front portion. It is meant to protect the delicate part of the penis. In female baby, clean the anal region after the passage of stools, in the backward direction.
Care of the Mouth, Nail, Ears, Nose and Eyes: Some people clean the mouth and tongue of the baby with a piece of cloth or with glycerine. This is unnecessary and may damage the delicate mucous membrane of the baby’s mouth and lead to infection.
Cut your baby’s nails while she is sleeping after a bath. Cut the nails straight across with a nail clipper.
Never use ear buds or cotton buds for the baby. After a bath, use a corner of the towel to clean the external ear. The wax normally found in the ear canal protects it. Do not try to remove it. Also, do not blow into the baby’s ears after …
Do not put oil into the ears and nostrils of the newborn. Oil, if aspirated into the lungs, can be harmful. The baby’s nose may sometime be obstructed by thick secretions. These should be moistened with cotton soaked in water and then removed gently with a clean cloth.
Do not clean the tongue and mouth of a baby. Avoid pacifiers; besides interfering with proper feeding habit, pacifiers increase the risk of infections and malocclusion of the teeth. Never use surma for the baby’s eyes. Quite a few such preparations contain lead, which can be dangerous for your baby.
Wrapping your Baby: Keep your baby warm in cold weather. Some babies sleep better if wrapped up, especially during their first month. Some like to have their hand out. Be flexible; go with what your baby seems to like!
Gradually, the baby should be unwrapped for longer periods so that she can move her limbs freely. She will start looking at her hands later and get to know her body better. Most babies tend to sweat profusely on the head. But some tend to sweat a lot all over. Some of these babies, if kept wrapped all the time, may develop fever due to dehydration. This fever will settle down if your baby is kept cool and is given a few sips of boiled and cooled water with a cup or a spoon. Never use a bottle for this purpose. Avoid wrapping if you baby sweats profusely.
Wrapping a baby is not difficult. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Fold the upper corner of the sheet. Put the baby on the sheet.
2. Straighten the baby’s right arm gently. Wrap the right half of the sheet over the arm and her body. Take the sheet behind her back and tuck it.
3. Straighten the left arm and wrap the left half of the sheet over the body as before.
4. Lift the lower portion of the sheet upwards over the body. You may secure it with closed safety pin or just leave it as it is.
With just a little care and lots of love, your newborn will thrive healthily into babyhood.
Also read: How your baby’s bath time can actually help in her development?, Why Bath Time Is Learning Time For Your Little One, Bath? Or cutting down naps? Whatever works to get my baby to have a sound sleep, please!
Source: Book - Guide to Child Care by Dr R K Anand
To consult Dr R K Anand in person, click here
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