How to Bathe a Newborn Baby

Bathing your newborn for the first time can be scary, but you can help your baby have a calm and gentle first-bath experience.  This will make it much easier on both of you–!

Learn how to bathe a newborn baby…in a few simple steps!

First – Gather up ALL your supplies – whatever you think you’ll need, grab two of them: Two towels, two washcloths, two changes of clothes for baby – two diapers is really a minimum!  

Important! DON’T go get the baby yet! This step is best done by dad while mom is nursing, or while baby’s napping.

Supplies:

  • baby’s bathtub (look for a hard plastic one with a temperature indicator, and a plug to drain it from the bottom)
  • several soft washcloths
  • two towels (hooded towels are optional)
  • two changes of warm clothes (footies are great for after a bath, because they keep in body heat so well)
  • 2-3 clean diapers
  • a box of wipes
  • a pitcher or cup for pouring water on baby
  • baby soap and/or shampoo (they often have “bodywash” that doubles as shampoo)

Consider turning down the A/C, and turn off any ceiling fans for now.  Maybe put the bathroom heater on, too.  

How to Bathe a Newborn:

Fill up baby’s tub (inside the bathtub) with water that feels just slightly warm to you.  You can get a clever tub with a safe temperature indicator on it if you’d like.  Make sure you can reach the baby soap and/or shampoo from here, as well as the dry towel, a dry washcloth, and some sort of plastic container for pouring water over baby.

→  Put down something soft on the floor beside the tub to save your knees!

Once everything is in place, the room is warm, the tub is filled with several inches of water at the correct temperature – then you can go get baby!  

You can undress him in the warm bathroom (close the door against drafts).  Wait a moment before removing his diaper (or, open and then close it again for about 15-30 seconds), because sometimes the removal of clothes triggers them to empty their bladders.  

Then, slowly, place baby into the water, talking softly to her and watching for any unpleasant reactions to this new sensation!

Wash baby from the top down, working quickly to keep her warm.  First, using a small amount of soap, and either your hand or a wet washcloth – wash her head, hair, and behind the head, getting into the folds of her neck.  

Then, use the cup to rinse – pour clean water over her head (from the bathtub itself).  Most babies (unlike toddlers!) don’t seem to react in fear or pain if water runs into their open eyes.  

Once her head is rinsed, place one of the dry washcloths on top of her head, to keep it warm and dry!  Then, you can focus on washing the hands, between the fingers, the creases of the arms…then the feet, toes, creases of the legs, and finally, the diaper area.  

The final step is to wash baby’s back.  You can gently roll baby onto your forearm, so that you can reach baby’s back and bottom with your other hand.  This can be done quickly and safely, without actually lifting up a slippery, wet baby!  

If the water in the tub is either too cold or too sudsy (You’ll know to use less soap next time!), you can add some extra rinse water using the cup and the bathtub taps.  Some babies are startled by the loud noise of the tap running, so do be aware of that.

Now, you can drain the bathtub, and you can spread a dry towel across your chest, so that when you pick up baby, he can be wrapped up into a dry, warm towel immediately.  

Optional – put some lotion or natural baby massage oil on your baby’s skin before dressing and diapering him.

Many babies love this step as they get older, and it protects their skin from excessive dryness as well.  

You can even try some basic baby massage techniques during this step – but be sure to have a clean diaper either already on him, or spread out underneath him and  ready to fasten!  You can take baby into another room to do this – but be mindful of the temperature difference in the bathroom versus the rest of the house.  Keep him wrapped up and warm until he’s dry and dressed!

Cuddle your warm, clean, happy baby!  You can clean up the bathroom later.  

Wring out the wet things and hang them up to dry.  Hopefully your bathtub can be propped up inside the tub to air-dry as well.  

Notice in this scenario, we didn’t use the wipes or the extra diaper.  They are on the list of supplies just in case – but they are crucial items to have on hand when the need does arise!

Babies don’t need daily baths – usually 2-3 times a week is sufficient, and every time you do it, you’ll get better at it, and baby will not only be bigger and therefore easier to handle, but she’ll know what to expect as well.

Congrats – now you can bathe a newborn baby with confidence!


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