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Bathing a Baby

Bathing your newborn baby can be tricky at first, especially if you have noticed that your baby seems unhappy in the bath. But, there are few simple steps that can make bath time enjoyable and easy for you and your baby. Bathing can be such a beautiful time spent with your newborn. Also, this is an opportunity for other family members to get involved. Dads often enjoy this time, because they bond with their new baby. But, before you start bathing your baby, you need to be sure that you have all the things you need within arm’s reach of the bath.

You need to remember that it is normal for newborns to find the bath time distressing. But, in most cases, babies will quickly learn to like bath time [1]. You can try placing your hand gently on his tummy because this can help your baby to enjoy bath time. Also, this will help your baby to feel safe and secure in the bath. If your baby does not like baths, then give him a top and tail bath one day and a proper bath the next day. When your baby will be around three months, he or she will enjoy bath time, as well as you.

Bathing a Baby

How often to give your newborn a bath:

You need to bathe your baby 2 – 3 times a week, so in this way, your baby will be clean. If your baby really likes baths, then you can bathe him once a day. When you bathe him more than once, this can dry out your baby’s skin. Newborns rarely sweat or get dirty enough to need a full bath than often. You can keep your baby’s genitals clean between baths by using cotton wool and warm water. You need to bathe your baby for five to ten minutes and this is very important if your baby has dry or sensitive skin.

When to give your newborn a bath:

You can bathe your baby at any time of the day, but it is recommended to choose a time when you are relaxed and you will not be interrupted. You need to avoid bathing your baby straight after a feed or when your baby is hungry. If you baby likes a bath and you see that the bath relaxes him or her, then you can use bathing as a way to help settle for his sleep in the evening. [2]

Where to bath your newborn:

You can give your newborn a bath in a small plastic bath, or if you do not have one, you can bath in your kitchen sink. In the first few weeks, the kitchen sink might be the easiest way to bathing. When your baby gets bigger, then a plastic baby bath is the best option. It does not have to be a bathroom to bathe your baby. You can bath him in any room that is warm, safe, and clean. Also, you can shower with your baby. You need to keep your baby’s face away from the pouring water and make sure to use warm, but not water. [2]

How to get ready:

You need to give your baby a peaceful bath. You should choose a time of the day when you are not expecting any kind of interruptions, so you will have a joyful bath. The bath needs to be positioned somewhere stable and at a height where you can comfortably hold your baby (often, a table is the best solution) and you will be sure that you will have access to running water. Then, fill the bath with about 10 – 13 cm of water or enough water to allow your baby to settle in the water with their shoulders well–covered.

You can add a squirt of mild, baby bath wash to the bath and swirl around with your hand, so in this way, you can avoid drying your baby’s skin. If you have a bath thermometer, you should use it to test the water temperature. If you do not have a bath thermometer, then use your wrist rather than your hand. The water should feel neither hot nor cold. The recommended bath temperature for babies is 36 – 38 Celsius.

Now when you are ready, the first step is to top and tail:

You need to top and tail a newborn for the first month prior to bathing. In this way, you will avoid cross infection, as well as in between bathing to freshen its skin, if you are not bathing your baby every day. Top and tailing mean that you need to carefully wash your baby’s face, neck, hands and nappy area without having to totally immerse your baby in the water.


You need to lay your baby down on the floor or change the table, with clean cotton pads and a bowl of warm water near you. You should always use fresh cotton pads when you are cleansing the separate areas to avoid cross-infection. You need to undress your baby down to their nappy and wrap it in a towel to keep him warm. You should start with wiping each eye with a separate piece of cotton wool dampened with warm water and you should do it from the inner corner outwards. You should not wash its eyes themselves.

