Babies are slippery little things – especially when they’re wet – so bathing your newborn can be a bit daunting at first. And it doesn’t help if your baby screams the whole time either!
But don’t stress – firstly, babies don’t need a full bath every day and with practice you’ll grow in confidence. Soon enough your baby will learn to love bathtime.
It is important to know that babies aren’t just having a bath to get clean. Bathing a baby is a wonderful way to bond with your little one, it helps with their learning and development, it can soothe a cranky baby and it can also help get a baby off to sleep! And don’t we all want that!
Tips on bathing a newborn baby
When to start and how often to bath a newborn baby
You can start bathing your baby as soon as you like – you don’t have to wait until the cord stump falls off – but remember newborns don’t need daily baths. Some days all you’ll need is a ‘top and tail’ wash.
How to do a ‘top and tail’ wash on baby
‘Top’ means washing your baby’s face, neck and hands. ‘Tail’ is washing their bottom and genitals – like you do at each nappy change. You can do a top and tail wash with a face cloth or wet cotton wool balls. It is a good way to bath baby especially when the weather is cold and sometimes it is easier to do a top and tail (or even just a top) wash before you put baby in the bath for the full wash.
- Make sure you have everything you need: bowl of warm water, facewasher/flannel or cotton wool, clean clothes, clean nappy and nappy changing equipment.
- Place baby on a changemat or towel with everything you need within reach.
- Start by washing your baby’s eyes. Wet a corner of the facewasher or use a cotton wool ball to carefully wipe their eye starting from near their nose.
- Use a new cotton wool ball (or clean corner of the facewasher) to wipe the other eye.
- Wipe over and behind baby’s ears.
- Wipe baby’s face and neck – try to get in the creases as this is where dirt can build up.
- Make sure their face is dry – paying careful attention to their ears and the creases in their neck.
- Wipe baby’s hands clean with the facewasher. This can be easier said than done as babies like to clench their fists. Uncurl their fist to clean – you might be surprised at the amount of fluff that has accumulated there! Dry your baby’s hands.
- Remove the bottom half of baby’s clothes and take off the nappy (if they’re dirty, use your wipes to clean away the mess). Wash baby’s bottom and genitals with the facewasher. Remember NOT to try to pull back a boy’s foreskin and only wash the outside of a girl’s genitals.
- Dry the area thoroughly and maybe let baby have a little kick before putting on clothes and a new nappy!
How to bath a newborn baby
Before you start bathing your baby, wash your hands and gather together everything that you’ll need – you must not leave your baby alone in the bath – even for a second. Make sure you’ve chosen a time where you won’t be interrupted and when baby is happy – not too sleepy nor hungry.
What you will need:
- baby bath (or sink or normal bath, although this might be harder on your back)
- a clean towel or two
- a facewashers or two (one for face, one for rest of body)
- change mat or suitable flat surface
- clean nappy
- clean clothes
If using a baby bath, place the bath in an area out the breeze and at a height that is comfortable for you (maybe the kitchen table!). Some baby baths come with their own stands and plugs for easy emptying.
If it makes it easier you can place a towel at the bottom of the tub to help stop a newborn from slipping. You can buy anti-slip devices or bath seats etc but they are not an essential baby item and they can lull you into a false sense of security thinking that you can leave your baby alone in the bath. You cannot leave your baby for even one second – even if you are leaving an older sibling in the room.
- Once you’ve got the bath set-up, fill with warm water – a temperature that would be comfortable for you is a good guide. Test the water with the inside of your wrist or your elbow and if in any doubt, err on the cooler side rather than risk scalding baby’s skin. If you have a water thermometer, a good guide to a maximum water temperature is 38 degrees celcius.
- Undress your baby and, if you prefer, do a top and tail wash before popping baby in the bath (cover with a towel so they don’t get cold). Sometimes this is easier as they can get very slippery in water!
- Undress your baby completely (if their nappy is dirty, clean it as usual) and lower baby carefully into the water. Support their head and shoulders with one arm and use the other to pour water gently over your baby’s body during the bath to keep them from getting cold.
- Wipe baby’s face, ears and eyes with a clean washer (if you haven’t already).
- Gently splash some water over their head to wash their hair. Babies don’t need shampoo.
- Use another washer for the rest of the body, making sure to clean carefully around the umbilical cord stump, and get into all the skin folds
- Carefully support your baby as your remove them from the bath. Dry baby thoroughly paying careful attention to all baby’s folds and creases.
- Pop baby’s nappy on and dress baby.
Make sure you care for your newborn baby’s skin by not using soap. Soap can remove the natural oils from a baby’s skin. Use a mild, non-soap based cleanser occasionally if you think baby needs more than just warm water but avoid cleansers that contain unnecessary perfumes or chemicals.
You will need to consider bathing your baby more often once they start getting messy with solid food and when they’re crawling around on the floor. Babies can get hot in the summer, so you might wish to consider giving cooling baths on a more regular basis at that time of year.