The birth of a baby changes the lives of the parents. The baby becomes their top priority, and their lives start revolving around the little one. Taking care of the baby’s personal hygiene is critical for maintaining their health. Babies are susceptible to infections as their immune systems are not entirely developed. Maintaining good hygiene can protect them.
Learn the simple but essential hygiene tips that can be implemented to take care of your baby.
Hygiene Tips For Different Baby Body Parts
Cleaning the baby’s individual body parts is important for their overall hygiene. Keeping a baby’s body clean and dry can also reduce the risk of illnesses. Below are tips for cleaning the baby’s various body parts and general tips for baby care.
The baby’s eyes are extremely delicate. Here is how you can clean them (1).
- Wash your hands with soap and dry them.
- Take a cotton ball dipped in boiled water that has been cooled.
- Proceed to gently wipe from the inner corner of the eye and slowly move to the outer corner.
- To avoid contamination, use a new cotton ball every time you wipe.
- After one eye is thoroughly clean, move on to the other one with a fresh cotton ball. Avoid using your fingers.
It is important to clean the baby’s ears regularly. The following method can be used.
- Use a cotton ball or a washcloth for cleaning. Dip it in lukewarm water.
- Dab it along the outside of the baby’s ear and behind it.
- Do not insert anything inside the baby’s ear canal.
- The ear canal is delicate, and inserting anything inside it may lead to injury.
The outer edge of the baby’s nose can be cleaned with a warm washcloth. If the baby’s nose is blocked with mucus, internal cleaning may be required. Saline water can help in the process.
- Keep the baby flat on their back, tilt their head back, and add a few drops of the saline water into the baby’s nostrils to loosen the mucus.
- After around a minute, turn the baby to expel the mucus.
- Wipe the area with a clean tissue or cloth.
- If the mucus is hard, you may need a nasal bulb.
- Post adding the saline solution, take a clean nasal bulb and gently insert the tip of the nozzle into the baby’s nostril.
- Press the bulb and release it to suction out the mucus. Discard the mucus in the sink and thoroughly clean the bulb with soap and water.
- You may also use a nasal aspirator. Place the tip in the baby’s nostril and the other end in your mouth. Gently suck out the mucus.
- Discard the mucus. Wipe the tip with a clean cloth and repeat the same procedure for the other nostril.
- Rinse and leave the nasal aspirator to dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
The baby’s face can be cleaned in the following manner (2).
- Take a clean damp washcloth and wipe the baby’s eyes, bridge of the nose, the ear’s outer folds, and the rest of the face.
- Avoid using soap or soapy water.
- Do not let the water run over the baby’s face.
It is not necessary to wash the baby’s hair every day. Washing three to four times per week is enough. Use the following steps to care for the baby’s hair (3).
- Use a mild shampoo or body wash for rinsing the hair.
- After applying the shampoo, massage the scalp gently.
- Make sure that the soapy water doesn’t get into the baby’s eyes while rinsing.
- If some lather accidentally enters their eyes, wipe it off with a moist cloth immediately. After washing, gently dry their hair with a soft and dry towel.
- Comb their hair with a soft brush. Do not use a hairdryer to dry the baby’s hair since it may irritate the baby’s sensitive skin.
Babies tend to scratch themselves if their nails grow out; hence it is important to cut them at least once a week (4).
- Clean the nails of their hands and feet thoroughly during the bath.
- The nails soften after the bath, and can you use that time to cut the baby’s nails.
- If the baby resists often, you may use nap time to cut the baby’s nails.
- The best option is to shorten the nails using a nail file or emery board.
- If you plan to use a nail cutter or scissors, use the ones specially designed for babies. They should have blunt, rounded tips.
- Collect all the necessary items before changing the baby’s diaper. You will need a changing mat or towel, baby wipes or cotton wool ball with warm water,
- clean diaper, a bag or dustbin for the used diaper and wipes, and barrier cream.
- Lay the baby on their back on a changing mat or a dry towel.
- Remove the soiled diaper. If it is a disposable diaper, discard it in the dustbin or diaper pail. Non-disposable diapers can be dropped in a basket or bag meant to collect the diapers.
- Clean the entire area properly, including the folds of the skin, with wipes or cotton wool. Make sure you clean from front to back, especially if it is a girl. If it is a boy, gently clean the penis and testicles.
- Ensure the area is dry, and then apply the barrier cream. If it is a cloth diaper, add in the liner and put it on the baby. Fasten the disposable diaper as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid covering the baby’s belly button.
- After completing the task, keep your baby in a safe place (they shouldn’t roll over and fall), and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Wash or clean the baby’s hands as well.
8. Umbilical cord
The umbilical cord takes time to dry and fall off. During this time, it is crucial to take good care of the area. Here are some precautions that need to be taken (7).
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- Ensure that the diaper’s edge does not cover the umbilical cord to avoid irritation or contamination with urine.
- Avoid excessive contact with water. While a quick dip in the water during bath time is fine, dry the area properly.
