Ultimate Guide To Bathing Your Newborn Baby

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As a new parent, there are lots and lots of new skills that you will need to learn. Even the most basic things like diapering a child take practice. Bathing your newborn baby is one of those things that you might think is obvious until you actually go to do it. Then, you realize there are all kinds of small questions that pop up.

In this post, we provide a comprehensive step by step overview that explains how to bathe your newborn.

How Often Should You Bathe A Newborn?

While most adults bathe every day, this isn’t necessary for newborns. In the beginning, babies just don’t get that dirty. After all, they’re asleep most of the time in the first few months. Until they start moving around on the ground and exploring the world, they really only need to take a bath 2 – 3 times per week. In fact, bathing newborns too often can actually dry out their skin.

How To Give A Newborn A Sponge Bath

Until the umbilical cord stump heals, you should keep your infant clean with sponge baths. This will typically be the first 1 – 4 weeks after birth.

If the umbilical cord stump has not come off, or if your boy’s circumcised penis hasn’t healed, you should avoid baths altogether. Instead, just use your hands or a washcloth to clean your little one.

Find A Flat Surface

Before you give your baby a bath for the first time, you’ll want to find a flat surface. The bathroom can work well, but so can the kitchen counter. A lot of people just opt for a spot on the floor where they have a little space.

Gather Everything That You Will Need

Preparation is the key to a good bath. The last thing you want to do is to get started, and then have to hunt throughout the house to find a washcloth or some soap. Babies are sensitive to cold, so it’s best to get things done in one fell swoop, rather than starting and stopping.

In order to get ready for bath time, you will need baby soap, two washcloths, two cotton balls (optional), a towel, a water basin, and a plastic cup. You will also want to collect a fresh set of clothes, a diaper, and some diaper cream for after the bath. 

Make Sure The Room Is Nice And Warm

Babies are sensitive to cold. Since they are going to be getting wet, but not fully submerged in water, it’s a good idea to make sure the room is nice and toasty. Something like 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect. If you are doing bath time in the bathroom, you might even run a hot shower for a few minutes to get it warm and steamy.

Wash Baby’s Face First

Use warm water to wash baby’s face. No need to use soap. When washing baby’s eyes, you can use the corner of a wash cloth or a cotton ball and wipe from the inner corner outward. After washing the first eye, use a different corner of the washcloth or a new cotton ball for the second. Then, wash the rest of baby’s face. Be sure to get around the mouth, inside and behind the ears, and under the chin.

Skip The Shampoo

If your baby’s hair needs to be washed, just use a cup of warm water. Babies are born with all the natural oils they need to keep their scalp healthy, and shampoos can throw things out of balance.

Wash From Top To Bottom

After washing baby’s face, you can go from top to bottom. Use a mild soap for baby’s neck and torso. If the umbilical cord is still there, avoid getting it wet. It’s ok to wipe away the crustiness around the umbilical cord though.

Use a fresh washcloth to wash baby’s private parts, and only use a little soap. For girls, wash from front to back and wipe between the skin folds. No need to clean inside the labia though. For boys that have been circumcised, wipe the penis gently to clean it. For uncircumcised boys, there is no need to pull back the foreskin.

After The Bath

Once bath time is over, you can wrap a towel around your squeaky clean infant, and pat them dry. There is no need to use lotion, but if you would like to use a small amount of baby safe lotion, that’s fine. Avoid using any baby powder since it can irritate your baby’s breathing passage.

Once baby is dried off, go ahead and put on a fresh diaper and outfit. Babies are sensitive to the cold, so go ahead and get your little one dressed as soon as you can after wrapping up the bath.


How To Bathe A Newborn In A Baby Bathtub

Once the umbilical cord stump has healed, your little one is ready for a bath in a baby bathtub. As you get ready for your baby’s first bath in an infant tub, it’s important to remember to keep one hand on your baby at all times.

There will be times when you’re in the middle of the bath, and the doorbell rings or someone calls on your cell. But, if you need to leave the room, be sure to take your baby with you. A child can drown in less than an inch of water, and it can happen in under a minute.

Put A Little Water In The Infant Tub

It’s a good idea to put a couple of inches of water into the infant tub. Just enough to cover the bottom of your little one, but not too much. The water should be around 90 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is fairly warm. In order to make sure it’s not too hot, just test it with your elbow or wrist (your fingertips aren’t as sensitive to heat, so they aren’t great for temperature tests).

By the way, it’s a good idea to set the water heater in your home to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so that the water never gets too hot. A child can get third degree burns in less than a minute from 140 degree water.

Cristin’s Tip: As a parent, it’s hard to avoid getting wet. So, be sure to dress appropriately for bath time.

Get A Good Grip And Slide Baby In Feet First

Wet babies can be slippery, so make sure you’ve got a good grip. Secure your infant’s head, neck and back with one arm, while you hold their thighs with the other. Then, gently slide baby into the tub feet first. Be sure to keep at least one hand on your baby at all times.

Time For A Shampoo?

If your little one doesn’t have hair, there is no need for a shampoo. Instead, just wipe baby’s head with a washcloth.

If your baby does have hair, go ahead and use a baby shampoo. It’s actually a good idea to get a 2 in 1 soap and shampoo, just to keep things simple.

If your baby develops cradle cap (which is quite common), go ahead and talk to your pediatrician. There is a good chance they will recommend rubbing in some mineral oil or perhaps a special shampoo to take care of it.

What If Baby Doesn’t Like Taking Baths In The Infant Bathtub?

Eventually, your little one is going to have to get used to taking baths in the tub. But, there is no need to rush things. If your baby doesn’t like taking baths in the baby tub, just go back to sponge baths for another week or two. Then, give in another shot when you’re ready.

When Should Baby Move To A Regular Bath?

Once baby is able to sit up on their own, they are ready for a regular bath tub. This is when a lot of babies really start to enjoy bath time, since they are able to splash and play around in the water. Just make sure to pick a up a good bath mat, so that your little one doesn’t slip and slide.

Benefits Of Bath Time

The most obvious benefit is that baths keep your infant clean. But, there are a number of other benefits as well.

Bath time can be a great way for parents to bond with their infants. This is high quality one on one time (or two on one if both parents are involved). It’s generally free from other distractions, and it can be a lot of fun.

Bath time is quite stimulating for infants as well. The feeling of the water is a new and interesting sensation. They are also able to see how the water splashes when they kick their feet, which is a small way for them to see a bit of cause and effect in action.

For some infants, bath time can be a soothing experience, and a great way to calm down. Of course, for others bath time leads to a crying session every time.

Lastly, bath time can be a nice break between the normal day and bed time. The warm water can be quite relaxing. Even babies that cry during baths are often relaxed and ready for sleep once they calm down. Over time, babies start to associate bath time with bed time, making it a great part of a night time routine.

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.