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How to Bathe Your Baby

You've learned how to hold your beautiful baby, you've learned how to feed them, and now you're facing a new challenge: Baby needs a bath.

Some new parents feel anxious about bath time. Armed with a little information and preparation, you can be confident giving a bath. Here are some tips to help with bath time.

Your baby doesn't need a bath every day. Most babies do well with 2 or 3 baths per week. You can clean the diaper area more often to keep it clean.

Sponge bath

Your baby's healthcare provider may recommend sponge-bathing your baby until the umbilical cord falls off. After that, you can place your baby in the water.

Allow enough time to bathe your baby. You want to enjoy this special time together. Gather your supplies in a warm room. A suggested "sponge bath kit" includes a basin, towels and washcloths, baby soap and shampoo, and a clean diaper, clothes, and a blanket.

Lay your baby on a flat surface that is comfortable for both of you. This may be a changing table, bed, floor, or counter next to the sink. Pad hard surfaces with a blanket or a fluffy towel.

To sponge bathe, undress your baby and swaddle them in a towel with the head exposed. Wash your baby's face first, being careful not to get water into their eyes or mouth. Don't use soap on your baby's face. Then wash the rest of your baby's body. Wash the diaper area last. Uncover only the parts of the body you are washing. Keep the rest of your baby covered to keep them warm. Wash, rinse, and pat dry each part of the body.

Never leave your baby alone in the tub or near water, even to answer the phone or doorbell. If your baby is on a surface above the floor, always use a safety strap and keep one hand on them to prevent falls.

Tub bath

Because you should never leave your baby alone near water, it's important to plan so that you have everything you need during the bath. Keep a hand on the baby at all times. Here is a plan for your baby's bathing comfort:

  • Assemble all your supplies in a warm room. A suggested "bath kit" includes a bathtub or basin; towels and washcloths; baby soap and shampoo; and a clean diaper, clothes, and a blanket.

  • Fill the bathtub with warm (not hot) water. To your touch, the water temperature should feel lukewarm. Don't hold your baby under running water. The temperature can change, and your baby could be scalded or chilled quickly.

  • Wash the baby's face first. Wet a washcloth and squeeze out any extra water, then gently wash from the nose outward. Don't use soap on the face. Wipe the outer folds of your baby's ears and behind the ears with the washcloth.

  • Wash the baby's body next. Support their head and neck at all times. Gently wash your baby's body with soap on a washcloth. Clean between all skin folds. Be sure to clean between the fingers and toes. Clean the diaper area last.

  • What if your baby has a hard time getting used to the bath? Swaddle your baby in a towel with the head exposed. Then place your baby, with the towel, into the bathtub. Uncover only the parts of the body you are washing. Keep the rest of your baby swaddled. This is called swaddled bathing.

  • Dry your baby well and warm them. Have a warm towel ready. Thoroughly dry your baby. After your baby is dry, you can then apply fragrance-free lotion to help prevent dry skin. Make sure your baby is on a secure surface. If your baby is cold, you can place your baby against your bare skin, covering both of you with a blanket. You can also dress your baby and swaddle them in a blanket.

  • Wash your baby's scalp and hair. Wrap your baby in a warm towel with their head exposed. Hold your baby in a football position. Support the head and neck with one hand. Use your other hand to wash the hair with a small amount of baby shampoo. Massage their entire scalp gently, including the area over their soft spots. Rinse completely. Use caution so the soap does not get into the eyes. Pat dry with a towel.

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.