- The diapers may have some blood spots. However, contact a doctor if it starts bleeding actively.
Babies tend to put their hands in their mouths regularly. If their hands are dirty, it may lead to an infection. The following measures can maintain hand hygiene.
- Use a warm washcloth or wet wipes to remove dirt from the baby’s hands.
- Clean their hands periodically with baby-safe soap and water, especially when you change their diaper, feed them, go outdoors, or if they touch animals.
Use the following techniques for your baby’s oral care depending on their age (8).
- At birth, babies do not have teeth, but their gums require care. After feeding them, clean their gums by wrapping a damp washcloth around the index finger.
- The first tooth develops between six and eight months. Use a soft-bristled child toothbrush to clean the tooth twice a day. Avoid using toothpaste.
- At the age of two years, you can start using a smear-sized quantity of fluoridated toothpaste to brush the baby’s teeth. It is important to teach them how to spit the paste and gargle with water.
11. Cradle cap
Babies sometimes develop redness and scales on the scalp. This is called seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap. It is not infectious and is generally not irritating to babies. Here is how the effects of this condition can be reduced (9).
- Frequent shampooing and gentle combing can help clear the scales. It is best to consult a pediatrician who can recommend an appropriate shampoo for cradle cap.
- The application of petroleum jelly or ointments prescribed by a doctor can help in easing the condition.
- A pediatrician might prescribe 1% hydrocortisone cream to treat cradle cap.
12. Dry skin
A baby’s delicate skin tends to dry out easily. Basic skincare can help the skin retain moisture (10).
- Use soaps that are hypoallergenic and unscented. Non-soap cleansers are less drying compared to soaps and could be a better option.
- Bathing for too long can dry out the skin. Therefore, limit the bathing time to about ten minutes. Bubble baths are not recommended. Bathwater should be lukewarm and not hot.
- The baby should be dried gently with a soft cotton towel after the bath. Avoid rubbing the baby’s skin vigorously.
- Apply a moisturizer on the skin immediately after a bath. If their skin is extremely dry, ointment or cream-based moisturizers can be used. If the skin is not too dry, lotions might be beneficial.
13. Cleaning feet
Here is how you can keep the tiny feet of your baby clean.
- Wash the baby’s feet with mild soap and warm water. Gently clean between the toes.
- Dry them properly with a soft cotton towel. Make sure there is no water left between the toes.
- Put on the clothes after drying the feet thoroughly.
- Keep their toenails well-groomed.
14. Bath time
Babies need not be bathed daily. During the first 12 months, bathing them thrice a week is sufficient. Here is how you can go about it (3).
- Make sure all the necessary toiletries and towels are reachable when you start bathing your baby.
- Use an infant-friendly bathtub with a sloped, textured surface that keeps the baby from slipping.
- Fill the bathtub with about two inches of warm water. Check the temperature before putting the baby inside.
- Support the baby’s head and slowly lower them, feet first, into the tub.
- Start by gently cleaning the baby’s face and wash the hair with shampoo. Take water in your hand and gently rinse.
- Use a mild soap or cleanser to clean the body.
- Ensure that the baby is warm during the bath by frequently pouring warm water on their body.
- As soon as the bath is done, wrap the baby in a soft towel and gently dry them off.
15. Caring for baby’s genitals
A baby’s genitals are sensitive and require proper care. The hygiene practices vary for girls and boys.
The genital care for girls includes the following steps (11).
- Clean the labia and the surrounding area of the vagina with a wet cotton ball. Wipe front to back to avoid contamination.
- Thoroughly dry the area with a cotton towel. Moisture in this area may lead to infections. Avoid using douches or deodorants as they might disturb the pH balance of the vagina and cause infections.
The genital care for boys includes the following steps (12).
- If the boy is circumcised, gently pull back the foreskin and rinse with soap and water during the bath. The groove around the head of the penis should also be cleaned.
- If the boy is not circumcised, do not retract the foreskin. Wash the shaft and the surrounding area with soap and water.
- Ensure that the penis does not stick to the diaper by applying petroleum jelly on the front of the diaper.
Babies explore the world using their hands and mouths. Adopting basic hygiene reduces the risk of harmful diseases and allows them to explore freely. These useful hygiene practices play a key role in helping your little one lead happy and healthy lives. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s hygiene, consult your pediatrician.
2. Bathing and Skin Care for the Newborn; Stanford Children’s Health
3. Bathing Your Baby; American Academy of Pediatrics
4. Nail care for newborns; U.S. National Library of Medicine
5. How to change your baby’s nappy; National Health Service
6. Safe & Healthy Diapering in the Home; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
7. Umbilical Cord Care; American Academy of Pediatrics
8. Infant and Children’s Oral Health; Department of Health; New York State
9. Cradle Cap; American Academy of Pediatrics
10. Avoiding Dry Winter Skin in Babies and Toddlers; American Academy of Pediatrics
11. Baby genitals: care and cleaning; Raising Children Network
12. How to Care for Your Baby’s Penis; American Academy of Pediatrics