How to bathe a newborn

Bath time with your newborn is a wonderful time for bonding. Washing a slippery little human can be daunting at first, but a few tips will have you confident in no time.


The first question you might ask is whether newborns need to be bathed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a sponge bath is sufficient for a newborn until the umbilical cord stump falls off.

Midwife Doetie Groothoff agrees. “Some new mothers like to bathe their new baby daily for confidence, but a baby’s skin is a very unique organ and looks after itself,” she says. “It’s better not to use soap products every day, and they’re not necessary for the skin to be cleaned in the beginning.”

Plain water is sufficient, as are baths two to three times a week.

“Bath time is a great opportunity to see all of baby’s movements, skin colour, any reactions or unusual spots. You can check the baby’s cord stump and if your baby suffers from wind, a warm bath can help once baby is feeling comfortable in the water.”

Evening baths can help to set a night time routine, but Groothoff says mid morning is also good as the air temperature is better, baby is alert, and parents may feel more relaxed. “There’s no set rule – whatever suits the household,” she says.

Bathing 101

  • Start by getting everything you need for bath time. Have a towel, wipes, cotton balls, wash cloths, a nappy, clothing and any products you choose to use on baby during and after bath at the ready. You should never leave baby unattended in the bath or on a high surface so preparation is key.
  • Remove any jewellery that may get in the way, wash your hands, and tie your hair up so both hands can be free. Empty your bladder if needed.
  • Set the air temperature to around 68F, especially in winter. Exclude draughts. “A naked wet baby drops its body temperature very quickly,” Groothoff says.
  • Make sure your baby bath is at a comfortable height to avoid back strain. Five inches of water is enough until baby is around six months old.
  • The Mayo Clinic recommends water temperature be around 100F. If you’re not using a bath thermometer, test the temperature by sticking your elbow in the water.
  • At first, a baby feels insecure when totally naked with arms and legs that are free to move about. “A mother’s voice is the most important thing for a baby to hear now,” Groothoff says. “Mum should not be alarmed by baby’s cries as he is only doing it because he is unsure of what is happening. Use a reassuring voice and shushing tones.”
  • Support your baby’s head with one hand and use the other to guide your baby into the water feet first. Wrap your arm under your baby’s torso, being careful to support the head, and gently but securely grasp your baby under the armpit. Wash top to bottom and front to back. Wipe eyes and face with cotton balls, and don’t miss neck and thigh creases.
  • Firm your grip and lift your baby into the towel. Gently but thoroughly dry inside your baby’s skin folds to avoid rashes.

Bathtime essentials

  • Baby bath: Useful for newborns as it saves water and the contained environment can help tots feel secure. Baths can be basic tubs, or hi-tech with built-in temperature gauges like the 4Moms Infant Tub. The 4moms infant tub allows clean water to flow in, while dirty water flows out. It fits most single and double basin sinks. We also love the Boon Soak Newborn to Toddler Bathtub. It has a unique contoured bath seat that can be positioned for newborns through toddlers so you’ll never really need another baby tub.
  • Washcloths: Soft washcloths are lovely for babies. We love the feel of Little Unicorn’s cotton muslin and terry cloth Cotton Wash Cloth Set. They come in a cute Summer Poppy or Nautical Harbor theme.
  • Towels: Chilled babies get cold quickly so a fluffy towel to keep warm is a must. The just born Organic Elephant Hooded Towel Wrap is snuggly and just a tad cute.
  • Bath booties: Keep little feet warm with these absolutely adorable Milkbarn Bath Booties. They are super soft and are made with certified organic cotton terry and lined with certified organic cotton knit.
  • Bath toys: 
As baby grows, bath time is an excellent time for learning. Toys can stimulate the brain and encourage development. Try the Plui Rain Cloud by Kid O when bubs is 18 months; it will teach basic physical principles and make your little one smile. Winner.
  • Baby oil: Once baby is nice and clean, try a relaxing post-bath baby massage. We love Earth Mama Angel Baby OilRecommended by hospitals, Angel Baby Oil is infused with moisturizing organic Calendula, and has virtually no scent.