How To Bathe A Newborn: What To Know, From How Often To Best Time

How Do You Bathe A Newborn? What To Know About Baby’s First Bath

January 25, 2016 Updated April 16, 2021

portrait of Asian baby is being bathed by his mother using tub at home
Prasit photo/Getty Images

Figuring out how to bathe a newborn for the first time is one of the scariest first tasks of motherhood. That’s why a lot of us choose to have other, more experienced relatives help us with a baby’s first bath at home. In other words, you’ve got baby’s grandparents on speed dial for this very purpose. And hey, that’s understandable — anything involving water and a squirmy delicate new baby definitely feels like it has the potential to turn into a catastrophe. But we’re here to tell you that you got this! Mastering the art of baby bathing is within your reach. And once it is, you’re in for a world of relaxing delight… especially if you have a baby who loves the water.

So let us demystify the art of baby bathing. Before you know it, you’ll be sudsing up your little cutie like a total parenting pro.

Looking for more baby care tips? We have pages on baby bondingbow-legged babies“am I ready for a baby” quote page, and more. 

How often should I bathe my baby?

Newsflash: You do not have to bathe your baby every day. Two to three times a week should be plenty in those first few months. Which makes sense, right? At that point, your baby really isn’t getting into too much. Plus, it’s best to avoid frequent baths so baby’s delicate skin doesn’t dry out.

What is the best time to bathe my baby?

There is no one best time to bathe your baby. Many people choose to do the bath before bedtime, as it can help calm your baby and put them in a sleepy mood. Some babies even fall asleep in the bathtub, which — as long as they’re in the safety of your arms — is friggin’ adorable! But you should do what works best for your routine. However, it can help to have your baby alert and awake for their bath. So if you’re too exhausted in the evenings, a daytime bath might work best for your family at first.

When should baby have their first bath?

Your newborn will probably get bathed at the hospital for the first time, meaning you might even be able to wait a day or two after you’re released until you tackle their first bath at home.

The Mayo Clinic recommends not immersing your baby in water until their umbilical cord falls off, which should happen sometime in their first couple weeks of life. So until that happens, stick with a sponge bath.

Bath Tips
Bathing babies can be fun, but it can also be a bit challenging and slippery. So if you want to ensure your baby has a clean and safe bath, here are some tips to get started.

  • Make sure the bathroom door is closed so that there’s no draft in the bathroom. 
  • After the bath, wrap your baby in a warm blanket immediately. 
  • Make sure to clean behind their ears, and between their finger and toes. It’s often overlooked and you want to ensure every part of your baby’s body is squeaky clean. 
  • We all know bubble baths are fun, but avoid having them so often. Too many can allow bacteria to form in your little princess’s vaginal area. 

How do I give my newborn a sponge bath?

A sponge bath can be given on any flat, comfortable surface. A bath counter, a changing table, a bed, even the floor — just make sure the surface is padded with something soft and warm, like a blanket or a towel. If you do choose to bathe your baby somewhere high, though, get everything ready ahead of time so you can have a hand on your baby at all times. You will need a towel and a dampened, soap-free washcloth to clean your baby with, as well as a basin of warm water to re-wet your washcloth. Next up? Follow these tips.

  • Keep your cutie covered with a towel so they don’t get cold, as babies truly can get chills super fast.
  • Start by washing their face gently with the washcloth, and then move on to the rest of the body.
  • Do the diaper area last.
  • You will want to wash especially carefully between all those adorable baby creases, making sure to dry them after.

Voila, you did it! The sponge bath is much less daunting than the baby bath, and a great way to first dip your and your baby’s (literal) toes into the water.

How do you ensure your baby’s safety during bath time?

A really important safety key to giving your baby a bath is to be fully attentive and alert. You should always have at least one hand on your baby. Seriously, we cannot stress this enough — you want that baby within reach at all times. This is one thing you are going to want to be pedantic about because the most critical aspect of water safety with your kids is to never leave them unattended in or by water. That means that you need to get all your materials first (towel, soap, washcloth, a plastic cup, etc.). Place them within easy reach. If you need anything during the bath, have someone else bring it to you, or take your baby out of the bath to go get it.

Before you start the bath, let’s talk about depth and water temperature. The water should be around two inches deep, and the water temperature should be around 100 degrees. So, warm but not hot. You will want to test the water with the inside of your elbow, which is more sensitive than your hand. If you are fancy and have a water thermometer, use that, too! The AAP recommends changing your water temperature to not go beyond 120 F to avoid burns. And keep the room where you give baby their bath warm to avoid them getting a chill.

Where should you bathe your baby?

You can bathe your baby in the sink or in a baby tub. Avoid using bath seats, as they could be dangerous if your baby tips over. There are all kinds of cute baby baths out there. Just make sure the baby tub was manufactured after October 2017. This means it should meet all the latest regulations.

But you don’t need to buy a tub at all — your bathroom or (very clean and product-free!) kitchen sink will certainly work.

Should I wash my baby’s face every day?

Between the spitting up, drinking milk and kisses, washing your baby’s face regularly is important to their hygiene. You may not have to bathe baby daily, but you should wash their face, neck, hands, and butt each day. These parts of their body get the most action and harbor the most germs. When cleaning baby, make sure the room is warm, and the infant’s awake. Some mamas call this cleaning process topping and tailing. 

So, what are the steps to bathe a newborn?

Now that you’re ready, let’s get started. Here’s a step-by-step rundown.

  • Guide your baby gently into the water, supporting their head and neck.
  • Keep your baby as warm as possible during this process, pouring warm water over them as needed.
  • If your baby tub has head support, you will want to just have your non-dominant hand securing them.
  • If it doesn’t, support your baby’s neck and head with your non-dominant arm.
  • Wash your baby gently with a washcloth again, making sure to get to those creases.
  • Use baby soap, shampoo, or any soap with a low pH.
  • Use product sparingly to avoid drying out their sensitive skin.
  • Massage their entire scalp, covering their forehead and eyes when you rinse.
  • If any get into their eyes, wash it with a clean washcloth.

As a final note, take your time! Both while you’re getting ready and during the bath. If it takes you an hour to prep and give the baby bath, that’s totally fine (as long as your baby stays warm). You want to make sure you’re being safe, and that the bath is a joyful and peaceful experience for you and your baby. Maybe have a relaxing playlist. If they’re enjoying the water and are not getting cold, use the opportunity to bond with your baby.

How do you make bath time fun?

Cleanliness isn’t always entertaining. However, you can make your baby’s bath time a barrel of laughs by using these fun tub tips.

  • Put some waterproof toys into the bathtub. Think of these items as seasonings and the tub as a pot of soup. If you overdo it with the toys, they can overpower the bath, which makes it harder to clean your kid.
  • Play your child’s favorite audiobook. That way you can have story time without getting your actual books wet.

What next?

Once you’re done, take the baby out of the water, wrapping their body and head in a towel. Then gently dry them off, paying particular attention again to those creases in the neck, arms, and legs. If you’re applying any baby moisturizer, maybe have a little post-bath time massage to relax.

And that’s it. You did it. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a nice snack or warm drink. Another parenting challenge mastered!