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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5 Easy Tricks for Newborn Grooming

So you made it home with your bundle of joy, you've gotten the hang of changing the diapers and on a good day you can get three hours of sleep. Life is good. At least until you go to pick up your newborn and get a good whiff of an unpleasant musty odor. Lots of times babies have a way of getting dirt and grime and gunk in the weirdest places, like behind their ears, under their neck, even between their toes! And if it doesn't get cleaned out properly, you'll be looking at one stinky baby.

Baby-washing is not the easiest of new-parent tasks though. That soft skin becomes as slippery as a wet bar of soap when you get it damp, and it makes proper grooming nearly impossible. Lucky for new moms everywhere, there are ways to groom your little guy or gal without ever filling the tub. Here are some tips to make your day go by just a little bit smoother:

1. Don't "scrub" in the tub.

Now this probably sounds like bad advice, but washing a baby in a tub is not easy (washing a baby in a sink is even harder). You don't want to be so concerned with getting your baby's trouble areas clean that you lose your grip on him or her. Think about it like this - if you're going to clean your baby's neck, you'll have to lift his or her chin first since most babies have a roll of chubby baby fat hiding the crease of their neck. And if you lift it with one hand, and you hold baby with one hand, you are now a hand short for doing the actual cleaning! A best practice in the tub is to use the experience for an enjoyable time with baby, and to get the surface grime that can be cleaned off with a simple swipe of the washcloth. You'll want to save the trouble areas for later, and the rest of the tips in this article will tell you the easiest ways to handle them all!

2. Play "turtle".

The neck is one of the most overlooked places when it comes to washing a baby, but it's also one of the grimiest places on an infant. When they eat they're messy, and all that milk runs down, over, and into their neck crease. When people talk about a milky baby smell, they don't mean rotten milk smell, so make sure you keep this area clean! When your baby is brand new, it's easy to clean under the neck. Most newborns are born looking a little lean - which is perfectly normal - and they grow into their chubbiness over the first few weeks. They also learn some head control over the first few weeks, but not enough to be very pliable when you go to wash them. So by the time your baby is chubby enough that you need to lift their chin(s) to get to the neck crease, they have learned that it's easier to look down than it is to look up, and they'll most likely fight to keep their chin smushed against their chest as you try to lift it up to wash. The easier solution? Put baby on your chest and smile at him. Not only is this a great activity for bonding time, but at this angle your baby will be stretching his little neck just like a turtle to interact with you! Make sure that you get a warm, wet washcloth before you start so that you can get a few good swipes in before he realizes he's been tricked into getting clean!

3. Roll up for clean hair.

Remember to always support baby's neck with your hand!
It doesn't matter how big your baby gets, washing hair is going to be one of the most difficult chores during the cleansing process for quite a while. If you tip the head back to rinse, this causes a natural reaction to jerk the head back down. If you leave the head down, baby gets soap in her eyes or sucks water in her nose or mouth. There really isn't a good way to rinse while in the tub. Even when your baby turns into a toddler, you'll find that they'll fight you every step of the way when it comes to rinse-time. Although this trick won't work for a toddler (they are just too big) you can certainly use this tactic until your baby gets too heavy to pick up with one arm. Wrap your little one up in a towel so that her arms are down at her sides, just like a fruit roll-up. After you have your baby in the tube-like formation, tuck her under your arm foot-ball style and wash and rinse her hair with your free hand. Use a cup of water to do the rinsing, or make sure that the water coming out of the tap is at a baby-safe temperature and isn't going to change anytime soon.

4. Q-tip your way to clean hands and ears.

Oh the grime that can get caught in baby's tiny fists! Most babies keep their fists so tightly curled that it's hard to see the dirt in there, even harder to wash it out. The easy answer to this is to use Q-tips. Wet one end and put it into baby's fist as if you were giving it to him to play with like a rattle. Slide the Q-tip back and forth inside his fist to loosen the grime and get as much gunk as possible onto the Q-tip. After you've done that, do the same with the dry end. This will get the remaining yucky stuff out of your baby's fist. If you think that there might still be some icky junk left, repeat on each hand to be certain that everything is out of there.

As for the ears, besides the obvious use of cleaning the visible portion of baby's ear, Q-tips are also great for cleaning behind the ears. We all know the cliché mom phrase "Don't forget to clean behind your ears". Well as it happens, mothers don't just say that to waste their breath. More often than not, a quick inspection of the area behind your baby's ears will present a gross little patch of gray gunk that stinks of old milk and baby sweat. A quick swipe of a Q-tip or two will remove this completely. Make sure to be gentle when performing this task though, since some build-ups can eat at the skin if they aren't removed frequently. This means that when you go to swipe, you might be rubbing away fresh skin along with the dirt, and that will give your baby a sore spot.

5. Sleep attack.

Even Q-tips are no match for a baby's tightly curled toes, so to clean this area, you're going to have to wait until he or she falls asleep. Why do babies get dirt in between and around their toe curls? I have no clue. My baby wears socks most of the time and I still find suspicious looking patches of icky toe jam about twice a week! Sweat, dead skin cells, sock lint, who knows? What I do know is that it needs to be cleaned or the build-up will begin to irritate the soft skin around baby's toes, and that means it will leave a sore spot when it finally does get cleaned. The quickest and easiest way to clean this area is to wait for a nap-time when it isn't crucial for baby to stay asleep. The tickling on his or her little feet will most likely wake your baby up, so make sure you're ready to deal with them after. As a bonus, make sure to trim your baby's fingernails before you wash their toes. The action shouldn't wake your baby up, and it sure does beat trying to clip them while he or she is awake!

Have a baby grooming question about something I didn't cover? Ask your question in the comments and I'll post the answer!

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