newborn baby with umbilical cord in bath tub

How to Bathe a Newborn Baby (With Umbilical Cord Still Attached)

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Everything You Need to Know About Baby’s First Bath at Home

What‘s better than a freshly bathed newborn? (Not much!) But, while nothing can beat the scent of your baby’s just-washed hair, you might be a little apprehensive about the very first bath at home.

Which brings us to today’s topic: how to bathe a newborn baby with the umbilical cord still attached. Today, I’m going to help you simplify bath time by guiding you through it in five easy steps. After all, I’ve given “baby’s first bath” three times now.

Don’t worry, it’s really not as stressful as it might seem!

We’ll also cover commonly asked questions, such as the water temperature for a newborn’s bath, how often to bathe a newborn, and whether you should put lotion on your baby.

So let’s begin!

freshly bathed newborn baby; text that reads: newborn bath (with umbilical cord) step-by-step guide

Can You Bathe a Baby With Umbilical Cord Still On?

Yes, you can absolutely bathe your baby, even if the umbilical cord is still attached. In this article, I’ll explain how to do just that.

First, I’ll briefly cover a list of bath time essentials — supplies you’ll need for bathing your newborn — and then we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of how to give your baby a bath.

First of all, take a deep breath. You’ve got this!

Newborn Bath Time Essentials

Gather all of your supplies before you even fill the bathtub.

Trust me, you’ll want everything within arm’s reach once you have your baby in the tub! After you get started, you’ll need to keep one hand on your baby, which makes it difficult to grab something you forgot.

For the bath, you’ll need:

You’ll also want to prepare:

  • Blanket
  • Diaper
  • Wipes (in case your baby has a dirty diaper)
  • Clothes or pajamas, including a onesie and socks
  • Baby comb

Newborn Bath Hack: My newborn lounger really came in handy when I needed to set my babies down while preparing their baths.

How to Bathe a Newborn Baby With Umbilical Cord

So, how exactly do you give your newborn baby a bath with the umbilical cord stump still attached? You might be wondering if you have to give a sponge bath or if you can submerge your baby in a tub of water.

Yes, you can briefly submerge the cord stump in water — you just have to be really careful when cleaning around it.

After our first baby was born, we were instructed to give only sponge baths until it fell off. However, our second baby was born at a different hospital 2.5 years later. They told us that it was okay to give her a regular bath.

It’s up to you — you can choose whichever method you’re more comfortable with. In this article, though, we’re going to focus on bathing your newborn in a baby bathtub.

Step 1 – Fill the Tub

Fill the bathtub with warm water. Use your bath thermometer to check the temperature.

You don’t need much water — a few inches is fine. You might also want to keep a bucket of clean, warm water close by for rinsing.

Newborn Bath Hack: If you have extra breast milk, you can add a few ounces to the water for a soothing milk bath.

baby bath tub filled with a milk bath; How to bathe a newborn baby with umbilical cord

Step 2 – Undress Baby

Make sure the bathroom is nice and warm, then undress your baby. 

I also like to have a package of wipes handy when undressing them. Babies tend to dirty their diapers a LOT during the newborn stage, and you don’t want to be caught by surprise!

Step 3 – Wash Baby’s Body

Carefully slip your baby into the water. Keep one hand on your baby at all times. Use your other hand to place a warm, wet washcloth over your baby’s belly (they get chilled quickly!). 

Start by using a damp washcloth to clean your baby’s face. Gently run it downward over one eye, then flip it over and use the clean side to wipe the other eye. 

Finish cleaning your baby’s face, then clean the rest of the body, making sure to wipe in between folds, under the arms, behind the ears, and underneath the chin.

Take it easy on your baby’s diaper area. You don’t need to scrub; just gently wipe through the creases.

Newborn Bath Hack: Frequently throughout the bath, sprinkle a little warm water over the washcloth to keep your baby nice and warm.

the author is holding a washcloth over her baby's tummy, showing how to bathe a newborn baby with umbilical cord

Step 4 – Wash Baby’s Hair

Now it’s time to wash your baby’s hair. Wet the hair and squeeze a small amount of a gentle, tear-free shampoo either onto your hand or directly onto your baby’s hair.

Lather up, and then rinse away the shampoo with clean water. Of course, you’ll want to avoid getting water and soap in your baby’s eyes (even if using a tear-free formula!).

Newborn Bath Hack: For rinsing hair, I like to saturate a baby washcloth with water, then carefully wring it out over my baby’s head.

Step 5 – Dry and Dress Baby

Now comes the tricky part: Getting your baby out of the tub and into a towel! Babies are slippery little things.

I like to use a hooded towel. First, I tuck the corner with the hood underneath my chin and the left and right corners underneath my arms. 

Then I use both hands to pull my baby out of the water and directly into the towel, wrapping them up nice and snug. Pull the hood over your baby’s head to keep it toasty.

Some babies get a little upset at this point, so this is a good time for a quick snuggle! 

Make sure your baby is nice and dry, then put on a diaper and some clean clothes. Swaddle snugly in a blanket and, if your baby has hair, you can gently run a comb through it to smooth it down.

Voilà! Bath time success.

How Often to Bathe a Newborn

One question that comes up pretty often is how often to bathe a newborn. 

Brand new babies don’t need to be bathed daily. In fact, it’s best to avoid daily baths because their skin is so delicate and susceptible to dryness — not to mention skin conditions such as eczema.

The AAP recommends bathing your newborn three times per week, which is still pretty often in my opinion. We bathed our first baby every 3-4 days, and our second only once per week.

(Seriously, who has time for daily baths when you have a toddler and newborn?!)

Of course, we washed their faces and hands daily, and they were cleaned many times a day during diaper changes. So no need to feel guilty if you’re only giving your baby a bath once or twice a week! 

And if baby has frequent blowouts or excess spit up? If you start smelling something funky, you might want to squeeze in an extra bath. Just sayin’.

Temperature for Newborn Bath

So, what’s the perfect temperature for newborn bath time?

According to National Children’s, the bath water should be just above 100 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid chilling or burning your baby.

A floating bath thermometer like this one was a lifesaver when running baths for our babies. It let us know at a glance whether the water was the right temperature or not.

Can You Use Lotion on a Newborn?

Unless your pediatrician recommends it for a skin condition like eczema, your newborn doesn’t need lotion. If you need it for some reason, rub a gentle, baby-safe lotion between your palms to warm it up before applying.

You’ll want to avoid using baby powder, though, since it can irritate your baby’s lungs.

That’s all there is to it! Five easy steps in this newborn bath how-to guide on how to bathe a newborn baby with the umbilical cord attached. Congratulations on your new addition, and good luck!

Read more:

The Best Baby Carrier for Newborns

Best Advice for a New Parent (My Readers Weigh In!)

10 Tips to Survive New Mom Sleep Deprivation

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