How to Bathe Your Newborn

Your baby’s first bath is not only one of the earliest milestones but also a moment to treasure. Although bathing a slippery, squirming, and sometimes screaming baby takes some practice, it will get easier with every bath.

Read on to learn all about when to give your little one a bath, how to bathe your newborn, and how often your little one may need to be bathed during these first few months.

How Often Should You Bathe Your Newborn?

You may be surprised to learn that your newborn doesn’t need that many baths. Three times per week is enough if you thoroughly clean the diaper area at each diaper change.

It’s best not to give daily baths because frequently bathing your newborn may dry her skin.

When Will Your Baby Be Ready for His First Tub Bath?

After your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, you can transition from sponge baths to actual baths in a sink or a baby bathtub.

His first bath in a tub should be gentle and quick; however, you might need to go back to sponge baths if your baby fusses a lot and simply doesn’t like this new activity. Learn how to clean your baby’s eyes, ears, and nose, as this is a delicate area for your newborn.

Can You Bathe Your Baby While the Umbilical Cord Stump Is Still Attached?

During your baby’s first few weeks, while the umbilical cord stump is still attached, you should only give sponge baths.

A sponge bath is as simple as wrapping your baby in a towel, and wiping her with a damp washcloth and soapy water. You’ll want to do this on a comfortable surface such as a changing table. Keep your baby wrapped in the towel, bathing one part at a time.

The umbilical cord stump typically falls off in a few weeks. If it stays on longer than that, you might want to check with your baby’s healthcare provider.

You’ll want the umbilical cord stump to dry up and fall off on its own, which is why only sponge baths are recommended until that time. After the stump falls off, you may start to notice your little one has an adorable innie or outie belly button.

How to Give Your Baby a Bath

Get everything ready before you start your baby's bath:

  • Ensure that all the supplies you need like shampoo, soap, a hooded towel, and a cup for rinsing are within arm’s reach—never leave your baby unattended in the bath, so make sure you have everything you need on hand, including your baby’s fresh change of clothes

  • Make sure the room is warm before undressing your baby.

Follow these step-by-step guidelines for bathing your baby:

  1. Line a sink or baby bathtub with a towel, and fill it about 2 inches full of warm water (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit)—test it with your elbow or the inside of your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot

  2. While supporting your baby’s head with your non-dominant hand, use your other hand to guide him into the water feet first. You’ll want to do this swiftly so he doesn’t get cold, and you’ll want to make sure his head and most of his body are above the water level

  3. Wash his body from top to bottom with clear water, and, if you prefer, a mild baby soap. Keep him warm by pouring warm water over his body using a cup. Use a soft cloth to wash his face

  4. If he has hair, it’s enough to shampoo once or twice a week. When you do, massage a drop of mild baby shampoo into his scalp, even the soft spots (fontanelles) of his head. Be careful not to get any soapsuds or shampoo in his eyes—cup your hands over his forehead when rinsing his head. If some soap or shampoo does get into his eyes, go ahead and wipe them using a cloth dampened with clear water.

After bathing and toweling off your baby, it’s a good idea to moisturize his skin with a fragrance-free hypoallergenic lotion. This step can help prevent dry skin or even eczema

If your baby has cradle cap, a skin condition on the scalp that results in scaly skin, bath time is a good opportunity to brush his scalp while shampooing his hair.

Remember, during bath time, if by chance you forget something, don’t leave your baby unattended in the bath water. Lift him out of the sink or tub and take him with you.

When Is the Best Time of Day to Give Your Baby a Bath?

There is no one perfect time to give your baby a bath—it’s your decision. Choose a time when you’re least likely to be interrupted and when your baby is calm.

You may like to give your baby a bath in the daytime because she’ll naturally be more alert. Or, you may give your baby a bath at nighttime as part of her bedtime routine.

If you plan to give your baby a bath after feeding her, wait a while to ensure her tummy has had a chance to settle.

Can You Give Your Baby Bath Toys?

Keep in mind that for infants, you don’t need any bath toys at all, as splashing around in the water will be enough entertainment. As your baby gets older, you can add some floating baby toys or even waterproof books to keep him occupied.

Eventually, your baby will start to enjoy baths, and at some point, it will become more like playtime than bath time. When she’s bigger, let your little one splash around and have some fun in the water.

Between your baby’s baths, you’ll probably be doing a lot of diapering. Why not get rewarded for all your efforts? Download the Pampers Club app to turn your Pampers purchases into rewards.

How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.