First baths take place after the umbilical cord stump has fallen off. Warm shallow water is often very pleasing to a newborn. And there is something incredibly gratifying about washing a baby and then choosing a darling pair of new soft pajamas. There is the way that baby hair stands straight up after it is washed – full on dandelion fluff. Gah. Just the thing.
Still, some new parents confess to nerves about the first bath. These moms and dads are my people. The baby seems so small and so slippery. These nerves are normal. Take a breath. It does get easier.
When my firstborn was a newborn I was nervous about many things. I had cared for children before, sure, but never newborns. And I had never loved anyone so much. I was not completely sure I was up to the task.
No one ever told me about cradle cap. I did not understand how or (whether) I was supposed to kind of gently remove it?
Baby acne also felt like a little bit of a surprise.
Neither one of these things should have stumped me particularly. Still, they did.
Note: both of these things go away on their own. Neither one of them is anything to be concerned about. (As always, though, one should seek medical advice to assuage any specific concerns).
I recount these things here only because it feels important to tell the truth about the early days of new motherhood. These early days can be overwhelming. Do anything you can to seek the support you need.
No one knows exactly what they are doing.
When I figured out that I could actually accomplish the bath, it felt like a triumph. Looking back now it seems funny to me – how outsized this worry became. Granted, I got it under control quickly but it still stands as one of those things I wish I had confessed to sooner. Because it was not a big deal, but so too is the fact that he felt so small, and I felt so uncertain.
My children loved their first baths. They seemed perplexed by the water. Initially, one or two may have hesitated. But then they settled in and enjoyed the gentle dribble of warm water from a sponge or a wash cloth.
In my memory, the first bath is perhaps more intimate than other newborn developmental markers. I couldn’t say just why. Me and a baby? We just felt like a universe of ourselves. It was a moment in time I still call up with the greatest affection.
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