If you watch nurses give newborns their first bath, you will be impressed by their confidence and dexterity. For a new parent, learning to bathe your new baby takes a little practice. (It might even be nice to have someone there to help the first few times.)
The key elements to bathing your newborn? Make sure they are safe, keep them warm, and get them clean.
#1 Pick your method
In the beginning, especially when the baby has her umbilical cord or his circumcision is still healing, you will want to give a sponge bath. This is a great way to start because you can have your baby on a safe, comfortable surface and just uncover and wash one part at a time.
Later, you can do a submersion bath in a small plastic tub or kitchen sink.
As mentioned above, the kitchen sink or a small plastic tub are both great for babies. The small tub can be placed anywhere that is warm, safe, and clean: in a sink or regular tub, on the floor, or on a counter. If you have the tub on an elevated surface, take special care that the tub and the baby are always secure.
#3 How Often?
2-3 baths a week are all that newborns need. If the bath is soothing, you can do it up to 7 days a week. Newborn baths can be a quick 3-5 minutes. Anytime of day is good—just avoid bathing your baby when they are hungry or have just eaten.
#4 Gather your supplies
Here is a quick list of what you need to have read to go before you start undressing baby:
Towel (with a hood is nice)
Cream (if baby has a rash)
Soft brush to help with cradle cap (optional)
#5 Check that temperature
You might like a nice, hot shower, but not a baby. Make sure the water is warm. Not hot or cold.
Here are steps to follow on the road to becoming a master baby bath-giver:
Turn off your phone and remove jewelry that might scratch the baby.
Gather your supplies.
Make sure the tub is in a secure location.
Position towel and clean diaper.
Fill the tub. You can use a large cup to fill if you have placed the tub on the floor.
Put a little bit of mild soap in the water and/or on a washcloth.
Undress baby, taking off diaper last.
Put the baby in the tub, feet first.
Supporting their head the entire time, lay them in the water and use your other hand to gently splash water or use a washcloth.
Start with the head (avoid soap in eyes), work downward. Make sure to clean all the rolls and crevices.
When you are done, continue to support their head and wrap the baby in a towel and pat them dry.
Put on a diaper and then dress the baby.
Remember, never leave a baby unattended in the tub, even for a second. If your baby cries during a bath, make sure the room is warm enough and the water isn’t too hot or too cold. You can put a warm wet washcloth on your baby’s belly to help them feel warmer and more secure. Not all babies like baths, especially in the beginning, so feel free to give a sponge bath or a VERY fast submersion bath until they are more comfortable.
#7 After the bath
Once the baby is dressed, warm, and in a safe place, enjoy that clean-baby smell. Later, you can clean up for next time.
After a few baths, you will be a pro, just like those newborn nurses!
Tennessee Family Doulas offer postpartum support. We understand the needs of postpartum women and newborns. Our Postpartum Doulas are available for short shifts, daytime help, overnight support and even live in care.
During our time with you, we help with everything—even baths. Soon, things will feel smoother and you will gain a sense of control. Your baby will become more predictable and you will continue to recover from birth.
We would love to hear from you!