Baby Basics

Bathing for first-timers
Until your baby’s umbilical cord comes off, you can’t immerse her in water because it prevents the cord from drying and may increase the risk of infection. “To sponge-bathe, put your baby in a reclined position and rub warm,slightly soapy water on small areas, patting dry quickly. Many parents prefer an infant tub, but the kitchen sink works fine, too,” says Brown. Here is her step-by-step advice for that all important first bath:

Get ready in advance.
Set these items by the tub or sink: two baby towels, a washcloth, two bowls of warm water (one soapy, one not), a baby comb, shampoo, a fresh diaper, and a clean outfit. Before you begin, make sure to do the “elbow test” on the water—it should feel warm, not hot. Place a towel in the infant tub or sink (you won’t be filling it with water). Put your naked baby onto the towel in the tub/sink. Cover all body parts not being actively cleaned with the towel.

Keep baby comfortable.
Expose one body part at a time (face to toes) and wash with the washcloth that has been immersed in the soapy water bowl. For first-timers, just use water to wash the face. “Getting soap in your newborn’s eyes might be too traumatic for you,” warns Brown. Take the other baby towel and dry the area that has been cleaned. Move on to another body part and repeat the process.

Be thorough.
Get into the creases behind the ears, under the neck, and under the arms. Shampoo the hair and rinse with warm water. Dry the head quickly. To maneuver this, hold the baby’s head in the crook of your elbow and wash with your other hand.

If your baby has cradle cap (seborrhea), which is basically baby dandruff, massage oil—vegetable or baby oil will work—into the scalp and then wash. Rinse, and then comb out the flakes with a baby comb. Do this two to three times a week, and you should see an improvement. It eventually goes away on its own, but for a severe case, consult your doctor.