Your teeny-tiny newborn seems fragile beyond compare, and now you have to do what? Never could you have ever imagined that a bath would be so stress-inducing, but now that you’re a new parent, a tub filled with warm water has a whole new meaning. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious before the first time you give your kiddo a bath. Instead of stressing, check out these need-to-know steps for bathing baby without fear.

A mother shampoos her baby's hair

1. Gather everything you need before you start. There’s no safe time to step away from a baby’s bath, so before the first drop off water hits the tub, get everything you’ll need for the entire bath. This includes baby bath soap, washcloths, a hooded towel, and anything else you think you may want to have nearby.

2. Use a tub with a sling. Forget about putting baby in your bathtub. The same goes for putting them straight into the baby-size bather you registered for months ago — while they’ll grow into it, your newborn needs more support right now. A bath sling that fits inside a baby bathtub offers added protection and comfort for your baby.

3. Support your baby’s head and neck. Newborns are notoriously floppy. Without the muscles or motor development to hold their head high, they’ll need you to completely support them during bath-time. Use your entire arm to cradle baby’s back, neck, and head.

4. Keep the water warm. Yes, baby will chill quickly, but that doesn’t mean you should be running a steady steamy stream. Tap water at 133 degrees Fahrenheit can give an adult third-degree burns in just 15 seconds, according to the Burn Foundation. Set your water heater’s thermostat to a lower temp, get an anti-scald device, and always check the bath water before putting your baby in.

5. Keep the room warm. The bath water isn’t the only thing that can make baby chilly. Turn down the A/C, turn up the heat, close the windows, turn on a space heater, or otherwise follow what the season dictates to make the ambient air temperate.

6. Start from the top. When it comes to washing your little one, start at the top and work your way down. Begin with their face, gently washing it with water only, and avoid splashing water in or near their eyes. Save the germiest place (the diaper area) for last.

7. Have a towel nearby. Baby will need a post-bath wrap-up — pronto! Keep a toasty hooded towel near the bathtub so it’s ready to go. Dry baby and bundle them up immediately after the bath.

8. Plan for pee — especially if you have a boy. Your baby doesn’t understand that they’re fully un-diapered during their bath. To avoid getting an accidental spray, drape their diaper area with a washcloth to offer some pee protection.

9. Accept that the crying isn’t your fault. Babies cry, and it’s more than likely they’ll do it during their first bath. The water, the noise, and the totally new sensory experience can easily freak them out, so don’t worry about a quick crying jag. Just talk in a soothing tone as you keep the bath going.

10. Don’t rush. While you don’t want to turn a single bath into a marathon session, rushing can lead to accidents. A slippery baby plus a mama who’s pushing to get the bath done is a recipe for disaster. Slow down, take a breath, and appreciate the bath as a bonding experience!

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