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baby getting hands cleaned

What is topping and tailing?

In the early days you may not bath your baby every day, topping and tailing is an alternative way to clean them.

    3-minutes read


    In the very first days when your newborn is tiny, delicate and brand new and their umbilical cord is still attached you may find it easier to top and tail instead of giving them a bath. It’s not only a quick and easy way to keep baby clean it’s also a lovely opportunity for bonding and skin-to-skin contact.

    Before you start a toppings bath

    1. Prepare cooled boiled water in a bowl for cleaning baby’s eyes.
    2. Make sure the room is warm enough – around 24 °C.
    3. Have a basin of warm water.
    4. Grab a soft towel.
    5. Get some cotton pads or a very soft flannel.
    6. Get your nappy supplies ready: a clean nappy and unperfumed nappy rash cream.
    7. Have a fresh outfit ready where you’ll be drying baby.
    8. Make sure your hands are washed and jewellery removed.
    baby getting a toppings bath

    How to top and tail a baby

    Undress your baby down to just their nappy (which will save any messy accidents) lay them on a changing mat and snuggle them up in a soft towel ready for topping and tailing.

    1. Dip the cotton wool in the warm water and wipe gently around the eyes from the nose outwards.

    2. Use a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye so you don’t spread any infection.

    3. Use a fresh piece of cotton wool dipped in warm water to clean around the ears, avoiding the inside. Never use cotton buds in their ears.

    4. Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the flannel or cotton wool.

    5. Keep your baby’s umbilical cord stump clean and dry to avoid infection. Give it a wipe with fresh cotton wool dipped in cooled boiled water each day and gently pat it dry. It should drop off after about ten days but if you have any concerns or questions talk to your midwife.

    6. Remove baby’s nappy for this next bit. Wash baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Then dry very gently, not forgetting to dry between the little skin folds.

    7. Once baby’s bottom is completely dry use a simple unperfumed nappy barrier cream if needed, before putting a new nappy on.

    8. Baby nails grow surprisingly quickly, and they can scratch themselves. Use special baby nail clippers for very careful trimming. Or try a fine emery board to shorten and smooth the nails instead.

    9. Talking to baby while topping and tailing can help them relax and enjoy bonding and skin-to-skin contact with you.

    Read our handy checklist on topping and tailing.

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