Bathing a Newborn Baby

Bathing a newborn should be a pleasurable bonding experience for both baby and the person bathing him or her.

Firstly make sure that you have everything you need within arm’s reach, especially if you are on your own with baby and don’t have someone close by to get a forgotten item for you.  Remember you should never ever leave a baby unattended while bathing them, not even for a second!

The items you will need are:

Baby bath Changing mat Towel Wash cloth Clean nappy Clean set of clothes

There is no need to fill the baby bath with more than a couple of inches of water.  Make sure the water is no hotter than about 37 degrees (body temperature).  A newborn baby’s delicate skin is not used to hot water and water any hotter than this could scald or at the very least dry out baby’s skin.  If you do not have a thermometer to hand then test the water with your wrists to see if it feels too hot.  If in doubt then let the water cool down a bit more.  Soaps and shampoos are unnecessary and may dry out your baby’s skin.  Plain water is all that is needed. 

Lay the towel on top of the changing mat (you don’t want to have to do this afterward with one hand while holding a wet slippery newborn with the other hand!).  Lay your baby on top of the towel and undress them, leaving their nappy on for now. 

Take the wash cloth and wet it with the bath water.  Wipe over each of your baby’s eyes in turn.  Then wipe their whole face and neck area, remembering to clean in and around the ears gently.  Keep smiling at your baby and making eye contact to reassure them that this is a nice experience.        

Now pick up your baby and holding them in one arm, lean them backwards over the baby bath (their nappy should still be on at this point to avoid them peeing on you, or something worse!).  With your other hand scoop some water over their head to wash their head and hair (if they have any).  How your baby reacts to this will depend on your baby.  Remember to keep reassuring them with your smile and your voice.

Lay your baby back down on the towel and dry their hair gently.  Now remove the nappy.  Keeping your baby supported with one arm at all times slowly immerse them in the water.  With the wash cloth wash the rest of their body making sure you wash all the creases of the arms and legs, under the arms and the nappy area gently but thoroughly.  Be especially careful around the belly button area which may not have healed yet.  Always keep one arm under your baby to stop them from slipping under the water and to support their head and neck.  Don’t leave your baby in the water for too long as it could have a drying effect on their skin. 

When you are satisfied that baby has been thoroughly washed, lift them out of the water and lay them down on the towel.  Wrap the towel around them to keep them warm and help dry them quickly.  Gently pat the skin dry.  Do not rub as this could make their skin sore.  Make sure you dry any creases of skin thoroughly, including under the arms and between the fingers and toes.  Again be extra careful around the belly button area.    

Now put on the clean nappy and dress them in the clean clothes as quickly as possible to prevent them from getting cold.  If your baby gets upset at any point during the bathing or drying experience, singing to them usually works wonders! 

Your newborn may feel tired after their bath so it may be time for some milk and a sleep. 

You may wish to incorporate baby massage into the bath time routine.  There are many books on this subject which will teach you the basics.  There are also baby massage classes which you and your baby can attend.

Happy bath time!