How to Give a Proper Newborn Bath - A Step by Step Guide

Learning how to give a newborn baby a bath is one area that many parents want guidance. It is uncharted territory for a new parent, and frankly – it’s a bit scary.

The bathing needs of your child change between the first few weeks and the later months. Learning the best ways to clean your baby will help the uneasiness of the task subside.

If you have a newborn baby, and you are wondering the steps, techniques, and supplies needed for giving a baby bath, follow along with this guide for giving a proper baby bath.

1. Bathing a Baby with Umbilical Cord Stump

Until the umbilical cord falls off, it is important to utilize sponge baths. The umbilical cord needs to be kept clean and dry, as most doctors now recommend to leave it completely alone to naturally heal.

Supplies Needed

  • Soft washcloth
  • Basin of warm water
  • Basin of warm soapy water (use a mild soap for babies)
  • Soft towel to dry off

Steps to give a newborn bath

  1. Get your supplies together first – Being ready for the bath keeps your baby from getting cold.
  2. Get the right water temperature - the water temperature, should not be above 120 Fahrenheit. You can adjust your water heater so the water is ideal for your baby.
  3. Ensure the room is warm - once warm, lay your baby on a flat, comfortable surface. Make sure to keep an eye on the baby at all times. We like to wrap our baby in a towel and only expose the areas that we are cleaning at the moment.
  4. Wash your babies face first - Use only the warm water for the face to avoid getting soap in your newborn's eyes or mouth.
  5. Move to soapy water on the body – Dip your washcloth into the soapy water and bathe the rest of your baby’s body – ending with the diaper area.

    For soap, choose a mild baby wash that doesn't have any added scents or dyes, as these can irritate the skin.

  6. Pay close attention to certain areas - when bathing a newborn, pay special attention to creases on the arms, legs, or neck. Carefully wash behind their ears

How often you need to bathe a newborn

As we age, bathing becomes more of a daily practice – but newborns do not need to be bathed daily.

As long as you are cleaning the face, hands, neck and diaper area daily, you can get away with giving your newborn a bath two or three times per week.

2. When to Move Baby to a Baby Bathtub

After the umbilical cord has fallen off, somewhere between 7-21 days, it is time to move your baby to a baby bathtub.

Choose a baby tubthat is designed to keep your baby from slipping. Some can be quite cumbersome so select what fits best for storage in your home. A bath seat can also be a good option for some families.

If your child happens to hate the transition to a baby bathtub, don't try to force it. Instead, place your baby on a soft towel, and do more of a sponge bath by cleaning them with the washcloth. Gradually add more water on a washcloth, so they get used to having more water pour over their body.

Supplies Needed

  • Soft washcloth
  • Mild soap for babies
  • Mild shampoo if your baby has hair
  • Cup for rinsing off body
  • Soft towel to dry off

Steps to giving a bath in a baby bathtub

  1. Never leave your baby unattended – babies can drown in 1 inch of water. So always take precautions to be attentive during bath time.
  2. Use a similar routine as the sponge bath – First, you will want to gently set your child in the tub to avoid the shock of a new feeling.You should still begin with the baby's face and move down to dirtier parts of the body. It also keeps rinsed areas from getting soapy again.Utilize a cup to pour warm water on the baby throughout the bath in order to keep them warm.
  3. Wash their hair with shampoo – If your baby has hair, use shampoo 1-2 times per week. Give them a gentle massage over their entire scalp.When ready to rinse, we have found it easiest to cup our hand around our babies forehead so water flows to the sides and not in the eyes.
  4. Allow play time – As your baby ages (3-5 months) allow a little time to splash and explore in their tub. The more they enjoy a bath, the less fear they will have moving forward.
  5. Handling accidents - Occasionally, your child may pee or poop while in the tub. It’s a little gross, but it does happen.While you'll need to clean the tub if the child poops, urine is sterile and is okay, provided it does not get in their mouths. If you are uncomfortable, you can begin the bath again.

How much water you need in a baby bathtub

While there is no set standard for the amount of water needed for a baby bathtub, generally parents use about 2 inches of water.

It is generally safe to have up to 4 inches of water, just make sure that most of your child’s body is above the water level for safety.

3. When to stop using a baby bathtub

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As your child grows, the baby bathtub becomes too small of a vessel for a proper bath. Most parents transition from a baby bathtub to the regular tub around 5-6 months or when their child can sit up unassisted.

Some need to move their little one earlier if they become too wiggly or try to roll and get out of the small tub.

Transitioning from baby tub to regular bathtub

Just as all transitions in your baby’s life, moving to the regular tub should be a gradual process. It is best to put the baby bathtub in the regular tub for a few baths, to get them used to the new area.

We would also put our little one in the empty tub before bath time, just to orientate them with the feeling of sitting in the tub.

It is best to use some sort of mat for your child to prevent slipping in the tub. You can even use a normal towel under them.

Start introducing toys

As they become comfortable with their new big bathtub, start to introduce toys. Toys become an invaluable tool for distraction when bathing your child. Spending time exploring or partaking in bath specific sensory activities make bath time fun and educational for your child.

A toy scoop and storage system is a key tool in your bath time arsenal to keep the budding pile of toys dry and contained once bath time has ended.

Keeping your baby safe

As with the baby bathtub, it is important to never leave your child unattended. Bath time can be a tedious and wet task, spending a long time on your knees. Find something to save your knees when giving a bath!

It is also important to baby proof the tub! A spout cover helps to alleviate bumps and bruises on an exploratory child.

Hopefully, this guide helps to make your next bath time a little simpler and safer. Once you get the hang of it, giving your baby a bath becomes easier, and the initial stress will fade.

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