You need to use a new piece to wipe around his mouth and nose and then another clean piece for its face and ears. You should use another dampened cotton pad, clean its neck, and focus on the skin folds, behind the ears and under the arms where the milk and fluff can get trapped. Then, take another clean piece and clean the ears and face. You should never put anything like a cotton bud in your baby’s ears or nose. You should just wipe what you can see. [3]


The process of washing your baby’s genitals and nappy area is known as tailing. You need to keep your baby’s upper body covered with a towel and remove the nappy. Your baby’s genitals will self–clean to some extent and they are very delicate. So, cleaning this area requires special care. If you have a baby girl who has a very dirty nappy and the poop has got within her vaginal area, then use a fresh moist cotton pad to gently wipe the area from the top to bottom or from front to back and down the middle.

Then, use a new clean cotton pad, wipe each side within her labia. If you have a baby boy, then wash his penis and scrotum area, but avoid pulling back the foreskin and also, wiping front to back. You should not try to pull back his foreskin to clean. You should not wash the head of his penis if it is circumcised until it is healed. It is a good idea to use a barrier cream on the nappy area to protect against the causes of nappy rash. You need to dress your baby in a blanket to keep him or her warm.

Bathing time:

You need to cradle your baby’s head with one arm, gently lower him or her into the bath, feet first and keep a close hold at all times. The water needs to cover your baby’s shoulders, so they do not get cold. You need to continue to keep a good grip and support the head with one arm because they can get very slippery when they are wet.

You should use your other hand to use a washer to sprinkle some water over your baby’s skin and gently wipe clean. The last thing which you should do in bathing your baby is washing his or her hair, so your baby will not get cold.

Newborns do not have much hair, so you can sponge what is there. You need to tip his or her head back just a little, so in this way you will avoid getting your eyes wet. While you are supporting your baby’s head and neck, you need to lift him out of the bath and then put him on his back on a clean, soft, and dry towel. Wrap your baby to warm and gently pat dry his skin rather than rubbing. You need to pay attention that your baby is dry, especially in the armpits, groin, under the chin, around the neck and behind the ears, so in this way you will avoid chaffing or infection.

You can apply a baby moisturizer to lock in hydration and protect against dryness. Put your baby on its nappy. Then, apply a barrier cream to the nappy area, which can protect him from nappy rash. Medical professionals are highly recommending products containing zinc and castor oil. Some babies enjoy the warm water bath from the moment they are born, while others need a little time to get used to the new sensation on their skin. Hearing your voice and gentle touch is a nice way to increase bonding.

You can choose either talking or singing to your baby while you are bathing him. It can help him to feel supported. When you have finished will all things, dress your baby, wrap him in a warm blanket and snuggle. As time passes, bathing will be a fun time for you and your baby. [4,5]

Things to remember:

You do not try to use bath rings or bath seats, because they are for older babies, who can sit on their own and not for newborns. You should never leave your baby unattended. If you need to leave the table, then take the baby with you. You should not check the temperature of bathwater with your hand. For this purpose, you need to use a bath thermometer or your wrist to ensure it is not too hot.


[1] Goto Y, Hayasaka S, Kurihara S, Nakamura Y. Physical and mental effects of bathing: A randomized intervention study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2018;2018:9521086. doi:10.1155/2018/9521086

[2] Mardini J, Rahme C, Matar O, et al. Newborn’s first bath: any preferred timing? A pilot study from Lebanon. BMC Research Notes. 2020;13.

[3] NHS. Washing and bathing your baby. Retrieved from

[4] Bryanton J, Walsh D, Barrett M, Gaudet D. Tub bathing versus traditional sponge bathing for the newborn. Clinical Research. 2004;33(6):704-12.

[5] Duan Y, Ma L, Galzote C, et al. A randomized pilot clinical assessment of three skincare regimens on skin conditions in infants. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2019;12:895–909. doi:10.2147/CCID.S204216

Dr. Emil Sarsath (aka) Vijila, a licensed naturopathic doctor (BSMS) who always ensures his patients receive compassionate, and individualized care. He has extensive experience in primary care, digestive health, mental health, nervous system disorder and more.Area of Expertise – Naturopathic Medicine, Whole Foods-based Nutrition, Siddha, Panchakarma.She is always available through [email protected]


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