You’ve gone through the pregnancy, the labour, the first car ride home (at 30km an hour the WHOLE way). You’ve done the first feeds, the first MASSIVE poo change, probably even the first sleepless night. So what’s on the new baby agenda? It’s time for the first of many baths!
The first time bathing a baby is always a bit awkward. In fact, it can be awkward for a few days or even weeks, especially as your itty bitty baby is so small, soft, squishy and slippery!
Don’t worry if you feel like you’re doing it wrong. You’re probably not. But, check out our how to bathe a baby guideline just to be sure.
Most common baby bath questions
1. How often to bathe a newborn?
Probably not as often as you’d think. Two or three times a week is sufficient for a newborn. Once they are a bit older, you may want to bathe baby every night as part of the bedtime routine. A warm bath, a baby massage, a bit of bottle/boob and bed.
2. When’s the best time?
This depends on your routine, but most parents bathe bub at night. However, you may find it works better to give a bath in the middle of the day before a big sleep. Up to you, really. Just choose a time when bub is alert and not hungry.
3. What to use?
You can purchase an infant bath which is ideal for itty bitty babies, but you don’t have to. A kitchen sink will work. You can also get special bath supports and seats to use in the main tub. I picked up one at Kmart for $10.
4. What about soap?
5. What about shampoo and conditioner?
Some mums prefer to use a combination product when it comes to bath time, such as Cetaphil Baby Gentle Wash and Shampoo. It’s tear-free, soap-free, hypoallergenic and can be used from head to toe. However, you can also purchase tear-free shampoo on its own if you’d prefer.
You can pick up the whole range of Cetaphil Baby including Cetaphil Baby Massage Oil, Moisturising Bath & Wash, Shampoo, Daily Lotion and Gentle Wash & Shampoo at Woolworths, Coles, Priceline or Chemist Warehouse.
6. What else do you need?
One or two clean cotton washcloths and a towel for after. You should also have bub’s nappy, clothes and lotion out and ready.
7. What temperature should I put the water at?
37°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, use your elbow. The water should feel warm, not hot.
8. How long should I bathe bub?
Five minutes is enough.
9. How much water should I use?
Just enough water to cover the bottom of his body is enough which is around 5 cm of water for babies up to six months.
10. What about the cord?
If the baby’s umbilical cord stump is still attached or hasn’t healed, stick to a light sponge bath rather than a full soak. Use a clean, warm washcloth and dab around the area.
- Take off your jewellery and wash your hands.
- Position your bath – If you’re using a baby bath, make sure it’s stable and at a comfortable height such as on the kitchen table.
- Gather your supplies – Towel, washcloth, baby shampoo, etc.
- Check the temperature of the room – Keep the room warm (no air cons or fans) so that baby won’t get cold when nudey rudey. Keep the windows shut to avoid drafts.
- Fill the bath – Around 5cm of water for babies up to six months.
- Check the water temperature – 37° C.
- Turn the water off – Never put the baby in the water while it’s still running.
- Get a grip – Hold your baby securely with one of your arms under his head and the other supporting his bum.
- Lower in feet first. Once baby is in, hold him slightly up right with one arm and use the other arm to bathe him.
Washing baby’s face
Baby’s eyes can get a little crusty so start by dipping a corner of a washcloth into the warm water and gently wiping one eye, starting from the inner corner outward. Do the same to the other eye.
Wet the entire washcloth and gently wash your little one’s face, especially around his mouth and chin. These areas can get extra dirty with baby drool and spit-up. Wash inside and behind the ears – very very gently!
TIP: You can wash baby’s face before you actually put baby in the bath if you are worried about him being too cold.
Washing baby’s hair
Support your baby’s head and lay him down in the bath so that the back of his head is submerged. Then gently splash water over his head. You can add a dab of shampoo and gently rub if you’d like. Gently splash water over his head to remove the suds.
Washing baby’s body
Dip the washcloth back in the water and wash bub’s neck and torso. Move to under the arms and between each finger. Make sure you get all of those adorable baby skin folds, especially around the neck.
Washing baby’s genitals
When it comes to your baby’s bits, there’s no need to get too intense. A gentle brush over will do the trick. Make sure you wipe front to back with your little girl and, if you have a baby boy recently circumcised, wipe his penis clean. If the baby isn’t circumcised there’s no need to pull the skin back.
Getting out of the bath
Baby’s all clean. Now what? First of all, make sure you have the open towel placed beside you. Gentle lift baby out of the water supporting the head and body. Place bub down on the towel and pat your baby dry. Don’t rub.
You may want to use a baby lotion such as Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion, to soothe baby’s skin and keep it hydrated. Have a read of our article on infant massage if you’d like to incorporate massage into your bath and bed routine. We highly recommend you do!
Next, nappy, clothes and a safe place to put baby down. Once bub is settled, you can empty the bathwater and put everything away.
Sweet baby bath bliss
Your baby may not take to a bath straight away. My daughter howled the first few times. Then she scowled during the next few. Eventually, her howls and scowls turned to acceptance and delight. Now it’s her favourite time of the day.
Once bub does enjoy the bath, you may find that bathing baby becomes a much-loved bonding session for the two of you. Heck, it may even relax both of you AND promote a better night’s sleep. One can dream, right?
What to read next
- Help! My Baby Hates Bath Time! What Can I Do?
- Infant Massage: How to do it
- The Clever Hack to Make Swim or Bath Time More Fun for Baby (and Less Stress for You)
- Baby Essentials Checklist: Everything You Need for Baby