How to bath your newborn properly

Babies should not have a full bath until they are at least 4 weeks old.

Babies should not have a full bath until they are at least 4 weeks old.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

What you need to know:

  • you should only clean your baby using a sponge for the first 4 weeks or until the umbilical cord falls off and the baby’s navel is healed.
  • More frequent bathing may be drying to the baby’s skin.

When you return home from the hospital with your newborn, it can be tricky to know how and when you should give them birth. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine and Hospital, you should only clean your baby using a sponge for the first 4 weeks or until the umbilical cord falls off and the baby’s navel is healed.

Once the baby is healed and you start normal washing, do not make it regular. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends that in the baby’s first year, restrict bathing your baby to two or three times per week. “More frequent bathing may be drying to the baby’s skin,” it states. In addition, exposing your baby very frequently during baths could be putting them at risk of contracting illnesses.

In the same vein, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), recommends that you should not wash your baby right after a meal. You should also avoid washing them when they are hungry or tired. The basic items you should have when bathing your baby include a baby bath or a clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water, 2 clean soft towels, a clean nappy or diaper, clean clothes, and cotton wool.

How to do sponge baths

The first step is to find a safe and flat surface in a warm room. You can use a table or even the floor. “Fill your bowl with warm water. Undress your baby and wrap them in a towel. Wipe their eyes with a soft washcloth or a clean cotton ball that has been dampened with water only,” states Johns Hopkins Medicine. When doing this you should start with one eye and wipe from the inner corner to the outer corner, using a clean corner of the washcloth or another cotton ball to wash the other eye. “Clean your baby's nose and ears with the damp washcloth. Then wet the cloth again and wash their face gently and pat it dry,” Johns Hopkins Medicine states in their guidelines. Once you have washed the baby’s face, clean the baby’s head and use a wet cloth and soap to gently wash the rest of the baby. “Pay attention to creases under the baby’s arms, behind the baby’s ears, around the baby’s neck, and in the genital area. Once you have washed those areas, make sure they are dry, and then diaper and dress your baby,” the guidelines state.

How to do a full bath

According to the NHS, you should follow these guidelines when giving your baby a full bath:

  • Get a sizeable bowl with warm water. You can check if the water is at the right temperature by using a bath thermometer or your elbow. When using a thermometer, the ideal temperature should be between 37 degrees Celsius and 38 degrees Celsius.
  • When adding water to your baby’s bathing basin, fill cold water first, followed by hot water. Mix the water well to avoid any hot or cold spots. This will reduce the risk of scalding your baby.
  • A baby bathtub filled up to 8 cm to 10 cm is ideal for newborns and babies aged 6 months. For older babies, a bathtub can be filled with water that reaches their hip level in a sitting position.
  • Do not add any liquid cleansers to the bathwater. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.
  • Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face.
  • Wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl or basin.
  • Once you have dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy or diaper and wipe them.
  • Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders. Then use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
  • Keep your baby's head clear of the water.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  • Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.
  • This is a good time to massage your baby. Massage can help them relax and sleep. Avoid using oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.


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