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Baby’s First Bath: How To Bathe Your Newborn

Baby’s First Bath: How To Bathe Your Newborn

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If only newborn babies came with a manual, right? Until your own little one comes into your life, you might never actually have had to give a baby a bath. Like all the new expertise you acquire when becoming a parent for the first time, the learning curve is steep! 

The good news is that you learn on the job. Immersed in the first few weeks of life with your newborn, you’ll soon gain knowledge of how to clean your baby. Here’s a guide to help you master the basics of how to bathe your newborn.


When Can I Bathe My Newborn?

Many first parents can’t wait to give their baby their first bath! But do wait until they’re truly ready. This is because the umbilical cord must remain clean and dry to prevent infection. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump falls off. This may take a week or two.

How Often To Bathe A Newborn

A good rule of thumb is to bathe your baby safely, but not too frequently. Tiny newborns have sensitive skin that dries out easily. They don’t need full tub baths every day – a couple of times a week is plenty.

But do sponge bathe your baby when they’re dirty. Spot clean your newborn around their mouth, neck and groin. If you change dirty diapers quickly and clean thoroughly, and pay attention with burp cloths, you’re already taking care of the parts that need the most attention. 

Between baths, check the folds of your baby’s skin, including thighs, armpits and chin. If necessary, gently wipe these areas with a damp washcloth or sponge.


How To Sponge Bathe A Newborn

Newborns rarely get sweaty or dirty enough to need a full bath. So, a sponge bath is perfect! Here’s how to sponge bathe your newborn:


  • Get organized! Assemble everything you’ll need: a basin of room temperature, soap-free water, a clean washcloth (try Elys & Co Washclothswhich come in a pack of three), a warm, dry hooded towel, a diaper, diaper cream and a change of clothes.


  • Start with a warm room and a flat surface. You could opt for a changing table, the kitchen counter, a firm bed or even the bathroom floor (do check for draughts, though). Spread out a changing mat, soft blanket or towel for your baby to lie on.


  • Undress your baby and wrap them in a towel. Lie them down on their back and keep one hand on them at all times. Keep them warm by only exposing the parts that you’re washing.


  • Begin with your baby’s face. Wet the washcloth with plain water and wring out the excess. Wipe your baby’s face, paying careful attention to their mouth. Wipe each eyelid from the inside to the outside corner. 


  • Now for their body. Wipe their creases under the arms, behind their ears, around their neck, in between their fingers and toes and finally their diaper area.



  • Most newborns don’t need lotion after a bath. If your baby’s skin is very dry, apply a small amount of unscented baby moisturizer to the dry areas. Your baby may enjoy the massage, though!


  • Apply diaper cream, pop their diaper on and put on their fresh clothes. Done!


how to bathe your newborn - elys & co hooded towel

How To Give A Newborn A Bath With Umbilical Cord

Until the umbilical cord falls off, it is best to give your baby sponge baths. This will keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry. Follow the sponge bath steps above. If the stump does get wet during the sponge bath, just be sure to dry it quickly. 

Afterwards, wrap your baby up in a warm towel. Pop on their diaper, and make sure you fold down the top so urine doesn’t soak into it and irritate the stump. Consider dressing your baby in loose clothing to ensure air circulates and speeds up the healing process. 


When Is My Baby Ready For A Regular Bath?

Once the umbilical area is healed, it’s time for your baby’s first bath! Keep it brief and gentle. If your little one protests, go back to sponge baths for a while, before trying again. Keep in mind these safety tips.


Check The Temperature Of The Bath Water

You’re aiming for Goldilocks temperature – neither too hot nor too cold. Around 100F (38C) is perfect. Your newborn’s skin is delicate and can scald easily. Check the water with your elbow, which is more sensitive than your hand, or use a thermometer. 


Stay With Your Baby At All Times

How much water should you put in the tub? A common recommendation is 2 inches (about 5cm). It’s not deep, but accidents can unfold very quickly. It may seem obvious, but give your baby your undivided attention while they’re in the tub. Your newborn can easily slide off their bathing seat. If you need to leave the room, wrap them up in a towel and take them with you, or ask another adult to hold the fort. 


Bathe Your Newborn In An Infant Tub 

Newborns can’t sit up without assistance. It’s not crucial to have a bathing seat but it will make life a lot easier. It’ll support their weight and help prevent them from slipping. And you’ll be hands free to enjoy the experience, rather than trying to hold on to your little one’s head and body. 

What Is The Best Bath For A Newborn?

Bathtime can be stressful for new parents. A dedicated seat or sink insert, like the Skip Hop Moby Smart Sling 3-stage Bathtub, is used for stability inside a sink or bathtub. It contains your wet, squirmy and possibly crying or screaming infant, to make the experience more pleasant for everyone!

best bath for newborn - skip hop smart sling

If you don’t have a tub or large sink, a dedicated baby bath is ideal. It’s basically a large basin you can fill and place in the shower tray, on a table or on the floor. 

When considering what is the best bath for a newborn, think about ease of use. When you’re a new parent, you need baby equipment to be foolproof. There’s no time for delays when you’re grappling with a wet, slippery baby! 

It should make life easier, not harder for you. Does it keep your hands free for washing your baby? Does it feel stable when set on a surface? Look for models that are easy to use, simple to set up, quick to clean and aren’t too bulky. We like the Stokke Flexi Bath with Heat-Sensitive Plug. The plug changes color when the water gets warm, giving you a visual cue to know when to check the water temperature.


How To Calm A Newborn During A Bath

A comfortable baby will always be easier to bathe. This usually means that their body is well supported, they have room to wriggle around and there’s enough water to keep them warm.

But what if your new baby doesn’t like being bathed? Some little ones may protest – loudly! – at getting wet. If this happens to you, don’t worry, it’s just a phase. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to calm your newborn during bath time. 


Bathe Only When Your Baby’s Fed and Rested

If your little one is tired or hungry, they’re not going to respond well to being doused in water. Make sure they’re well fed and rested before bath time. Don’t bathe them straight after a feed, however – allow some time for digestion.


Sing And Chat To Your Baby

Distract your newborn and comfort them with the sound of your voice. Sing soothing songs and talk about what you’re doing to ease their distress. They won’t understand what you're saying but they’ll be soothed by your calm tones.


Wrap Your Baby Up In The Tub

Use a hooded towel or blanket to bundle up your precious, and submerge them into the water. Unwrap each body part to clean and then wrap up again before moving on to the next bit. This will keep them feeling warm and secure.


Bathe With Your Baby

This is a great bonding experience. Your baby will love the comfort, security and warmth of your body. If you’re on your own, ensure you’ve put a non-slip mat in the tub for when you get out. Or, have another adult on hand with a warm towel to scoop up your newborn when bathtime’s over.

Knowing the basics will make bathtime a pleasure, not a chore. And remember, bathing isn’t just for getting clean. As part of a regular bedtime ritual, it’ll become a lovely way to bond with your little one and signal to them that it’s time to rest. 

Need more inspiration? Shop the PishPosh Baby Bath and Care Collection.

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