How to Bathe Your Baby

You've learned how to hold your beautiful baby, you've learned how to feed him or her, and now you're facing a new challenge: Baby needs a bath.

Some new parents feel anxious about bath time. Armed with a little information and preparation, you can be confident giving a bath. Here are some tips to help with bath time.

Start with a sponge bath

Don't put your baby in the tub for a few weeks after he or she is born. It's best to sponge-bathe your infant until the umbilical cord falls off and is completely healed. After that, you can place your baby in the water, making sure to support the head and neck at all times. Your baby doesn't need a bath every day. Most babies do well with 2 or 3 baths per week. You can clean the diaper area more often than this to keep this area clean.

Allow enough time to bathe your baby. You want to enjoy this special time together.

Special inflatable or sponge bathtubs are available, but they aren't necessary. You can simply place a folded towel in the base of the sink or bathtub, making sure to support the baby's head.

NEVER leave your baby alone in the tub or near water, even to answer the phone or doorbell.

Make a plan

Because you should never leave your baby alone near water, it's important to plan so that you have everything you need during the bath. Keep a hand on the baby at all times. Here is a 7-step plan for your infant's bathing comfort:

  • Assemble all your supplies in a warm room. A suggested "bath kit" includes a bathtub or basin; 2 towels and 2 washcloths; baby soap and shampoo; and a clean diaper, clothes, and a blanket.

  • Fill the bathtub with warm (not hot) water. To your touch, the water temperature should feel lukewarm.

  • Wash the baby's face first. Wet a washcloth and squeeze out any extra water, then gently wash from the nose outward, avoiding any soap near the eyes. Wipe the outer folds of your baby's ears and behind the ears with the washcloth.

  • Wash the baby's hair. If you are not using a special infant tub, wash the head and shampoo the scalp before putting the baby into a tub. If you are washing the head first, you can do so while keeping your baby wrapped in a warm towel. Wet your baby's head with water, add a small amount of shampoo, and massage his or her head. No damage can be done to the "soft spot" when handled with gentleness. Rinse and pat dry.

  • Wash the baby's body next. 

  • Once your baby is in the tub, hold his or her head in one hand. Wash his or her body with soap on a washcloth. Clean the diaper area last. Rinse with a second clean washcloth. What if your baby has a hard time getting used to the bath? Bundle him or her in a towel and place your baby, with the towel, into the bathtub. Remove the towel after a few minutes.

  • Dry your baby well, and warm him or her. Have a warm towel ready. Thoroughly dry your baby. After your baby is dry, you can then apply lotion. Make sure he or she is on a secure surface. If your baby is cold, you can place your baby against your own bare skin, covering both of you with a blanket. You can also dress your baby and swaddle him or her in a blanket.