Infant & Newborn Hygiene

Caring for a baby can be hard especially when looking after their hygiene needs, and often these skills are needed a lot more frequently than an adult’s. It can be very daunting to be responsible for the needs of a newborn, but with a little practice, some basic instructions, common sense and a routine, these tasks become easier and can provide valuable one to one time for you and your child.

Washing and Bathing

Unless your baby particularly enjoys it, there is no need to bathe a child everyday. Every other day is fine for bathing, and often it can provide the ideal time for another person, such as the father, to spend some quality time with their little one. This also gives mum a chance to spend some time away from the baby. As a baby’s skin can tend to be quite dry and sensitive, plain water and either a plain soft wash cloth or cotton wool/pads should be used. Often in the first few months, soaps, shampoos, talcs and moisturisers are not needed unless you feel confident that their skin can cope with it.

A baby can be kept quite clean by simply using some cotton wool or pads and some warm water. Baby can be wrapped in a warm towel, and starting with their face, cotton wool or cotton pads, (these might be better as they are less likely to leave fluff and fibres on the baby’s skin) can be used to firstly wash then dry the selected area. A fresh piece should be used on each eye, then working down the body all areas should be washed leaving the navel and nappy area until last.

Strict attention should be given to drying the skin, especially in and around the skin creases such as the underarms, under the neck and between the fingers and toes. This routine should be carried out at least once a day or more often if your baby needs it such as following sickness.

Care of the Umbilicus

During the first week, until the umbilical cord remnants have been shed, the area should be cleansed at least once a day, often twice to prevent it becoming sore and infected and to encourage it to come off without problem.

Using clean warm water and some pieces of cotton wool or gauze, gently wipe the area once and discard the cotton, repeated this until any hard scabbed areas are softened, or have been removed. Using dry cotton and single use, repeat until the area is dry. Any areas of bleeding, excessive redness and pus should be reported to your health visitor or midwife as it may have become infected.

Nappy Changing

A baby will require its nappy to be changed frequently, after either urinating, defecating or both. To prevent sore skin and foul aromas around the nappy area, soiled nappies should be removed and replaced when necessary.

Before changing a nappy, ensure all the required materials are to hand. Often during the first few weeks, a newborn’s skin may be too sensitive to require the use of baby wipes, so a bowl of warm water and some cotton wool may be more useful (this is also better for the environment). It is important, especially when cleaning girls, that a ‘front to back’ motion is used to prevent contamination of the urethra and bladder from bacteria in the faeces. Special attention should be given to drying the creases and often the use of a lubricant such as Vaseline can help prevent these areas becoming sore.

Looking after a baby can be very hard work, but if care and attention are given to maintaining a good standard of hygiene, many sores and infections can be prevented allowing for a happier healthier baby and in turn, a happier parent.

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