How to bathe your baby

Baby bath

Bathing for the first time

Even if you were shown how to bathe your baby in hospital – perhaps even having your first go with a member of staff standing by – it can still be quite a daunting experience when you get home and have to do it yourself!

Lots of mums find it easier to give their baby a sponge bath for the first week or so, until they feel more comfortable handling their baby. For this, you’ll just need to clean your baby with a warm, wet flannel or sponge. Do this in a warm room and keep a warm towel underneath them for drying them off.

What things will I need to bathe my baby?

Bathing your baby is easier if you’re well prepared. So, before you start, these are the things you’ll need:

  • A plastic baby bath. Much smaller in size than a regular bath so it makes the task of bathing your baby much safer. The other plus is that you can move it into the warmest room to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature. Try and place it at a good working height so that you don’t have to bend your back too much – popping it onto a table works well.
  • A couple of warm towels.
  • Cotton wool.
  • A baby sponge or cotton flannel.
  • For newborn babies, plain water is sufficient as some newborn baby products may have perfumes and chemicals that may cause skin irritation. If you do use a cleanser, look for a mild, pH neutral one and use it sparingly.
  • A clean nappy.
  • Nappy cream.
  • Clean clothes or bedclothes.

Bathing your baby – one step at a time

  • When you bathe your baby, the main thing is to keep them warm so that they don’t lose too much body heat. Make sure before you start that the room and bath water is warm.
  • Run the water into the bath first without the baby inside. Take care to mix it well to avoid any hot spots and make sure the water level isn’t too high. It’s also important to test it before you begin bathing by dipping your elbow into the water. The bath water should feel warm but not tepid and certainly not hot.
  • Undress your baby to their nappy and gently clean their eyes, ears, face and neck creases, using some clean cotton wool for each area.
  • If your baby needs their hair washing it’s easier to do this before you put them into the bath. Wrap them in a towel with their arms and legs tucked in so they feel safe and support their head and shoulders with your forearm. You might also want to tuck their body under your arm.  Hold your baby over the bath slightly to avoid water going into their eyes and use your other hand to scoop water over their head. Then dry your baby’s hair. You only need to wash your baby’s hair (using a mild baby shampoo) once or twice a week. The rest of the time plain old water will do.
  • When you want to bathe your baby, unwrap them and remove their nappy. Chat away to them in a soothing voice to reassure them. Gently lower them into the bath, cradling their head and shoulders with your forearm and hand. You can then use your other hand to swish water gently over their body.
  • After a few minutes lift your baby out of the water, taking care to hold onto them firmly – their skin can be quite slippery! Wrap back into the towel and rest them on another warm towel or changing mat. Pat them dry carefully, paying special attention to the skin creases in their neck, arms and legs. Pop a clean nappy on, apply any nappy cream if they need it and get them dressed again.

If you’re still feeling unsure, your midwife will be happy to show you a way to bathe your baby that works best for you. Once you get the hang of it and get some practice in, you’ll grow in confidence and bathing your baby will be one of those little priceless moments you’ll come to treasure!


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