The main item to buy related to bathing is a baby bathtub. The main reason to have/use a baby bathtub is that it can be convenient to bathe a tiny infant in a smaller tub you can have next to the sink or on the floor or just about any other surface you want to put the tub on. That said, tubs aren’t the most expensive thing you’ll buy and most of them aren’t exactly water-tight. Plus they’re pretty heavy and difficult to carry without sloshing water all over once they’re filled. So, you’re most likely going to use the tub a) IN your sink b) next to your sink or c) on the floor near your sink or bathtub. You can also put the tub inside your big tub but until your baby gets a little older or unless you have super long arms, that will kill your back to lean over.
There are basically three kinds of baby bathtubs—plastic ones, mesh sling-type chairs and blow-up mini baby pool types. The plastic ones are the most common and probably the easiest to find. The thing is the bath is something your baby may take to right away or may hate for a very long time. We ultimately abandoned our baby bathtub after the screaming fits weren’t getting any better during bath time. We started taking baths with Henry and while he didn’t become a bath convert right away he was much more comfortable being held rather than feeling adrift in the open water.
I think it’s possible the sling chair or blow-up baby baths would provide a more secure feeling. Their drawbacks as I see them are that the chair is designed to sit in your sink or bathtub and you fill up the normal sink bowl or bathtub with water. You still have the issue of having to lean over the bathtub if that’s where you’re bathing and you have to use a lot of water to fill the tub up enough that the baby isn’t just sitting out there freezing. The blow-up thing would be fine but I wasn’t really that excited about having a blow-up pool stuffed somewhere in my house for several months. You wouldn’t really be able to blow it up and deflate it every time you wanted to give a bath (at least I wouldn’t have!) so you’d have to find a place to store it which is a real concern for us.
Rather than not buy a tub at all this time, we decided to register for another plastic tub but one that comes with an “infant mesh sling.” This is a little mesh hammock that lays in the tub and is used when the baby is itty bitty. I think it might help with feeling more cradled, without having to take a bath WITH Silas every time he needs to get clean.
Towels and Washcloths
You need some hooded towels and some baby washcloths. These were both items I was convinced were a total waste—what’s wrong with just using a regular towel and washcloth? The problem is that at the beginning their skin is pretty delicate and they are very tiny and adult sized towels and wash cloths are just too big and rough. Having 2 towels is nice so that you have some rotation ability. Having 6 washcloths (or more) is nice because you’ll use at least 2 for each bath (one for face and body and one for the genitals). One note—I would actually try to register for towels that maybe have a closer weave than your adult towel but which actually have some noticeable “plush” to them. We got a ton of baby towels that were more like a blanket than a towel—there was no fiber to soak anything up (even though they were soft) and they just pushed the water all around.
You’ll probably get some samples of the major brands at your birthing class (if it’s through a hospital) or in a packet when you leave the hospital. This is nice because you can try different ones to see what you seem to like. The main thing is that especially at the beginning, babies need the mildest soap/shampoo you can use. They don’t have much “toxic” going on that you need to aggressively clean up and their skin is sensitive. In fact just using water is fine if your baby doesn’t spit-up much or have other messes on them. You want to wash the face first and don’t want to use any soap on the face. You can use one product for both the body and hair—if your baby has any at the beginning.
You’ll need a pair of nail clippers and/or nail scissors (although you won’t use them for at least 2 weeks after the baby is born), a nose bulb, a thermometer, and some basic medicines. It’s not a bad idea to have a pair of both baby nail clippers and the scissors so you can see which you feel (slightly) more comfortable using on your baby. You don’t cut their nails until at least 2 weeks after they’re born because they’re so soft at the beginning you’ll wind up cutting their fingers instead of the nail. I’ve never met a first time-parent that wasn’t squeamish/terrified of cutting their baby’s nails, so give yourself all the options you can.
You’ll also need a nose bulb to help suck out their mucus (they don’t learn to blow their nose for awhile—in fact, anyone know when they DO learn to blow their own nose?) There are basically two kinds—one that has a blunt end and one that has a long tapered end. They both work well but the blunt end one looks less menacing—you can be sure you won’t suck out their brains by accident with that.
Thermometers should be straight-forward but aren’t. If your baby is really sick and you have to call the Doctor—they’re going to want to know a rectal temperature. This means you need a basic digital thermometer that says something about being safe to use orally, rectally, etc. You want to buy the thermometer with the quickest “compute” time so you don’t have to hold that thing anywhere longer than you have to. You can also use the thermometer under their arm, although this is considered much less reliable. Additionally there are forehead scan thermometers, pacifier thermometers, and ones that go in the ear. We had an expensive forehead thermometer and although our Doctor’s office used one, our consumer brand gave us wildly variant readings. I’d take my temperature and it would say 93.8 then a few seconds later and I was back up to 106—we pretty much decided it was unreliable and then Henry dropped it. Now we just use an inexpensive digital one and stick it under Henry’s arm (knock on wood, he’s not been much for fevers so far.)
I think it doesn’t hurt to have a few medicines around before the baby is born so that the first time they get sick you aren’t frantic (well, you’ll probably be frantic anyway, but at least you won’t be frantically driving to the drugstore!) I would buy infant Tylenol, infant decongestant, infant benedryl and some anti-gas drops. You might also want to buy some pedialyte to have on hand.
You may have strong feelings one way or the other about using babies and pacifiers. Even if you really don’t plan to use any with your baby, you might consider buying one or two to have on hand just in case things don’t work out the way you want. Some babies really need to and are very good at sucking and the pacifier can satisfy them in a way nothing else can’t. Other babies never take to a pacifier, so like everything else it’s a bit of a crap-shoot. Still if you’re having one of those nights where nothing seems to soothe the baby, having one on hand can at least let you feel like you tried everything. Pacifiers are sized, so just make sure to buy the 0-3 month ones so they aren’t way too big.