After Pregnancy: Basics of Baby Bath Time for Dads

By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Few things strike fear into the hearts of inexperienced dads like the first bath. Take a squirmy baby, soap him all over to make him incredibly difficult to hold on to, and then put him in a tub of water. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, parental heart failure, but it doesn’t have to be.

Many hospitals now do a “trial run” bath to make sure you won’t drown the poor child right off the bat, but even the least experienced new dad can learn to give baby a bath. Fortunately, you don’t need to give your baby a bath every day; doing so can dry out his skin. Every other day is probably enough for both of you.

Here’s how to bathe your newborn:

  1. Get your supplies ready first.

    Nothing makes a bath more difficult than getting the water drawn, the baby undressed, and the towel laid out and realizing you forgot to get the soap, or the lotion, or the diaper. No, the baby doesn’t wear the diaper into the bath, but you need it ready the minute you take him out, especially if your baby’s a boy, unless you want an eyeful of urine.

  2. Put the baby in a comfortable spot.

    Undressing him on the toilet lid may seem like a good idea if you’re bathing him in the sink or on the counter if you’re bathing him in a little baby bath, but those surfaces are cold and hard, even with a towel over them, and they may be riddled with germs.

    Get him ready on the changing table or bed; take off everything except the diaper (urine, remember?) and bring him into the bathroom wrapped in the towel.

  3. Hold the baby and fill the tub, or have your partner handle one of those jobs.

    Baby’s bath water should be 90 to100 degrees. You can monitor the temperature to make sure it isn’t too hot or too cold with cute little floating bath toys that have built-in thermometers. If you’re using a sink, pad it by lining it with a towel. A towel also helps reduce the slipperiness of a baby bathtub.

  4. Before putting the baby into the bath, wet a washcloth and squirt baby soap onto it.

    This way you don’t have to do it while you try to hold the baby in the water at the same time.

  5. Undo the diaper tabs, whip off the diaper, and put the baby in the water.

    Don’t give him time to do anything dastardly.

  6. Don’t expect the baby to enjoy this new experience at first.

    Yes, he spent nine months in water, but he’s forgotten already, and your inexperienced hands aren’t supporting him as well as the womb did. Some baby tubs have a little sling or are curved to support the baby. Otherwise, support his head and neck with your hand or the crook of your arm if you’re well coordinated.

  7. Wash the baby with the soapy washcloth, starting at his head and working your way down.

    Yes, just like you’d wash the wall or the car. The genitalia should be the last part you wash. When you get to the bottom (literally), use a clean washcloth if it seems more hygienic to you.

  8. Rinse him off with a clean washcloth.

  9. Lift him out of the water and wrap the towel around him.

    A towel with a little hood helps keep him warm and makes him look like an adorable elf. Don’t admire him too long, though, because you need to get his diaper back on — quickly.

  10. Carry him to the changing surface, where the fresh diaper is already laid out. To keep him warm, keep the towel over the top half of his body while you put the diaper on.

  11. Dry him off gently and dress him.

    Babies have delicate skin, so don’t rub too hard with the towel.

  12. Do a little baby massage if you have enough energy left for it.

    Just put some lotion on your hands and gently massage your baby’s arms, legs, chest, and back. He’ll learn to loosen up, and it may just relax him enough so that he’ll take a nap.

  13. Now collapse on the couch — you’ve earned it!