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Expert Q&A: Bathing and Soothing Baby’s Skin

An interview with Jeremy F. Shapiro, MD .

What kind of baby skin care do you recommend after circumcision? continued...

After your son’s bowel movements, clean the circumcision site gently with warm water, but it’s best not to use washcloths or baby wipes during the healing period. Also, don’t give a bath to your newborn until the circumcision area has healed. And keep in mind that as it heals, it may not be the prettiest site. As long as there’s no odor or fever and the baby has a good urine stream, all is well with the healing process.

After the area has healed, gently pull back on the baby’s foreskin to prevent penile adhesions. It’s important that you see the glans (head) of the penis and the corona (the base of the penis head).

Which baby skin care products should parents avoid, and which are OK to use?

After the baby is about a month old, it’s OK to use a daily moisturizer, depending upon the dryness of the baby’s skin. Sometimes ointments are more effective than creams in keeping the skin moist.

I also prefer non-scented mild soaps and laundry detergents, avoiding fabric softener, and being careful with alcohol-based wipes and soaps.

How often should a baby be bathed and what’s the safest way to do it?

Before the umbilical cord stump falls off and if a circumcision is still healing, give just a sponge bath. Using a washcloth, gently wipe the entire body with warm water -- no soap or shampoo. And remember to keep the room an adequate temperature and have a towel nearby.

After the umbilical cord stump has fallen off and the area is dry, and after a circumcision site has healed, it’s OK to give your baby a bath in a baby tub. I’d love for both parents to partake in the first bath, as it really is an enjoyable experience and something you don’t want to miss out on. 

A few tips on the baby bath:

  • Fill the baby tub with just two inches of warm water.
  • Make sure there is always at least one adult there at all times. Even though the water is low, it’s very important to realize it doesn’t take much for the baby to slip and slide.
  • Use any body-stabilizing inserts that come with the baby tub. And don’t use a regular-sized bathtub until your baby outgrows the baby tub and is sitting stably without support.
  • Wash your baby with a gentle, mild soap and a tear-free shampoo.

Bathing babies every three days or so is just fine. But I’d let a couple factors determine how often your bathe your baby: whether or not you want to make it a daily ritual and whether the baby’s skin can handle it. If the baby’s skin dries out easily, every three days may be all that’s necessary. If the skin is tolerating a daily bath and it’s an enjoyable ritual (such as a way to prepare your baby for bedtime), then by all means continue it.

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