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Bathing your baby

Bathing your baby for the first time may feel a little scary, but it can also be fun and help you bond. All you need is a bit of preparation.

Baby's first bath

When you are bathing your baby for the first time, make sure to get everything ready first.

You will need:

  • a baby bath or clean washing up bowl – or you can use the sink
  • 2 towels
  • cotton wool
  • a clean nappy
  • clean clothes

Make sure the room is warm before you start as your baby can get cold quickly.

Fill the bath with cold water first, then add the hot water. Fill it to about 8 to 10cm.

You do not need to use any liquid cleansers – plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.

Avoid bathing your baby straight after a feed or when they're hungry or tired.

Bath temperature

Always check the bath water temperature before putting your baby in the bath. The water should not feel too hot or too cold.

To check this, dip your elbow into the bath water and it should feel the same as your body temperature.

Make sure you mix the water up well so there are no hot patches.

How to bathe your baby

  1. Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face.
  2. Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl.
  3. Once you have dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
  4. Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using 1 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.
  5. Keep your baby's head clear of the water.
  6. Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  7. Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.

If you want to massage your baby, after a bath can be good time. Massage can help your baby relax and sleep.

Avoid using lotions or oils until they are at least 1 month old. Read more tips and benefits for baby massage.

Video: How should I bath my baby?

How often should I bathe my baby?

You do not need to bathe your newborn every day – 2 or 3 times a week should be fine.

However, if you and your baby both enjoy it, there's no reason you cannot give them a daily bath.

Top and tailing

In the first few weeks you may prefer washing your baby by "topping and tailing" them. This just means using bowls of warm water to wash them, rather than using a bath.

Before you start, make sure the room is warm and you have everything you need:

  • 2 bowls of warm water
  • cotton wool
  • towel
  • a clean nappy
  • clean clothes

How to top and tail your baby

  1. 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.
  2. Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it does not 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 1 eye to another.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Read the NCT's guide to topping and tailing.

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