How often to bath newborns
A bath 2-3 times a week is enough to keep your newborn baby clean. But if your baby really likes baths, your baby can have a bath once a day. Bathing more than this can dry out your baby’s skin.
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 bath newborns
You can bath your newborn 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 bathing your baby when they’re hungry or straight after a feed.
If bathing relaxes your baby, you can use it as a way to settle your baby for sleep in the evening.
Where to bath newborns
You can give your newborn baby 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 easier 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 off your phone while bathing your baby. You’ll be less likely to get distracted.
- Make sure you have everything you need within reach – for example, towel, washcloth, mild baby cleanser, cream or ointment, clean clothes and clean nappy.
- Avoid using soap because this will dry out your baby’s skin. You can use a mild baby cleanser instead if needed.
- Position the bath somewhere stable and at a height where you can comfortably hold your baby, like on the kitchen table.
- Fill the bath with just enough warm water to wash your baby. 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 the bath. 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 sink.
- Don’t add extra water while your baby is in the bath.
Giving newborns a bath: steps
Here are steps to bathing your baby safely and comfortably:
- Before undressing your baby, wipe their eyelids (from inner eye to outer eye) with cotton wool or a soft washcloth dipped in lukewarm water. Squeeze out extra water. Use a new piece of cotton wool or clean part of the cloth for each wipe. Then wash the 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 and shoulders with one arm, and support their body with your other arm. Gently lower your baby into the bath, feet first. Keep a close hold on your baby at all times.
- Gently wash your baby using a soft washcloth and warm water. Use mild baby cleanser if needed. Clean your baby’s neck and body first and their genitals and bottom last. Also clean out any bits of poo, vomit or milk from your baby’s body creases.
- Wash your baby’s hair once or twice a week. It’s best to do this after you wash the rest of your baby’s body, so your baby’s head doesn’t get cold. While you support your baby in the bath, gently splash water onto their head and wipe their head with a clean washcloth. You don’t need to use shampoo.
Children can drown in a few seconds in very shallow water. Never leave your baby alone in the bath, even if you’re using a bath seat or cradle. Never leave older children or siblings to supervise. If you’re disturbed by the phone or another task, take your baby out of the bath.
Drying and dressing newborns after a bath: steps
Here’s how to take your newborn baby out of the bath, ready for drying and dressing:
- Supporting your baby’s head and neck, lift your baby out of the bath then place them on their back on a clean, dry, soft towel. If possible, dry your baby on the floor so they can’t fall. If you’re changing your baby on a raised surface like a table, always keep one hand on your baby.
- Wrap your baby in a soft towel, and pat them dry. Dry your baby’s skin creases, including armpits, groin, under the chin, around the neck and behind the ears.
- If your baby’s skin is dry, apply a non-perfumed cream or ointment to their skin.
- If your baby has nappy rash, apply a thick barrier cream like zinc paste to the nappy area.
- Dress your baby, putting their nappy on first.
- Place your baby in a safe place, like a cot or bassinette.
- Empty the bath water.
Bathing your baby takes practice, so try to relax and take your time. You might like to start by bathing your baby when someone else is around to help. If you’re worried about losing your grip on your baby, you can make the bath less slippery by lining it with a clean cloth nappy or towel.
Helping newborns enjoy bath time
To help your newborn baby enjoy bath time, you can try placing your hand gently on their tummy. You can also place a warm, wet washcloth on their chest and tummy. This can help your baby feel safe and secure in the bath.
Generally, babies get used to baths by around 3 months.
For more information, check out our illustrated guide to bathing a newborn.
Keeping newborns clean between baths: top and tail baths
If your baby doesn’t like baths, you can give them a ‘top and tail’ bath one day and a proper bath the next.
A ‘top and tail’ bath is when you clean only your baby’s:
- eyes and face
You can leave most of your baby’s clothes on for a ‘top and tail’ bath. Or you can take off your baby’s clothes and wrap your baby in a soft towel.
To clean your baby’s eyes and face, start by wiping their eyelids (from inner eye to outer eye) with cotton wool or a soft washcloth dipped in lukewarm water. Use a new piece of cotton wool or clean part of the cloth for each wipe. Then wash the whole face. Don’t put anything into your baby’s ears or nose.
To clean your baby’s hands, bottom and genitals, use fresh cotton wool or a different washcloth and warm water. Use a mild baby cleanser if needed.
‘Topping and tailing’ means you can concentrate on the areas that really need a wash, and your baby can stay warm in their clothes or wrapped in a towel while you do it.