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What is topping and tailing?

What is topping and tailing?

In the early days you may not bath baby every day. Topping and tailing baby is an alternative way to clean them, starting at their head and ending at their bottom.
    2-minutes read

    At a glance

    Use cooled boiled water and cotton wool for eyes

    Is your room warm enough? Newborns get cold easily


    Dry baby well after cleaning, taking special care with the folds of skin

    Talking gently to baby can help them relax and help you bond

    How to top and tail your baby

    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

    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 cool boiled water.

    4. Grab a soft towel.

    5. Get some cotton pads or a very soft flannel. If using baby wipes make sure they are unperfumed and suitable for newborns.

    6. Get your nappy supplies ready: a clean nappy and unperfumed nappy cream.

    7. Have a fresh outfit ready where you’ll be drying baby.

    8. Make sure your hands are washed and jewellery removed.

    Parent cleaning newborn's face with cotton wool

    Now you’re ready to top and tail

    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.

    1. Dip the cotton wool in the cool boiled 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 the 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, to try and prevent nappy rash developing, before putting a new nappy on.

    8. Baby nails grow surprisingly quickly, and they can scratch themselves. Use special baby nail clippers for a little 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.


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