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Wanna know the best way to wash a baby? With water, lots of it, and nothing else. First of all, unlike older kids, who roll around on the floor all day, newborns simply don’t get that dirty. Second, they don’t sweat much, and when they do, they don’t smell bad. Despite what the makers of infant lotions would have you believe, you don’t need soap to wash a baby. In fact, soap—even the “mild” kind from the health food store—dries the skin by washing away not just impurities but also the superficial layer of oil that protects an infant’s skin. A tepid bath in plain water is ideal; rub Lucy’s skin gently with your bare hand or a soft sponge and dry her just as gently with a soft towel. Don’t bother with moisturizing lotions; they’re useful primarily for counteracting the drying effects of soap. For hair care—if there is any hair—you can use a mild shampoo at the end of the bath if you want. But again, babies don’t build up enough oils and sebum to make shampoo necessary; plain water works just as well.
Most parents accept the plain-water approach when it comes to a baby’s arms and back but look at me suspiciously when it comes to the diaper area. Let me repeat: Use water, lots of it, and nothing else. The drying effects of soap along with too much rubbing can actually lead to diaper rash. The best way to wash Lucy’s little bum is to put it under the sink faucet. The running water washes impurities off the skin without requiring any rubbing and, in the case of girls, reduces soiling of the vagina. With my three girls, I quickly mastered the technique and was able to perform diaper changes in record time. I let the running water do the job instead of me but took full credit for the fact that their butts were spotless.
Now, how often should a baby be bathed? It need not be a daily event. In the first few weeks of life, many infants aren’t too crazy about getting wet; for those, a quick sponge bath under running water is just as efficient. As Lucy gets a few weeks older, reintroduce the idea of a formal bath once in a while. She will eventually enjoy it, as all kids do. One good trick to make that first experience pleasant: Dip yourself in the bath while holding her against your body, especially if you’re the mother. Breast feeding in a bath is heaven, at least for your baby.