How often to give your newborn a bath
A bath 2-3 times a week is enough to keep your newborn clean. But if your baby really likes baths, your baby can bath once a day. 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.
A ‘top and tail’ bath is when you use cotton wool and warm water for your baby’s eyes and face, and a washcloth for their hands and bottom. ‘Topping and tailing’ means you can concentrate on the areas that really need a wash, and your baby can keep most of their clothes on while you do it.
When to give your newborn 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 bathing your baby when baby is 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 your newborn
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 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 your phone off 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, cream or ointment, clean clothes and clean nappy.
- Avoid using soap because this will dry out your baby’s skin. If needed, use a fragrance-free oil or a gentle non-soap cleanser at the end of the bath.
- Position the bath somewhere stable and at a height where you can comfortably hold your baby.
- 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 bath.
- Don’t add extra water while your baby is in the bath.
Giving your newborn a bath: steps
These steps make bathing your newborn easy:
- Before undressing your baby, wipe their eyelids (from inner eye to outer eye) with cotton wool dipped in lukewarm water. Squeeze out extra water. Use a new piece of cotton wool 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, keeping a close hold at all times.
- Supporting your baby’s head, lay your baby down in the bath so the back of their head is in the water. Gently splash some water onto their head. You don’t need to use shampoo.
- Gently wash your baby’s genitals and bottom last, using water only. Also clean out any bits of poo, vomit or milk from your baby’s body creases.
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 your newborn 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 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, keep one hand on your baby at all times.
- Wrap your baby in a soft towel and pat baby dry. Dry 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 your baby’s 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 baby enjoy bath time
To help your 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.
If your baby doesn’t like baths, give them a ‘top and tail’ bath one day and a proper bath the next. Generally, babies get used to baths by around three months.
For more information, check out our illustrated guide to bathing a newborn.