Bathing your new baby may feel a little daunting at first, and a few questions for nerve-wracked first-timers may cover a wide range of concerns such as: What do I actually need for bathing my baby? How will I know if the water is too hot or too cold? Will I be able to keep a grip of a wet baby? How often do I need to bathe my baby?

Bathing newborn babies

Like anything new, bathing your baby may take a bit of practice before you feel confident, but once you get the hang of it, bath time can become an enjoyable and relaxing experience for you and your baby. It’s important to remember that as long as your baby is clean and healthy, there are no set rules on how you have to do it. Nonetheless, these guidelines may prove helpful.

  • Showers – If you’re bathing a newborn baby, you may prefer to take them into the shower with you. As you hold them against your chest, you can just gently wash them. (It may also be quite nice for Dad to get involved in showering with baby – the hairs on his chest could be handy for baby to hold onto!) Just remember to keep the water temperature warm, rather than hot.
  • Sink washes – A number of change tables include a baby bath underneath the changing mat. The benefit of these, especially for mums who have had a caesarean delivery, is that they are at a comfortable height. However, they do need filling and draining, which may make them a bit awkward to move around. A good alternative to these baby baths is simply to use the kitchen sink – just make sure it’s clean before you start. You’ll find that it’s at a height just as comfortable for washing baby as for washing dishes.
  • Baby baths – The other alternative is to bathe your baby in a baby bath, either placed on a stand or counter or placed in your full-sized bath. Baby baths are not very expensive, only need a certain amount of water and can be positioned at a comfortable height. However, it won’t be long before your baby outgrows the baby bath and you need to find somewhere to store it.
  • Sponge baths – You don’t need to wash your newborn baby every day; two or three times a week is fine at first. Between full baths, you can also give your baby a sponge bath – hold the baby on your lap and with a bowl warm of water nearby, remove the minimum amount of clothes at a time and gently sponge baby clean.

The basics needed for bathing your baby

Before taking the plunge, so to speak, get everything you will need for baby’s bath time. Here’s a suggested list:

  • Baby bath (see above for alternatives)
  • Changing mat
  • Bowl of cooled boiled water
  • Cotton wool
  • Cotton buds (optional)
  • Thick, fluffy bath towel (warmed on towel rail, if you have one)
  • Baby bath, lotion and/or baby shampoo
  • Baby powder
  • Nappy changing equipment and a clean nappy
  • Clean clothes

A few guidelines for a safe and happy baby bath time

To keep baby warm and comfortable, as well as clean, follow these guidelines for stress-free baby bathing:

  • Babies feel the cold quickly, so make sure the room you are bathing him in is warm and draught free – about 21 degrees (a warmed towel is also nice for him to be wrapped in)
  • Add cold water first, then hot water – before you start bathing baby
  • Keep the water shallow (up to 13cm)
  • Always check the temperature of the water to make sure it is comfortable for your baby
  • If you are using a full-sized bath already, make sure that taps are not hot or dripping hot water – wrap a towel or flannel around them
  • If your baby can’t sit up yet, always support him behind the neck whilst he’s in the water
  • Don’t allow your baby to pull himself up or stand unsupported in the bath
  • Bath your baby when he is not tired, not hungry and not just after he has eaten (straight after a feed may make him sick)
  • Add some baby bath oil to the water – it’s less drying than soap and makes cleaning your baby easier (newborns can be washed with just water at first)
  • Smile and chat to your baby and play with the water – help your baby associate water and bath time with fun
  • Let baby play with sponges, plastic cups and rubber ducks
  • Dry your baby as quickly as possible when he’s out of the water and dress him quickly to keep him warm

Finally, never leave your baby unattended in the bath – not even for a second!