Hesperian Health Guides

Cleaning the baby

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 12: Caring for your baby > Cleaning the baby

It helps to have a small toy for the baby to play with while you clean her so she will not move about so much. Try to collect about 10 playthings that the baby can touch and hold so you can give a different one to the baby each time you change her. A new toy will hold the baby's attention better. Many simple things in the home can be used as toys, or can be turned into them. For example, a noisy seed pod, a bell, a small cloth doll, a mirror, a bracelet of colored beads, or colored paper. When you have gone through all 10, start with the first one again so it will seem new to the baby. Here are some examples of simple toys:

several simple objects hanging from a wire.
Make sure the objects or toys have no sharp edges, and are
not so small the baby could swallow them.
thread spools
slices of plastic bottle
bottle caps
top half
of plastic bottle
stiff wire
pieces of bright colored paper or tinfoil
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Always wash your hands after cleaning or changing
the baby, and after helping a child use a latrine or toilet.

If you have limited use of your hands

Many women who have limited movement in their hands can clean the baby's bottom and genitals. But often they cannot put on a nappy or diaper--especially if it needs safety pins to hold it closed. You may have to rely on a family member or helper to do this. If you cannot clean and change the baby yourself, make sure the place where the baby is changed is close beside you so that the baby can always hear your voice and see your face as she is being changed.

a one-armed woman kneeling to change a baby lying on a mattress.

If you have only one arm or limited use of your arms or hands, when your baby is about 1 month old you can teach her how to help you put on her nappy. As you place a clean cloth under her bottom, lift or bounce her bottom up 2 or 3 times.

Do this each time you change her, and soon she will start to lift her bottom up herself whenever she feels you touching her there. This will make it easier for you to get the cloth placed underneath her.

A nappy or diaper can be held on a baby without pins by putting panties over the top. The panties will probably get wet with urine too, so they must also be changed each time the baby is changed. Wash and dry them the same way that you clean the diapers. Also, strips of Velcro can be used to hold the baby’s diaper closed.

If you are blind or cannot see well

It can be hard to know if all the stool has been cleaned off the baby’s bottom. Here are some suggestions:

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If you have enough water available, hold the baby securely with one hand and wash the stool off the baby’s bottom in a bucket or bowl of clean water.
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Hold the baby securely over the edge of a table and pour clean water over its bottom.

If you do not have much water, wipe off the baby’s bottom with a thin, damp cloth. Do not use a thick cloth or you will not be able to feel where the stool is. Afterward, wash the cloth well with soap and water, and hang it in the sun to dry.

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When you bathe the baby, put a piece of cloth inside the basin or bowl for the baby to sit or lie on. This will prevent the baby from sliding under the water.