Babies are beautiful. The tiniest humans have no need of the kind of primping, spritzing, and outright camouflage many adults require to look their best. But even the most gorgeous babies (yes, yours) require some upkeep in the hair, nail, and skin departments. In fact, paying attention to your infant’s appearance encourages you to care for her in ways that help her stay healthy and comfortable.
Baby Grooming Set
Baby Hair Brush & Comb
Most baby hairbrushes are adequate. You might even be given one by your hospital or get a cheap one in a kit, and it will likely work fine. But if you’re shopping for good stuff, why not get something that’s good?
For the first few weeks, a cotton ball dipped in plain water is the gentlest way to clean your newborn’s tender tush. But that’s not the only reason to keep a bag of sterile cotton balls around. They’re also terrific to wipe those beautiful baby-blue (or brown or gray) eyes (skip the swabs since they aren’t safe to use on baby).
Baby Nail Clippers
While a lot of people recommend baby nail clippers, the best solution I’ve found is baby nail scissors.
They’re far safer and also easier to use. Clippers seem like they’re fine at first, but it’s so easy to accidentally cut your baby’s sensitive finger skin with them. A sudden movement and things can go downhill quickly, and you’ll end up drawing blood.
Baby Bath Liquid or Soap
When it comes to baby soap, the shorter the ingredients list, the better — look for labels without too many additives and fragrances. A gentle baby wash will do for now. Or ask the pediatrician to recommend a brand.
A tear-free formula’s the best, since the foam tends to stay put — and infants don’t always keep their eyes tightly closed when they’re being bathed.
After a few weeks of cotton-ball-and-plain-water cleanups, your baby will graduate to diaper wipes. Look for the hypoallergenic ones that are alcohol- and fragrance-free. Wipes are also great for hand washing on the go and for cleaning up leaky diaper spills and spit-up on clothes. There are also reusable cloth diaper wipes if you’d rather go green, or if your baby turns out to be allergic to certain brands. Just keep in mind, while you’ll want to have some diaper-changing supplies at the ready, definitely don’t overstock your changing table until you know what works best on your baby’s tender bottom.
Your doctor may suggest baby oil as a way of getting rid of cradle cap — a crusty (but harmless) scalp condition. Baby oil on a cotton ball is also a gentle method to wipe away a particularly sticky poop from your baby’s skin. But there’s no need to use it routinely or to cover up your baby (oiled-up babies are slippery babies).
When your baby has a cold and is all stuffed up, it’s impossible for them to blow their nose and get the boogies cleared out. This is where a nasal aspirator comes into play!
There are good nasal aspirators and bad ones. You should get one that works by you sucking on the other end; the bulb ones just don’t work well, and they end up full of bacteria.
Most of the thermometers that come in kits are no good. Do you really want to use a thermometer that might not be accurate?
Ideally, a rectal thermometer is best for taking the temperature of infants. Rectal thermometers are by far the most accurate, although they’re obviously a little unpleasant to use.
The alternative is a temporal artery thermometer, which is a lot more expensive and not quite as accurate, but not at all invasive.
How to Groom a Baby
Clip Baby’s Nails
Two words best describe trimming a baby’s nails: moving target. Unless you do it while your angel is asleep, the procedure requires the steady hand and laser focus of an Olympic archer. But keeping nails short is best; it reduces the chances of her scratching herself. Try these pointers to neaten digits without the nicks.
Snip during a nap or after a bath. Clipping is easiest when Baby isn’t moving at all, but nails are softer and much easier to shorten postsoak.
Nursing is a good distraction. Have Dad work the clipper while you feed her. Or if she chows while propped on a nursing pillow, try it yourself.
Get a file. Filing takes longer than clipping, but there’s no chance of cutting your cutie. “I filed a few of my daughter’s nails each night while nursing her. It was easier than doing them all at once,” says Betsy McNab, a mom in Alameda, California.
Don’t bite. Just don’t! Your mouth is one of the germiest parts of your body, says Mona Gohara, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University and mother of a 3- and 5-year-old. You could transfer bacteria to her skin or, if there’s a mishap, into her bloodstream.
Baby’s first haircut — even if it’s just to trim a few wisps out of her eyes — is a milestone. Here’s how to make the cut:
- Seat baby on someone else’s lap while you cut. If you don’t have help, cut while baby’s asleep.
- If she’s awake, begin by gently stroking her head all over to calm her.
- First cut whichever section of baby’s hair is most in need of a trim — the bangs, perhaps, or the back.
- Don’t pull the hair; just hold it between your fingers and trim a quarter of an inch at a time, to avoid snipping too much.