Westchester NY Pediatrics | Bathing Your Newborn Baby


3 times a week is plenty

Although some parents bathe their babies every day, until your little one is crawling around and getting into messes, a bath isn’t really necessary more than three times a week during the first year. Bathing your baby too often can dry out the skin.

Handling a wet, soapy and slippery newborn takes practice and confidence, so stay calm and maintain a good grip. You’ll soon find that baths can be great fun and a special bonding time between you and your baby.

Some babies love baths, others hate them

Your baby may find the warm water of a bath very soothing, in which case baths turn into long, relaxing affairs. On the other hand, your newborn may scream throughout the whole experience, making it a trying ordeal. If this is the case, five minutes is long enough to get your baby clean before the water cools down.

When to sponge, when to bathe?

For the first week or so, it’s best to give your baby sponge baths with a warm, damp washcloth rather than total immersion. Wash the face and hands thoroughly, and pay particular attention to the genital area.

After the umbilical cord stump dries up, falls off and the area heals (1-4 weeks) and/or the circumcision heals (1-2 weeks), you can start giving your newborn tub baths. While your baby is tiny, it makes the most sense to use the kitchen sink or a small plastic baby tub instead of a standard tub.

Bathing supplies:

  • a soft, clean washcloth
  • mild, unscented baby soap and shampoo
  • a soft brush to stimulate the baby’s scalp
  • towels or blankets
  • a clean diaper
  • clean clothes

Sponge baths

  1. Choose a safe, flat surface (such as a changing table, floor or counter) in a warm room. Fill a sink or bowl with warm—not hot!—water. Undress your baby and wrap him/her in a towel. Wipe your infant’s eyes with a washcloth (or a clean cotton ball) dampened with water only, starting with one eye and wiping from the inner corner to the outer corner. Use a clean corner of the washcloth or another cotton ball to wash the other eye. Clean your baby’s nose and ears with the damp washcloth. Then wet the cloth again and, using a little soap, wash his or her face gently and pat it dry.
  2. Next, using baby shampoo, create a lather and gently wash your baby’s head, then rinse. Using a wet cloth and soap, gently wash the rest of the baby, paying special attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck and in the genital area. Once you have washed those areas, make sure they are dry and then diaper and dress your baby.

Tub baths

  1. When your newborn is ready for tub baths, the first few should be gentle and brief. If your baby becomes upset, go back to sponge baths for a week or two, then try the bath again.
  2. To begin, fill a plastic infant tub with 2 to 3 inches of warm—not hot!—water. To test the water temperature, feel the water with the inside of your elbow or wrist. Undress your baby and then place him/her in the water immediately, in a warm room, to prevent chills. Make sure the water in the tub is no more than 2 to 3 inches deep, and that the water is no longer running in the tub. Use one of your hands to support your baby’s head and the other hand to guide the baby in feet-first. Then as you softly reassure your baby, slowly lower him/her up to the chest into the tub.
  3. Use a washcloth to wash the face and hair. Gently massage your baby’s scalp with the pads of your fingers or a soft baby hairbrush, including the area over the fontanelles (soft spots) on the top of the head. When you rinse the soap or shampoo from your baby’s head, cup your hand across the forehead so the suds run toward the sides and not into the eyes. Gently wash the rest of your baby’s body with water and a small amount of soap.
  4. Throughout the bath, regularly pour water gently over your baby’s body so he/she doesn’t get cold. After the bath, immediately wrap your baby in a towel, making sure to cover his/her head. Baby towels with hoods are especially good at keeping a freshly washed baby warm.

Bath safety

  1. Never leave your baby unsupervised, even for a minute. If the doorbell or phone rings and you feel you absolutely must answer it, scoop your baby up in a towel and take him/her with you.
  2. Never put your baby into a tub when the water is still running. The water can quickly get too deep or too hot.
  3. Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A baby can get third-degree burns in less than a minute at 140 degrees.
  4. Never, ever leave your child unattended. A baby can drown in less than an inch of water and in less than 60 seconds.

Count on us for information and advice to help your baby grow up healthy, safe and happy

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re a new parent or have a baby on the way, rest assured. We’ve got years and years of experience helping parents take care of their infants and we’re ready to help you with yours.

To learn about the advice, tips and guidance we offer new parents here at Westchester Health Pediatrics, CLICK HERE.

For help raising infants and toddlers, CLICK HERE.

Please contact us to discuss any of these topics. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.