how to bathe a newborn, mom bathing newborn baby

How to bathe a newborn

Even though there’s nothing quite like that freshly clean baby smell, there are other reasons why it’s important to bathe your baby.

Baby baths are important for psychological, emotional and practical reasons. Baths can be a soothing experience and can help calm a fussy baby. Bathing is also good bonding for you and your baby.

But most importantly, babies need baths to keep their skin, body and hair clean.

Luis Garcia, MD, a pediatrician at OSF HealthCare, shared his tips to parents about bathing a newborn.

When to start bathing your newborn

You can start bathing your newborn right away when you get home. The nurses at the hospital likely gave your baby their first bath at the hospital.

For their first few baths for your newborn, give your baby sponge baths. Babies don’t need to be submerged in a tub of water in the first few weeks.

Once your baby is about six weeks old, you can start to bathe them in a baby bathtub.

How often should you bathe a newborn

Baths help clean your baby’s diaper area. Without regular baths, your baby is more likely to develop diaper rash.

But too many baths can dry out your baby’s skin.

“Babies don’t need a bath every day throughout that whole first year,” Dr. Garcia said.

“Three times a week is a good approach.”

You can bathe your baby more often if you need to. You should bathe your baby after a messy meal or a big blowout.

If your baby is messy but they don’t need a full bath, you can wipe them down with a damp washcloth. Using baby wipes on your baby’s face is OK every now and then. Most baby wipes have alcohol in them, so they can dry out or irritate your baby’s skin.

Keeping your baby safe in the bath

When you start to bathe your baby in a baby bathtub, don’t use too hot or too cold water. Use warm water. Babies’ bodies heat up faster than adults’ bodies. So, their little bodies are much more sensitive to hot water. A good rule is to use water that is just a little bit warmer than body temperature.

Don’t fill baby bathtubs too high. Babies can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.

Lastly, never leave your baby unattended in the tub ever.

How to bathe a newborn

How to give your baby a sponge bath

Soak a soft washcloth with warm (not hot) water and a little bit of gentle baby soap. Don’t let the washcloth get sudsy. Wipe your baby down from top to bottom, including their hair. Rinse the washcloth with new water and wipe your baby down again.

How to give your baby a bath in a bathtub

After your baby is sitting up on their own – around 6 to 9 months – you can start to bathe them in the bathtub. Fill the tub with a couple of inches of water.

Many babies like to play with toys in the tub. Make sure that whatever toys your baby plays with are safe.

Just like when you sponge bathe your baby, use a soft washcloth to wash your baby from top to bottom. Dr. Garcia says any soap that is baby safe and hypoallergenic is good for babies one month and older. You can use a combination of baby shampoo and body wash. Or you can use two separate soaps. As long as everything is baby safe.

However, too much soap can dry out your baby’s skin.

“We don’t need to use soap at every bath. Anything to avoid overexposure to chemicals is best,” Dr. Garcia said.

Be sure to get all your baby’s cracks and crevices – behind their ears, between their toes and in their diaper area. Use a cup to rinse the suds away. Try to avoid getting water or soap in your baby’s eyes.

Use a soft towel to dry your baby after a bath. Don’t rub them with the towel. Pat them dry to avoid irritating the skin.

After your baby’s bath

Dr. Garcia shared some tips on your baby’s skin care.

Lotion: “You can use baby lotion after their bath to keep their skin soft and soothed,” Dr. Garcia said. “For any products, read the ingredients. If you don’t know, ask your baby’s pediatrician.”

Eczema: For babies with very dry skin, they may have eczema. If your baby has eczema, you can try wet wrap therapy. To do wet wrap therapy, simply wet some towels with warm water. Wrap the affected area for a few minutes at a time.

Baby powders: “Baby powders are not safe due to some chemicals that are linked to developing cancer in the future. The risks outweigh the benefits,” Dr. Garcia said.

Nail care: “An easy way to cut newborn baby nails is to file them down to avoid that fear of cutting their nails too short and to take the edges off,” Dr. Garcia said.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity, Kids & Family