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Your step-by-step guide on how to bathe a newborn

In Newborn

    4-minutes read

    At a glance

    Never leave baby unattended in the bath. Have everything you might need to hand before they take a dip

    Gently wipe baby’s eyes with cooled boiled water and cotton wool

     

    Bathing in numbers: Maximum 5-8 cm of warm water. Maximum 38°C.
     

    Remember, when drying baby, don’t forget the creases

    Bath time! Washing your newborn can be a wonderful experience. Some people bathe with their baby. It’s less relaxing and less bubbly than you might like but it’s a nice little bonding ritual if you have someone to hand you both a towel. Or else go with the trusted baby bath.

    Remember it’s very important to never leave your baby unattended in the bath.

    How often should you bathe a newborn baby?

    There's no need to bathe them every day and you can wait a few days before bathing baby for the first time. For the first few days you could ‘top and tail’ baby instead - learn how to here.

    Topping and tailing might be a good idea while they’ve still got their umbilical cord stump. It’s best to keep this part clean and dry to avoid infection. You could wipe it with fresh cotton wool dipped in cooled boiled water each day and gently pat it dry. If it’s still hanging in there after a week ask you midwife what they think.

    We’re going to say it again. It's very important to never leave your baby unattended in the bath, even for a moment, no matter how shallow it seems.

    Things you’ll need for bathing baby

    • Baby bath
    • Bath thermometer if you’re using a baby bath
    • Towel
    • Small plastic bowl with cool boiled water
    • Cotton wool
    • New nappy
    • Clean clothes to change your baby into
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    How to bathe your newborn

    1. Before you start, have everything at hand and remove any rings or bracelets.

    2. Fill the baby bath with 5-8cm of warm water. Run the cold water first, then add the hot water to avoid hot spots.

    3. Use a bath thermometer to make sure the water is no more than 38°C. Then test it yourself before putting baby in. Use your elbow to check the water is warm, not hot to the touch.

    4. Undress your baby down to their nappy. Keep them warmly wrapped in a towel while you wash their face and eyes.

    5. Use cotton wool balls moistened with cooled, boiled water and check the temperature of the water before. Wipe from the inside of the eye outward, using each piece of cotton wool once only.

    6. Remove the baby’s nappy and lower them into the bath. To hold them firmly but gently, place one hand around the back and grip under their arm, with your wrist or forearm supporting their head, your other hand is then free to wash them. If your baby has vernix (a creamy white protective layer on the skin at birth) try to leave it as it helps act as a protective barrier for those first days. It will absorb into the skin soon.

    7. Lift your baby out of the bath, with one hand around the back and the other gripping under their arm. Your wrist or forearm should support their head. Wrap them in a towel, remembering to cover their head, and pat dry, (don’t forget the creases.) Then put on a nappy and dress them as soon as possible.

    Once baby is nicely patted dry and before that sleepsuit goes on, you could try a relaxing bit of baby massage. You’ll want the heating on already so they’re nice and comfy for this. Not sure where to start? Read more about baby massage before you break out the oils.

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    How to hold a newborn

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    What is topping and tailing?

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    Important advice to mothers

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.