Bathing your baby

Newborns and infants don't need complete immersion (ih-MUR-zhun) bathing more than two or three times a week. In between baths, thoroughly clean the diaper area during changes and face and neck after feedings. Bathing your baby more often than that may dry the skin and cause rashes. During the first week or two, until the stump of the umbilical (uhm-BI-luh-kuhl) cord falls off, a newborn should have only sponge baths. After sponge baths, a baby can graduate to a sink, 'bathinette,' or plastic tub lined with a clean towel. The room should be warm and free from drafts, and the bath water warm--not hot--to the inside of your wrist or elbow. The most important rule is never leave the baby unattended, even for one second, and always have at least one hand on the child. Make sure you have washcloths, cleaning materials, towels, blankets, diapers, and clothes set up within reaching distance before you start. Once a baby is old enough for the bathtub, toys can help distract the child and ease fears as you clean. Be sure to wrap the child in a towel as soon as the child's out of the water, being careful of slipping. You can bathe a child any time of the day, but a bath right before bedtime may help the child sleep better.

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