In a previous blog about cleaning, I have briefly mentioned that babies don't need daily baths unless they've had a nappy explosion, and that until their umbilical cord stump falls off, it is best to give them a sponge bath. Well - that isn't all there is to keeping your baby clean and healthy. Here is where we'll be going through the nitty gritty details.
Looking at the above picture, one starts to realise how much there is to look after separately in a human body. I will try to break it down piece by piece in as concise yet detailed manner as I possibly can. [*insert bad dismemberment joke here*]
This is probably the most complex area to take proper care of. We'll go through it step by step.
Baby may or may not be born with hair. Either way, Baby might have Cradle Cap. Cradle Cap is a fungal infection which isn't pretty, but isn't dangerous either. Really and truly, there is no real need to do anything about it, but if you'd like, there's a fairly straightforward process you can go through to treat it.
- Gently massage Baby's scalp with your fingers or a soft brush to loosen the skin flakes.
- Shampoo more frequently (up to once a day), but be sure to rinse out all the soap or shampoo. After shampooing, gently brush your baby's scalp with a soft brush or a terrycloth towel.
Blepharitis is caused by the same issues that lead to Cradle Cap. Should this condition occur, Baby should be referred to a doc. If Baby develops a red bump on his eyelid, it is likely to be a Sty which can be treated simply by soaking a washcloth in warm water and putting it on the affected eye for a few minutes. If the Sty doesn't go away after a week or so, or it gets worse, refer to Doc. If the Sty is only affecting one eye, do not use the same washcloth on both eyes lest you spread the infection.
This is just to mention two different medical conditions that might affect Baby's eyes. As a generic rule of thumb, just make sure you wipe clean baby's eyes gently whenever bathing him/her to prevent from hygiene-related issues.
Keeping Baby's ears - as well as behind his/her ears - clean is important. Simply clean the outer part of your baby's ears with a washcloth moistened with warm water.
Never insert a cotton swab [a.k.a. q-tip a.k.a. cotton bud] or anything else into your baby's ear canal - you could easily puncture the eardrum that way. Earwax [cerumem] is the ear canal's natural bodyguard, if you will, and there's usually no reason to try to get it out of your baby's ears.
Whenever you take Baby to the doctor's for a check-up, Doc will check Baby's ears for signs of infection. If there is a buildup of earwax to the extent of not being able to see the eardrum, Doc will remove the wax. Otherwise, the wax will come out on its own eventually, and sticking a cotton swab in there is likely to push it in farther. If you notice a difference in Baby's reactions to sounds, it may very well be temporary hearing loss caused by Earwax build-up, in which case, refer to your paediatrician.
Strictly speaking, it isn't necessary to clear a stuffy nose - and Baby may not like it if you try. However, it can be done by use of a Rubber Bulb Syringe. Other than that, if Baby is snotty, wipe it gently away with a soft tissue paper.
Mouth, Teeth & Gums
Taking care of Baby's gums is extremely important even before the teething process commences as you might not notice it straight away, and therefore start the Oral Hygiene Regime later than recommended. This means Baby will be more likely to be exposed to cavities.
It's a good idea to get into the habit of wiping Baby's gums with gauze or a soft wet washcloth during bath time. Toothpaste is not yet required. All you would need to do is to wrap the cloth or gauze around your index finger and rub it gently over his/her gums.
Usually, around 6 months of age, Baby's first teeth start emerging. Purchase a baby toothbrush with a small head and grip suitable for your hand. Use a tiny
As soon as the bristles start to look worn or splayed, the toothbrush should be replaced. Flossing should only be introduced when tooth surfaces touch so that you can't clean them with a toothbrush.
Some important tips:
- If your child is healthy and still hasn't sprouted his/her first tooth by his/her first birthday, don't worry – some children don't start getting teeth until 15 to 18 months.
- If your baby's dummy falls, don't use your mouth to attempt to 'clean it' as you'll end up introducing bacteria in your child's mouth which can cause tooth decay to occur prematurely. Also, do not share cutlery with Baby for the same reasons.
- Don't put Baby to bed with a bottle of milk/juice as this is well known to cause cavities. Also, if Baby is no longer feeding, remove the bottle from them.
Hands & Feet
Babies fingernails and toenails grow at amazing paces. This means, a regular manicure & pedicure is in order to avoid injury. Fingernails need to be trimmed several times a week - toenails slightly less regularly.
