How often to bath newborns
A bath 2-3 times a week is enough to keep your newborn clean. But if your baby really likes baths, a bath once a day is fine too. Bathing more than this can dry out your baby’s skin.
You can keep your baby’s genitals clean between baths by using warm water and cotton wool.
About 5-10 minutes is long enough for a newborn bath. This is especially important if your baby has dry or sensitive skin.
When to give newborns a bath
You can bath your baby at any time of the day. It’s a good idea to pick a time when you’re relaxed and you won’t be interrupted. And it’s best to avoid baths when your baby is hungry or has just had a feed.
If your baby seems to find baths relaxing and enjoyable, you can use bathing as a way to help settle baby for sleep in the evening.
Where to bath newborns
You can give your newborn a bath in a small plastic bath or even in the kitchen sink. The kitchen sink might be easiest in the first few weeks. A plastic baby bath is probably the best option once your baby gets bigger.
You can bath your baby in any room that’s warm, safe and clean – it doesn’t have to be a bathroom.
You can also shower with your baby. Keep your baby’s face away from the pouring water and make sure to use warm, not hot, water.
Setting up a newborn bath: tips
Here’s how to get ready for a newborn bath:
- Take the phone off the hook or turn your phone off while bathing baby. You’ll be less likely to get distracted.
- Make sure you have everything you need at hand – for example, towel, washcloth, lotion, clean clothes and clean nappy. Avoid using soap because this will dry out your baby’s skin. If needed, use a gentle non-soap cleanser or fragrance-free oil.
- Position the bath somewhere stable and at a height where you can comfortably hold your baby. A kitchen table is often best.
- Fill the bath with about 5 cm of water for babies up to six months old. Use jugs of water to fill the bath if you’re planning to bath your baby away from the tap.
- Take off your watch and jewellery and wash your hands.
- Check the water temperature is 37-38°C before you put your baby in. If you don’t have a thermometer, use your wrist or elbow to test the temperature – it should be comfortably warm, not hot.
- Before bathing your baby in a sink, briefly run cold water through the tap once you’ve finished filling the bath.
- Don’t add extra water while your baby is in the bath.
Giving newborns a bath: steps
These steps make bathing newborns easy:
- Before undressing your baby, wipe baby’s eyelids (from inner eye to outer eye) with cotton wool dipped in lukewarm water. Use a new piece of cotton wool for each eye. Then wash your baby’s whole face. Be careful not to put anything into your baby’s ears or nose.
- Undress your baby, taking the nappy off last.
- Cradle your baby’s head with one arm, supporting baby’s head and neck with the other arm. Gently lower your baby into the bath, feet first, keeping a close hold at all times.
- Supporting your baby’s head, lay baby down in the bath so the back of baby’s head is submerged. Gently splash some water onto baby’s head.
- Gently wash your baby’s genitals and bottom last, using water only. Also clean out any bits of poo or vomit from your baby’s body creases.
Drying and dressing newborns after a bath: steps
Here’s how to take your newborn out of the bath, ready for drying and dressing:
- Supporting your baby’s head and neck, lift baby out of the bath then place baby on their back on a clean, dry, soft towel. Keep your baby warm.
- Wrap your baby in a soft towel and pat dry. Pay attention to skin creases, including armpits, groin, under the chin, around the neck and behind the ears.
- If your baby’s skin is dry, or if baby has nappy rash, you might want to apply a mild lotion like white soft paraffin, or zinc and castor oil. Pawpaw cream might also help.
- Dress your baby, putting a nappy on first.
- Place your baby in a safe place, like a cot or bassinette.
- Empty the bath water.
Helping newborns enjoy bath time
It’s normal for newborns to find bath time distressing at first. But most babies quickly learn to like bath time. To help your baby enjoy bath time, you can try placing your hand gently on baby’s tummy. This can help your baby feel safe and secure in the bath.
If your baby doesn’t like baths, do a ‘top and tail’ bath one day and a proper bath the next. By around three months, it’s likely your baby will love the bath.