Newborns Bathing

New parents often obsess about every aspect of caring for their newborns, from the socks they put on their babies’ feet to the diapers they put on their babies’ bottoms to the shampoos their use to wash their babies’ hair. One area of concern for many first-time parents is how to bathe a newborn.

Bathing a newborn isn’t a complicated process, but there are some tips that can make the process easier and some things you should keep in mind while washing your little one.

Sponge-Bathing Your Newborn

Before your newborn’s umbilical cord heals, the best way to bathe him is to give him a sponge bath. Before beginning the bath, gather the following:

  • a shallow plastic basin filled with several inches of warm water
  • a soft blanket or towel for the baby to lie on
  • a washcloth
  • change of clothes
  • clean diaper
  • cotton balls
  • extra towels
  • mild baby shampoo, if necessary
  • mild baby soap, if necessary.

Once you’ve assembled all of your supplies, you’re ready to begin bathing your baby. Follow these simple steps, being sure to always keep one hand on your baby:

  1. Lay your baby on his back on the towel or blanket.
  2. Wet the washcloth with warm water and wring out the excess moisture. Wipe your baby’s face. Do not use soap.
  3. Use damp cotton balls to wipe your baby’s eyelids, starting at the inside corner and ending at the outside corner.
  4. After washing your baby’s face, continue washing the rest of his body, paying close attention to his underarms, the area behind his ears, his neck and his diaper area. Unless your baby is especially dirty, you shouldn’t need to use soap.
  5. If your newborn’s hair is dirty or if he has cradle cap, you’ll need to wash his hair or scalp. Supporting his head and shoulders, massage a drop of baby shampoo into his scalp. Rinse the shampoo with a damp washcloth. If you baby has cradle cap, you might need to use a soft-bristled baby brush before rinsing.
  6. Use a towel to gently dry your baby before putting on his diaper and clothes.

Baby Bath Tubs

Once your baby’s umbilical cord has healed, you’re baby will be ready to be bathed in a tub. Many parents opt to buy a plastic tub specifically designed to bathe newborns. Baby bath tubs are available in a variety of styles, from plastic basins to inflatable tubs. The type of baby bath tub you purchase will depend on your personal preferences.

In lieu of buying a baby bath tub, many parents choose to simply bathe their babies in the kitchen sink. If you choose to do this, it’s a good idea to line the sink with a rubber mat or towel during bath time, to prevent your baby from slipping.

Bathing a Newborn: Safety First

Bathing a newborn can be a tricky job. When wet, babies are very slippery and can easily slide off of counters or other surfaces. Always make sure to keep one hand on your baby during bath time. Also, never leave a baby alone in the water.

Bathing Your Baby

When your baby is ready for a full bath, you’ll need the same supplies as you did when you were sponge-bathing him. You shouldn’t need to use soap on your infant. If, however, you need soap, use a mild, unscented soap that contains a moisturizer. Never use bubble bath.

To bathe your baby in a sink or tub, follow these steps:

  1. Place a few inches of warm water in the tub or sink. Always check to make sure the water isn’t too hot before beginning the bath.
  2. Place your baby in the water, making sure to support your baby’s head and torso with your arm and hand. To do this, wrap your arm around your baby’s back and firmly grasp him under his armpit.
  3. First, clean your baby’s face, neck, arms and belly, making sure to thoroughly rinse each area.
  4. Next, you need to clean your baby’s back, bottom and legs. To accomplish this, you’ll need to change arm positions. Lean your baby forward on your arm while continuing to grasp him under his armpit. Pay careful attention to his skin folds and rinse his genitals carefully.
  5. Now you’re ready to rinse your baby’s hair. To do this, support your baby’s back with your arm and keep a firm hold on his head while you rinse. Try to keep the water from getting in your baby’s eyes.
  6. When your baby is clean and rinsed, gently dry him with a soft towel. Do not put on lotion, as it can block your baby’s sweat glands and can cause a rash. When your baby is completely dry, put on a new diaper and clean clothes.


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (April 26, 2005). Bathing your newborn. Retrieved November 14, 2007, from CNN Health/Library Web site: