Published January 8, 2018
The Ultimate Guide for Grooming Your Baby
Are you expecting, but aren’t sure you can master the art of taking care of such a helpless little human? Are you worried you won’t know what to do when the doctors release you from the hospital after childbirth?
Every new mom has been there. We’ve all doubted our ability to do the basic chores a mom has to do.
How is it even possible to give a slippery, squirmy baby a bath anyway? Should you use a regular comb on a baby’s hair? How do you trim a baby’s nails without causing pain and bloodshed?
What you need is confidence in your ability to take care of your child. The best way to build confidence is by studying up on what you need to do.
This guide will give you all the basic groomings tips you’ll need so you’ll look and feel like a pro.
What You Should Know Before You Start
The first thing you need to realize about grooming is that it means you need to get your baby in tiptop shape from head to toe.There’s no job too small and no job too big when it comes to grooming.
You have to pay attention to everything in order for your child to be well groomed. And in order to do that, you’re going to need the right equipment.
Without the essentials, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. To help you build your arsenal in the fight for cleanliness, each of our sections highlighting a specific area of grooming will list all supplies you’ll need.
Why Good Grooming Is Important For Babies
Babies need to be groomed for reasons other than purely cosmetic ones. If their nails aren’t trimmed down, they rake them over their faces and leave scratches. No mom likes to see their sweet little baby looking like they’ve gone a few rounds with Freddy Krueger.
Other grooming methods like washing your baby’s hair and brushing it with a soft-bristled brush can help loosen pesky cradle cap (source). Cradle cap causes crusty patches to appear on your baby’s scalp.
While cradle cap isn’t painful and your baby won’t even know it’s there, it is unsightly and you should try to do what you can to remove it.
Plus, as with most things in life, grooming becomes a habit.
The Power of Habit
If you start grooming your child at birth and keep up the process through their formative years, they’ll realize the importance of it and do it on their own when the time comes (source).
It may seem superficial to worry about appearance that much. But a lack of grooming and hygiene can carry some steep consequences for children as they get older. They can be teased and have lower self-esteem.
The first time my baby scratched herself with her nails I felt like I had failed as a mom. I didn’t realize how quickly they would grow.
But they do, and you have to cut them far more frequently than you would think. You’ll have to cut them a minimum of two times a week to trim back on the risk of your baby scratching itself
Here is what you’ll need to trim your baby’s nails:
- Baby scissors or clippers.
- Emery board.
- Bright light.
Here are the steps you’ll take to trim your baby’s nails:
1. Give Your Baby a Bath
Nails are at their softest right after a bath. That means it’s the perfect time to cut them right after you get your baby dressed after their bath.
2. Shed Some Light on the Situation
Make sure you have enough bright light to see what you’re doing. Trim those nails by a window using natural light or do it with a flashlight pointing at your baby’s fingers.
3. Use the Clippers or Scissors
If you use clippers, get ones that are small enough to safely work on your baby’s little fingers. Push down on the skin surrounding the top of your baby’s nails so you don’t accidentally cut that.
Hold your baby’s hand firmly so you don’t lose your grip.
When cutting fingernails, do so by following the curve of the nail. When cutting toenails, do it straight across.
4. Take Care of the Rough Edges
You can smooth any snagged edges with the emery board.
Tooth and Gum Care
Your baby may sprout baby teeth before they get the real things, but how you treat that early oral hygiene can make a big impact on your child’s attitude about keeping a clean mouth.
Here is what you’ll need to make sure your baby’s mouth thrives.
Follow these steps to clean your baby’s gums and teeth:
1. Start Your Care Before Any Teeth Come In
After every feeding, wipe your baby’s gums off with a damp washcloth. That will help keep them clean and get them used to the idea of needing to take care of their mouth.
2. At the First Sign of a Tooth, Ramp Up the Care
Taking care of baby teeth is important. It helps prevent tooth decay and also cuts back on the risk of your baby getting a gum infection.
Once you see those first teeth pop through, use a very soft-bristled toothbrush and plain water along with a non-fluoride toothpaste to give them a quick once over after meals.
3. Add in Fluoride Toothpaste Right Around Age 2
Put a little toothpaste on your baby’s toothbrush around their second birthday. Don’t overdo it though because they aren’t great at spitting out that toothpaste yet. Keep it down to a dab about the size of a rice grain.
After you brush their teeth, wipe down the teeth and gums with a wet washcloth to stop them from swallowing much of the toothpaste.
Ear wax may be unsightly, but it isn’t bad for your baby. It contains microbes that can ward off infection and can protect your baby some from getting water in the ear canal (source).
While you don’t have to remove it, it’s also okay to gently clean the wax out of your baby’s ear. You should leave the wax inside the ear canal area however.
Here is what you’ll need to keep your baby’s ears clean:
- Over-the-counter ear drops, if necessary.
To clean your baby’s ears, follow these steps:
1. Use a Damp Washcloth.
Put some warm water on the washcloth to dampen it. Then gently rub it around just inside the ear, staying away from the ear canal.
If you try to use the washcloth or a cotton swab to clean the ear canal, you may just push the wax back, which could lead to a blockage of the canal.
2. Bust Out the Ear Drops If You See a Blockage.
Although wax blockages don’t happen often, they are possible with a baby’s small ear canal. If that happens, put two drops of ear drops into your baby’s ears.
Start by having your child lie on its side, with the blocked ear facing up. Pull the earlobe away from the head before putting the drops in to give you better access to the ear canal.
Keep your baby on its side for a minimum of five minutes so the drops have time to enter the canal fully and work. Use a washcloth to wipe away any excess oil that comes out of the canal.
The oil will dislodge and loosen that wax and it will come out at some point.
Hair brushing is an important part of scalp health. And when you have a baby that is born with a lot of hair, if you don’t brush enough, you can end up with quite a build-up of cradle cap.
To be clear, brushing won’t remove all cradle cap, but it can help at dislodging some of it. But the perks of brushing don’t stop there — it can help encourage hair growth and many babies seem to enjoy it.
This is one area of grooming for which you won’t need many items. All you need is a soft-bristled baby brush or a baby comb.
You can brush your baby’s hair anytime of the day, but if you brush it well right after their bath, it dries looking shiny and smooth.
To brush your baby’s hair, follow these steps:
1. Find a Comfortable Position.
Find a position that works best for you and your baby. It might be holding your baby up in a sitting position while supporting its neck. Or the easiest position for you might be with your baby lying down.
2. Start Brushing Slowly.
The idea isn’t to make your baby feel like you’re scratching their head roughly — hairbrushing should be slow and enjoyable for your baby. Brush steadily and slowly, putting just enough pressure on their head to stimulate the scalp as you go.
You know how miserable you feel when your nose is plugged up for any reason? That’s how your baby feels too.
Everyone needs their nose cleaned at some point to help with the breathing process and because your baby isn’t capable of doing it itself, you’ll have to take one for the team and do it for them.
You need a few supplies first, including:
Here are the steps you’ll take to clean your baby’s nose:
1. Get the Crust Off.
Sometimes, especially when your baby has a cold, there can be a build-up of crust on the outside of your baby’s nose or just at the base of it. Removing that crust will help your child breath easier.
I like to use a baby washcloth with plain water for this step instead of wet wipes. I hate the idea of using wet wipes because of the additives many of them contain.
Get the washcloth wet with warm water and gently wipe away the crust. If you’d rather use wet wipes though, go for it.
2. Choose Your Method For Unplugging the Nose.
You have two main choices for cleaning out your baby’s congestion — saline drops and using a nasal aspirator. Saline drops can be a great ally in your fight against congestion.
To administer them:
- Lay your baby flat with the head tilted back a little.
- Using a dropper, put two drops of saline in each nostril. Wait about a minute.
- Put your baby on its stomach and let gravity help drain the nose.
- Wipe their nose with a tissue softly.
- Clean the dropper so it’s ready for next time.
If you’re going to use an aspirator to clean the nose, here is what you should do.
- Sit your baby up.
- Put just the tip of the aspirator into your baby’s nostril.
Once your child’s hair gets long enough, it will need to be trimmed. Trimming will keep it out of their eyes, but it will also help get rid of any split ends that are developing.
Here’s what you’ll need to channel your inner hair stylist.
- High chair so your hands are free.
- Bath towel and clip to hold it secure.
- Water bottle to spray on your baby’s hair.
- Food or toy to keep your baby distracted.
To pull off a successful trim, here’s what you’ll do.
1. Find the Perfect Timing.
You’ll want to go for a time when your child isn’t hungry or needing a nap. There’s nothing harder than trying to cut a grumpy child’s hair.
2. Put Your Baby in the High Chair.
A high chair is a familiar setting for your child and it’ll give you a good view of every side of your baby’s head.
3. Put the Towel Around Your Baby.
You can clip it in the back so it stays in position. If your baby doesn’t seem to like the towel being around her neck, you can always try a double bib technique.
Wrap a bib around your baby’s neck as usual, but then add a second draping down its back as well.
4. Give Your Baby a Distraction.
A toy or a snack will keep your baby happier longer, so you might be able to finish the job.
5. Spray the Water Bottle on Your Baby’s Hair and Get to Work.
Start with the spot you most want to trim, just in case your baby can’t make it the whole way through the hair cut.
6. Pull the Hair Away from Your Baby.
That will help protect your baby from the sharp scissors. Keeping your fingers between your baby’s skin and the scissors will also help you avoid jabbing or cutting them with the scissors.
Baths are an important part of your baby’s overall hygiene. But they can also relax your baby and are great for your baby’s development (source).
Your baby doesn’t need a daily bath, but you should shoot for a minimum of three a week.
Here are some supplies you’ll need for bath time.
- Baby bathtub.
- Baby shampoo.
- Body wash.
- A glass or pitcher.
Here are the steps you should take for a successful bath:
1. Get Everything You’ll Need Right by the Bathtub.
Once your baby is in the tub, you can’t walk away. It’s dangerous for babies because they can drown quickly in just a little bit of water.
2. Put About Three or Four Inches of Warm Water in the Tub.
Use your baby tub so your baby will have a better sitting position instead of sliding all around the bathtub. The water should be somewhere around 90 degrees.
Watch the Temperature:
A temperature that feels nice to you may be too warm for your baby. Test the water on your wrist and err on the side of caution so your baby doesn’t get burned.
3. Wash Your Baby’s Hair.
Using the cup or pitcher, get some water on your baby’s head, cupping your hand over their forehead as you pour to keep the water out of their eyes. If they seem upset, give them a toy for distraction.
Then put a small amount of baby shampoo on your hand, lather it up, and rub it around on your baby’s head.
When you’re done, rinse their hair using the cup or bucket.
4. Wash Their Body.
Using a washcloth and baby wash, clean your baby’s body with gentle rubs from the washcloth. Pay special attention to the folds of the neck where milk can run down into, getting trapped, and causing some odor.
When you’re done, rinse your baby’s body well.
5. Lay Out Your Baby’s Towel.
It’s easier to get your baby all wrapped up after a bath if you already have the towel laid out. Once it’s ready, firmly grip your baby so you don’t drop it and move it straight to the towel.
Wrap it up well and take it to the nursery for a fresh diaper and an outfit. While there, you can pat your baby dry and put on any baby lotion, if you want to use any.
Because your baby’s skin is so sensitive, you have to take care of it really well to avoid problems.
Here are some of the products you’ll want for your baby’s skin:
- Baby shampoo.
- Baby wash.
- Baby lotion.
- Petroleum jelly.
Here are some steps you should take when choosing and applying products to your baby’s skin:
1. Look for Gentle Cleansers.
You don’t want any harsh cleansers for your baby’s skin. Look for ones that don’t contain soap, and when selecting shampoo, use a tear free kind made for babies.
2. Moisturizers Are Needed Sometimes.
It’s a good idea to use moisturizer every day on your baby. If your baby really struggles with dry skin, you can use it twice a day.
You can opt for baby lotion, which is gentle enough for your baby’s sensitive skin.
If your baby suffers from eczema, skip the baby lotion on that area of skin and go straight for the petroleum jelly. It will coat it better and provide a superior barrier.
3. Protect Your Baby’s Skin With Bibs.
That drool your baby produces in large amounts can cause a rash on their skin. Keep their skin dry and less irritated with baby bibs.
To keep your baby’s bottom in tiptop shape, you should be changing diapers 7 to 10 times a day. If you don’t, their bottom can become irritated and develop a bad case of diaper rash.
To keep your baby’s bottom clean, you’ll need washcloths or wet wipes. To keep diaper rash at bay, you’ll also want an ointment handy. The one that worked best for my baby was Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.
The only time you’ll need to clean your baby’s bottom, other than at bath time, is during diaper changes. Here’s how you’ll do it then.
1. Use Wet Wipes or a Washcloth.
After you’ve removed your baby’s wet or soiled diaper, you’ll need to get the remnants of their waste off their body. You can do that with a wet washcloth or you can use a wet wipe.
Start from the top and work your way down and then to the backside.
2. Make Sure the Bottom is Dry Before Putting on Another Diaper.
Your baby’s skin will be better off if you let it air dry or pat it dry before putting a fresh diaper on. If your baby’s bottom shows any sign of redness, it’s time to put on a layer of diaper ointment.
Your baby is going to go through an astounding amount of laundry, especially if you decide to use cloth diapers. You have to do it right to ensure that the fresh laundry doesn’t irritate your baby’s precious skin.
Before you get started washing your baby’s laundry, you’ll need a detergent that’s gentle enough for their skin.
Here are some steps you should take to make sure their laundry doesn’t harm their skin:
1. Wash Before Letting Them Wear Anything.
It may seem like a lot of extra work, but wash those new baby outfits before you put them on your baby. They might have finishing or preservative chemicals on them (source).
Remember that rule also applies to sheets, blankets, and towels that your baby will use.
2. Only Use One Detergent.
If your baby starts having issues with skin sensitivity, you’ll know which detergent to stop using if you’re only using one brand.
3. Give Clothes an Extra Rinse.
That will ensure you remove as much of the detergent residue as possible. This step is especially helpful if your baby has sensitive skin.
4. Don’t Wash Your Baby’s Clothes With Yours.
Your clothes might have dyes that will harm your baby. Or your clothes might be way dirtier than your baby’s clothes would be so it’s good to keep them separate.
Now You’ll Know What to Do
Grooming will take up a lot of your time, but it won’t be long before your child will be doing all this stuff on their own. You’ll be wishing you could turn back time and have those days back when they needed you for everything.
What’s your favorite part of grooming your baby? And if you know any new mommas who could use the advice, please share this article with them.