You don't need to bathe your baby every day. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully instead. This is often called "topping and tailing".
Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Make sure the room is warm. Get everything ready beforehand. You'll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.
Topping and tailing tips
You may find the following step-by-step guide to washing your baby useful:
- Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
- Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it doesn't get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby's eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don't transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
- Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby's ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby's ears. Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
- Take off the nappy and wash your baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
- It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they'll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you're saying.
Bathing your baby safely
You don't need to bathe your baby every day, but if they really enjoy it, there's no reason why you shouldn't.
It's best not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they're hungry or tired. Make sure the room you're bathing them in is warm.
Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water, two towels, a clean nappy, clean clothes and cotton wool.
- The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
- Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face, as described above.
- Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl.
- Once you've dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
- Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders.
- Don't add any liquid cleansers to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.
- Keep your baby's head clear of the water. Use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
- 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 any oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.
- If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn't too hot. It's easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.
Video: how do I bath my baby?
In this video, a midwife shows you how to bath your baby properly.
Media review due: 23 October 2022
Cutting your baby's nails
Some babies are born with long nails and it's important to cut them in case they scratch themselves. You can buy special baby nail clippers or small, round-ended safety scissors. If you find the idea of cutting your baby's nails too nerve-wracking, you could try filing them down with a fine emery board instead.