When it's time to bathe your baby, you have to deal with fear-- both yours and the baby's! Newborns and infants don't need complete immersion (ih-MUR-zhun) bathing more than two or three times a week, other than thoroughly cleaning the diaper area during changes and after feedings. Bathing your baby more often than that may dry the skin and cause rashes. During the first week or two, until the stump of the umbilical (uhm-BI-luh-kuhl) cord falls off, a newborn should have only sponge baths. You can bathe a child any time of the day, but a bath right before bedtime may help the child sleep better. The most important rule is never leave the baby unattended, even for one second, and always have at least one hand on the child. Make sure you have washcloths, cleaning materials, towels, blankets, diapers, and clothes set up within reaching distance before you start. A baby is ready for a tub bath as soon as both umbilical cord stump and circumcision, if your baby's been circumcised, are healed. After sponge baths, a baby can graduate to a sink, 'bathinette,' or plastic tub lined with a clean towel. The room should be warm and free from drafts, and the bath water warm-- not hot-- to the inside of your wrist or elbow. Once a baby is old enough for the bathtub, toys can help distract the child and ease fears as you clean. Be sure to wrap the child in a towel as soon as the child's out of the water, being careful of slipping.
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