Bathing a Newborn: I will NEVER be nervous again

When to bathe a newborn baby?


As I congratulate my friend on their new baby, and watch as the hospital staff came to bathe the newborn, I thought to myself- “it sure was scary to give my son that first bath.” Here are some tips on bathing your newborn from the point of view of a new parent and some that I learned from my friend’s home nurse.

Babies usually get their first “bath” in the hospital.

It is always best to observe how the staff bathe your baby so you can see first hand and replicate it later at home. Imagine you are the one bathing to help you remember.

After that first hospital bath, you can give your newborn their first SPONGE bath at home 2-3 days later.

Please note that the umbilical cord stump needs to be kept dry and fall off first, before baby can be soaked in the bath. This usually occurs after 10-21 days.


How often to bathe a newborn?


You can bathe a newborn 2-3 times a week, as long as there is no spit up and the area along their diaper is cleaned multiple times a day. They are basically wrapped asleep and stay clean all day.


What temperature is good to bathe a newborn?


The best temperature to bathe a newborn is around 37 degrees C or 98.6 degrees F. You can always buy a thermometer for an accurate temperature.


Things you need to sponge bathe a newborn?


  • A secure stable location such as a changing station or even kitchen table
  • A moisture absorbing pad/ large towel for a base
  • Bowl of warm water- usually about 250ml is enough. If you don't have a thermometer, you can use the back of your wrist or elbow to check the temperature. These areas are more sensitive to changes in temperature. A baby’s skin is very sensitive and what is warm to an adult may be too hot for baby.
  • A sponge, or 5 washcloths, or 5 small towels to wipe baby. The reason for 5 is: 1 for the head and face, 1 for the arms, 1 for the legs, 1 for chest/stomach/back, and 1 for private parts.
  • A large towel to keep baby warm.


How to sponge bathe a newborn?


Always get all the things you need before you start so you are not rushing or running around, leaving the baby unattended.

It is best to have a system, such as keeping the dry things on the top and the wet on the bottom, and all on one side.

Always keep the body areas covered until you are ready to wipe and immediately pat dry.


Once everything is ready, then undress your baby, let’s begin:


  • Make a base with a moisture absorbing pad or large towel
  • Place your naked baby on the base and cover baby with another large towel, including the head.
  • Wipe baby’s head and face with a moist sponge/washcloth/ towel- be gentle as you wipe around the eyes.
  • Uncover one arm and wipe, cover to keep warm, then switch to the other side. Pay attention to wipe between the fingers and folds such as the elbow.
  • Uncover one leg and wipe, cover to keep warm, then switch to the other side. Pay attention to wipe the folds like behind the knee and between toes.
  • Uncover baby’s chest and wipe, then gently roll baby to the side so you can wipe the back. Cover baby again to keep warm.
  • Uncover baby’s genitals and wipe. If a baby girl, wipe from front to back/ vaginal area to anus.


Things you need to bathe a newborn in a sink or tub?


  • A towel with a hood
  • A small blanket
  • A small cup/basin
  • Cotton balls to cover the ears
  • A bath body wash/soap specifically for babies
  • A soft brush or comb
  • A baby bath support


How to bathe a newborn in a sink or tub?


There are different ways and different gear to help you bathe your baby, but I found this way works best. Some guidelines to keep everything running smoothly:

Have everything ready in the sink/tub and outside the tub such as dry clothes and diaper.

Make sure water temperature is perfect before you start and keep the water running slowly- water cools if stagnant and baby will get cold.

Bathe baby from bottom to top- babies lose body heat quickly from their heads so you want to wash this part last.


Let’s begin:


  • Undress baby and place on the bath support.
  • Soak the small towel in the warm water and cover baby with it. This will keep their whole body warm.
  • Periodically use the small basin to re-soak the towel that is covering baby.
  • Uncover baby’s legs and gently lather and rinse with your bare hand. Cover with the soaked towel when you are done.

NOTE: Using your bare hand prevents oils that keep your baby’s skin moist from being wiped away by the harsh surface of some towels.

  • Uncover baby’s arms and gently lather and rinse with your bare hand. Cover with the soaked towel when you are done.
  • Use the edges of the soaked towel to gently wipe your baby’s face.
  • Use the cotton balls to cover baby’s ears or you can even gently fold their ears closed.
  • Use the small basin to wet their head and use a small amount of soap.
  • Use the baby brush to gently brush the head in a circular motion, then rinse off.
  • Use the small basin for one final rinse


Your baby is now clean! Congratulations on the first of many baths!


Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

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