As a parent, one of the most rewarding things you can do is share in all your child's firsts. Your baby's first bath will be one of your many "firsts" together. However, most babies are not ready for a bath at first.

The umbilical cord stump is typically still attached to babies when they leave the hospital. It can take up to two weeks for it to fall off. The first bath will have to wait until their umbilical cord stumps have dried up, fallen off, and completely healed. While you wait, you can still make sure that your newborn is clean and well cared for!

The Care of Umbilical Cords

Usually, the umbilical cord stump falls off after about 1 to 3 weeks. However, the umbilical cord should be kept clean until it is completely healed. This is best done by moistening the cotton swab with water, gently wiping around the base of the umbilical cord stump and drying with the other end.

Even though there may be blood in the area around the belly button during this period of time, keeping the area clean and dry will prevent infection and delays in healing. It is rare for an infection to occur, but it is important to be aware of the warning signs that it may occur. A red, swollen, painful, odorous, or continuous yellow discharge may indicate that there is an infection and medical attention may be required.

In general, you want to make sure the umbilical cord of your newborn is kept clean and dry. For better protection, fold the diaper down away from the belly button area, or purchase newborn diapers that already have a cutout for the umbilical cord stump. When possible, dress your baby in loose-fitting t-shirts and avoid bodysuits or tight undershirts.

The umbilical cord stump should never be pulled on, even when it appears mostly dried up. Allowing the stump to fall off completely will greatly improve healing.

How to Keep Your Newborn Clean

It's best to give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off. This will keep their fingernails, toes, faces, and bodies clean while keeping their umbilical cord stump dry! You should only sponge bathe your newborn 1-2 times per week as too much bathing can cause the skin to become dry or irritated.

Ensure you have all of the bath items you need within reach before you begin. You will need mild soap, washcloths, warm water in a plastic cup, a large towel, a clean diaper, and fresh clothes nearby. It will be more comfortable for your newborn if the room is warm and cozy before you take them out of their clothes.

Parents may choose to lay out a towel and sponge on any mat or surface that is soft and comfortable, or they may wish to place their babies in an infant bathtub lined with a large, dry towel.

You should start sponge bathing your newborn from the top of their head to the tips of their toes when you are ready. Gently wash your baby with a wet washcloth and a dime-sized amount of mild soap. Be careful not to expose their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to the soapy suds from the washcloth.

You should pay special attention to crevices and small spaces around the neck, between the toes and fingers, and behind the ears. To keep your newborn comfortable and warm, you can place a warm washcloth on areas that aren't currently being cleaned while you wash your baby. Wipe away all of the soapy suds left on the washcloth by rinsing it with warm water (or using another washcloth).

Support the head and neck of your baby and keep the umbilical cord dry at all times. Make sure you dry it quickly if it gets wet during the sponge bath. Finish up by soaking up the fresh, newborn cuddles by wrapping your baby in a towel. After the umbilical cord stump has fallen off and healed, your baby will be ready to take a full bath in no time! When the time comes, choose some fun baby bath toys to create a memorable and enjoyable experience!