Karabo Mokoena
Content producer
4 minute read
22 Sep 2019
12:10 pm

Bathing your little one for the first time can be nerve-racking

Karabo Mokoena

How do we know if we are doing it right?

In this digital age, accessing information is a breeze. But how do you know you are accessing the right information? Not everything online is correct.

This was the case when I started researching how often I need to bath a newborn. I learned one thing in my antenatal classes, another from books, and the internet offered a multitude of different perspectives.

I even attended an antenatal class that conducted a lesson on how to take care of a newborn. Being a new parent, it can all seem quite overwhelming.

Not everyone knows what to do as soon as they hold their babies. The ‘motherly instinct’ is not some automatic process that plugs you into the world of motherhood with all its wisdom and ‘how-tos’.

Bathing your little one for the first time can be nerve-racking. I outright refused to do it myself. Not only did I fear that the water might too cold or too hot, but what if she slips from my arms, falls into the water and drowns? Ag, so dramatic.

I then became better at it, mostly because I learned that I don’t have to do it every day. Baby skin is very sensitive. Little humans have skin that requires its natural moisture, or else it dries up.

According to Mayo Clinic, a bath three times a week is enough for a newborn.

Just think about it. All your newborn does is chill in your arms, in their cot or on their bouncing chairs the whole day. Oh, and they pee and poop on themselves the entire day. We as adults bath because we sweat and move around the whole day getting physically dirty.

So why do we bath non-mobile humans daily? Some go as far as bathing babies twice a day.

Most parents like bathing their newborn babies in the evening because water has a soothing effect on them. So, rather than bathing your baby twice a day, you can skip the morning bath, and bath them in the evening. Your morning routine could be a proper wipe down of their bums and genital area, and a change of clothes. That will suffice and your baby will still have that amazing baby smell.

It is advisable not to dip your newborn in water before the umbilical cord falls off. The cord needs to dry up and fall. This is why we apply alcohol to it. So drowning it in water will cause a delay because it will be moisturised and dry up slower.

The Healthy Children organisation advises to sponge bath your newborn until that stump falls off. It does not take long for the cord to fall. If treated carefully (left uncovered and applied with spirits) the stump can fall off within seven days.

The World Health Organisation also recommends that you bath your baby 24 hours after their birth. Bathing immediately separates the parents from the baby, and they don’t get to bond the way they would want to. Plus, the vernix (the white waxy substance on the baby’s skin) is very good for them. The vernix protects your child in utero from the amniotic fluid and can continue to moisturise your baby a few hours after childbirth.

Bathing your newborn every day takes away this natural moisture. Subsequently, your baby’s skin will dry up and will require products to help keep it moisturised.

So mom and dad, stop overworking yourselves. Take a break, have some wine. You don’t
need to bath that little one too many times a week. Wait until they become mobile. Only
then are they dirty enough to bath regularly.


Karabo Parenty Post BioKarabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo. 

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