water babies:
a guide to bathing your newborn

Bathing your newborn baby can be a lot of fun, but not everyone takes to the water happily at first. Some will be very noisy about how much they hate it! Not to worry: babies don't need bathing every day. You can keep them clean by 'top and tailing' in the meantime, before trying again a week or so later as they get used to the water.

baby getting ready for some baby bath tub fun

what is top and tailing?

This is an easy way to keep your baby clean when you aren't able to give them a bath. In the first few months, your baby doesn't need to be bathed a lot: as long as they're clean and changed regularly, they should be fine.

To top and tail your little one, you’ll need

soft cotton wool

a bowl of warm water

a towel

clean clothes and a nappy

It's best to tackle this job when your baby is relaxed. Try it just before nap time or when they've just woken up and they're too sleepy to protest!

how to give your baby a quick clean

Lay your baby on a waterproof changing mat and wet some clean cotton wool in the bowl of warm water. Start with your baby’s face, wiping gently from the inside of their eyes outwards. Use a clean piece of cotton wool for each part of their face.

Only undress your baby as much as you need. Their arms and body should be okay to be cleaned using a baby wipe so keep a vest on them when you move on to their bottom.

Make sure you clean in the creases around your baby’s groin. But for baby boys, you shouldn’t force the foreskin back to wash underneath it and it’s not necessary to wash inside a girl’s labia. Finish up by washing their bottom and rub in some cream if it looks red or sore. Keep chatting to your little one as you go, to reassure them and help them relax.

be prepared

Wriggly babies can get slippery when wet, so when you're trying a full bath for the first time. Be prepared with everything you need to hand: a baby bath or clean top and tail bowl full of clean warm water, two towels, a clean nappy, clean baby toiletries, clothes and cotton wool.

first wash your baby's hair

Before bathing, wrap your baby in a towel and tuck him under your arm (a rugby hold!) remember to keep his nappy on at this stage! Gently wash his hair – using a little baby shampoo if necessary. Rinse and then dry your baby’s hair on the change mat. Next you need to remove your baby’s nappy and wash his bottom – your baby is now ready for his bath.

For the first few times, you might want to have your partner with you so you can all get the hang of bathtime together.

how to bathe a newborn

Using a baby bath support, which props up your newborn in the water, means your hands are free to interact with your little darling. Find a foam or fabric support that will grip to the bottom of your tub and hold up their head.

Lower your baby carefully into the water with one hand supporting their bottom and resting their head on your forearm. Then gently swish water over their little body, keeping their head above water at all times. In the first month, plain water is the best thing for your baby's skin – there's no need for soap.

Babies can’t regulate their temperature like adults can, so the temperature of the bath water is very important. Invest in a thermometer to check that it’s just right for your little one. Bath water should be around 36 degrees C and room temperature around 20. When it's time to come out, have a soft, clean towel to snuggle them head to toe right away – as if you could resist!

Remember never ever leave your baby alone in the bath or in a bath support. Babies and young children can drown in a matter of seconds.