Baby's mani&pedi should be a task left either for when Baby is snoozing, or right after a bath, when Baby's nails are at their softest. Make sure you have enough light to see what you're doing - you don't want to cause accidental injury just because of inadequate lighting. Ensure you use a pair of Baby scissors or clippers made especially for the purpose. Press the finger pad away from the nail to avoid nicking the skin, and keep a firm hold on your baby's hand as you clippety-clip.
Fingernails should be cut along the curve of the finger, whereas toenails should be cut straight across. Use a nail file to smooth out any rough edges. If you're patient enough, and Baby's nails aren't too long, you can actually just file them down rather than clipping them. If you decide to give Baby a manicure while s/he's awake, get someone to help. Babies are wriggly creatures, so some assistance may be required to limit the squirming and wriggling either by holding him/her down, or by providing some sort of distraction whilst holding his/her hands and feet still for the clipping and filing.
Some parents bite their baby's nails into shape, but if you do, you run the risk of introducing germs from your mouth into any little cut your baby may have on his finger. You also won't be able to see what you're doing, and you'll find that your baby's finger is minute compared to your teeth! Still, some parents rely on this method.
Keep your mouth away from your child's fingernails/toenails as if they have some small cut you don't notice, you'll end up introducing bacteria in their system. Also, Baby's digits are tiny. You really don't want to bite his/her fingers/toes!
It takes about 10 to 21 days for the umbilical stump to dry up and drop off,which will then leave a small wound that may take a few days to heal. It must be kept clean and dry. Fold Baby's nappy below the stump if it doesn't have a cut-out space for the cord so that it is exposed to the air and not to urine. If when the stump falls off, you notice a little blood on the nappy, don't panic - it's normal. Avoid giving your baby tub baths until the stump falls off.
What are the signs of infection?Consult your doctor if:
- Your child develops a fever or appears unwell.
- The navel and the surrounding area become swollen or red.
- Pus appears at the base of the stump.
This is probably the trickiest of them all.
Genital hygiene should be treated very carefully since the very birth. Otherwise, strangury, different inflammations or problems in youth age can occur. In fact, there`s nothing difficult here, you just need to learn several simple rules.
- Check Baby’s nappy often and see if it is pooped. If so, you should clean the genital area thoroughly with wet cloth and diluted soap.
- Always wipe from front to back for baby girls and wipe under the genitals for boys. Also, take care to clean the buttocks and fat creases under the thighs of your child. Apply baby lotion in case of skin rashes. Maintaining regular hygiene is the key to care for your baby’s genital area.
- If your Baby girl has had a very dirty nappy and poo has got within her vaginal lips (labia), gently separate your baby girl's vaginal lips with clean fingers, and with the moist cotton wool, wipe the area from top to bottom, or front to back, down the middle. Then, with two more fresh pieces of cotton wool, clean each side within her labia. Wiping from front to back will help to prevent bacteria transferring from your baby's bottom to her vagina or urethra, and causing an infection. When giving your baby a bath, again just use a flannel or sponge to swish water around the area, and wipe from front to back.
- Baby boys can suffer from circumcised or uncircumcised genital problems that need your special attention. In case of circumcised genitals, keep the area clean. Bathe the area every day with warm water and use a gentle baby cleanser to clean it. After the bath you could put some petroleum jelly on his penis to protect it from rubbing against his nappy.
- In case of uncircumcised genitals, wash the area with warm water and baby wash. Do not use any cotton swabs, cotton balls, astringents, or other harsh detergents on your baby. Keep the tip of the penis clean. Avoid pulling the foreskin back while cleaning. Gently hold the foreskin against the tip of the penis and wash it. While your son is a baby, his penis will "self-clean" to some extent. Don't try to pull back his foreskin to clean as you won’t be able slide it back.
Your baby’s foreskin will be attached to the head of his penis. The foreskin will separate from his penis by the time he’s two. You don’t need to help it along and you’ll probably do more harm than good if you try. Forcing back the foreskin may cause it to tear, which can hurt your baby and leave scarring. It may also cause problems for your little boy later on.
- It is never good to keep your babies on soiled nappies for longer periods. If your baby pees or poops at night, do take care to attend to it immediately. Properly clean and dry the area before putting on a new nappy. If you prefer, you can avoid making your baby wear nappies at night, however this will make fora very messy morning present.
That pretty much brings us at an end of the dismembered bathing experience. If you can, have someone experienced with you just to supervise when bathing Baby for the first few times. You'll get the hang of it eventually - at least, I hope I will.