Baby Bath Basics
Babies don’t need to be bathed every day, until perhaps the point that they are crawling and getting messy with weaning.
However, they do need daily cleaning and the top-and-tail method is ideal.
This involves cleaning the baby without putting them fully in a bath or wash basin.
How do I top-and-tail my baby?
Before you start, it’s a good idea to get all the things you’ll need to hand – a bowl of warm water, some cotton wool, a soft cloth, a towel for drying, a clean nappy, and fresh clothes. Turn on the radiator, or run the shower for a few minutes, to warm up the room before you start to bathe your little one – keeping your newborn warm is important.
Start by undressing your baby, leaving only his nappy on. You can wrap him in a towel to keep his warm while you wash his face and hair.
Use some damp cotton wool to gently clean your baby’s eyes – wipe each eye outwards from the nose in one smooth motion. Use a new piece of cotton wool for each eye, then repeat this step on their nostrils. With a warm, soft cloth, wipe your baby’s face and neck, then pat dry gently with a soft towel.
You can also wash your baby’s hair during top-and-tailing if you think it’s needed. Simply run the damp cloth from the front of their head to the nape of their neck. There is no need to use shampoos at this stage.
Next, clean baby’s hands, and underarms in the same way, taking care to dry all the little creases carefully and gently.
Now lay your baby across your knees, so that you can move on to his stomach and gently clean the belly button. This area is especially important for newborns until the remnants of the umbilical cord stump has fallen off.
You can now take off baby’s nappy and start to wash their bottom and genitals, making sure to clean the bottom from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria.
Using a warm cloth once again, wash baby’s legs and feet, taking care to clean the creases at the top of the legs and between the toes.
Now the washing is done, make sure your baby is fully dry (particularly in hard to reach fold and creases, behind ears, between toes, etc) and then dress as quickly as possible to prevent him from getting cold.
How do I bathe my baby?
Many parents find it easier to bathe their baby in a specially designed baby bath.
Make sure the room is kept warm, as your baby won’t like to be cold. Then place the baby bath on a well-supported surface and gather together all the items you will need for bath time.
Ensure the water is not too cold or too hot, 37-38ºC is about the right level, 36ºC for a newborn. Many parents find a bath thermometer helps them to get the water just right. Or you can test it with your elbow – the water should feel the same temperature as your skin.
Unfortunately, many babies aren’t as keen on bath time as we would like them to be, so try singing or talking to your baby throughout to keep them calm. Being prepared before you start will mean bath time can be a quick dip if your baby is really not happy.
Gently place your baby into the bath, making sure to support his head and shoulders throughout. The easiest way to do this – don’t forget, he’ll be slippery! – is by holding baby under the arm on the side furthest from you, so your forearm is behind his head and shoulders. This helps to keep baby in a secure position, while also allowing you to keep your other arm free for washing. You will also then be able to use your free hand to support baby’s bottom as you are lifting him into and out of the water.
When the time does come to introduce a mild soap, it will make your baby a bit more slippery in the bath. It’s important to make sure you have a secure grip on your baby so that they do not slide down under the water.
Start by washing baby’s hair. You can use a specially formulated infant shampoo, but baby’s hair only needs washing with shampoo if it is dirty. Otherwise, just warm water will do.
Wash all areas of their body, as outlined in the top-and-tailing section above, working from their head down. Ensure baby’s face is kept out of the water and that he is kept well supported.
Gently lift your baby from the bath and pat her dry with a soft towel. Don’t rub, as baby’s skin is too delicate and this could cause irritation.
You may opt to use an oil or emollient on your baby’s skin. Pay particular attention to the folds and creases, as this is where much of the dryness can occur.