How to bath your baby – a step-by-step process from newborn to beyond

Bath baby

Bath time is a wonderful way to bond with your baby. The process can even contribute to your baby’s mental development and aid sleep if you follow a safe and effective routine. So, wake up your baby’s senses and encourage them to fall in love with the water, with my step-by-step process on how to bath the baby from newborn to beyond!

Set the scene

Think about how you would like to enjoy your bath time. You’d want the lights turned down low, with a little bit of serenity flowing through in the form of music. When you’re bathing a little one, you will most likely be on your knees, so setting the scene can include:

  • Dimmed lights or candles out of reach
  • Light classical music or sleep meditation music in the background – you can play baby’s favourite tunes as well if they are a bit older
  • Choose a time when the baby is awake and happy
  • It is advisable not to bath baby straight after you have fed them or when they are hungry or tired.
  • Keep the room temperature nice and warm
  • Have everything you need within distance to bath baby, so you don’t have to get up
  • A soft towel or cushion to protect your knees

What do I need to bath my baby?

Newborn to 3 months

  • A bowl of warm water
  • Cotton towel
  • Cotton wool (cotton wool balls work quite well)
  • A fresh nappy
  • Clean clothes, if necessary
  • A nappy bag to discard used cotton wool

3 months Onwards

When travelling

Two babies bathing

Topping and Tailing a newborn up to a few months old

If you’re quite nervous about bathing your baby for the first time, you can afford to wait until you feel more confident. There is a way you can wash baby regularly without having to bath them, and this method is called ‘Topping and Tailing’, where you just wash his/her face and bottom. When you become more confident (and this can be at any time you choose), then you can move your baby to a small bath, your main bath or the sink. You can even get into the tub with him/her.


The steps I took to top and tail my two boys were:

  • Hold baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat
  • Take their clothes off, except for vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel
  • Make sure your hands are clean. Take cotton wool and dip into warm water, making sure it doesn’t get too wet.
  • Wipe gently around your baby’s eyes from the nose outwards.
  • Make sure to use fresh cotton wool for each eye, so you don’t transfer any germs from one eye to the other.
  • Take another cotton wool and dip into the warm water. Clean around and behind the ears, but not inside them. Do not use cotton buds to clean inside your baby’s ears either as this is dangerous.
  • Take another cotton wool and wash your baby’s face, neck and hands in the same way. Make sure to clean under the folds as these parts can get quite dirty and if not cleaned properly can cause a rash.
  • Dry gently with a towel
  • Now take off your baby’s nappy and wash baby’s bottom and genital parts with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Make sure to dry carefully and in between skin folds to prevent a rash occurring
  • Place a clean nappy on the baby when finished.

Bathing a newborn up to a few months old

Again, you don’t have to bath your baby every day, but if they enjoy the process, then it’s an excellent bonding time for you both.

  • Check that the water is warm, not hot (around 37 degrees). You can buy a thermometer to check the temperature the first few times, but soon you will be able to tell using your wrist or elbow. Stir the water too to make sure there are no hot spots
  • Hold baby on your knee and clean their face first using the first part of the ‘Top and Tail’ technique above
  • Then, support them over the bath or baby bath and wash their hair with plain, not soapy water. Tilt their head back slightly, so the water flows down the back of their head, and not on their face. Make sure to support their neck securely.
  • Grab a towel and dry their hair gently.
  • Take off their nappy and wipe away any mess if needed
  • Lower baby gently again in the bath or bowl and using one hand, support their head, shoulders and upper arm. Keep your baby’s head away from the water
  • Using your other hand, gently cover the baby’s body with water without splashing, concentrating on folds in the skin, and making sure any dirt is gently cleaned away
  • Lift your baby out and pat them dry, again paying particular attention to the skin folds and making sure they are dry

Do’s and don’ts of bathing

  • Don’t add any soap in the water. Plain water is best for baby’s skin up to their first month at least.
  • Never leave the baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  • If your baby doesn’t look like they are enjoying the process and cries, then try bathing together. Make sure to get someone to help bring the baby to you and take the baby away while you get in and out of the water.

I used to sing along to the music or talk to my boys about anything and everything when following the above technique, as this would calm them and make them concentrate on me as I got to work cleaning them. You may think at this age that babies cannot understand what you’re saying, but subconsciously they’re storing everything and the more they hear your voice, the more they’ll understand and the calmer they will be at bathtime.

Baby massage

Baby massage is a great way to relax baby and help them sleep after a lovely relaxing bath. It is essential to not use any oils or lotions until your baby is at least one month old. If you would like to soften the skin during a baby massage, then it is recommended to use 1 or 2 drops of sunflower oil in the bath, so there isn’t any friction during massage.

Grooming

After bathtime is a good time to cut baby’s nails as they are relaxed. It’s good practice to regularly check baby’s nails as otherwise, they can scratch themselves. You can buy special baby scissors which are small enough, but you can always use a fine emery board if the thought scares you.

Bathtime shouldn’t be a stressful process. Follow the above steps to ensure that bathtime is a fun and relaxing part of baby’s bedtime routine.

*In collaboration with Fifi & Friends*

Leyla Preston (582 Posts)

Leyla Preston is the owner and Editor of Motherhood Diaries global magazine for parents. Leyla is a busy mother of two even busier boys; Aron, 8, and Aidan, 6. When Leyla isn’t feeding, managing a gazillion tasks or cleaning the infinite mess at home, she is busy working on this magazine and a new cooking channel coming very soon – no rest for the wicked! You can follow Leyla on Twitter (@M_Diaries) or join the busy Motherhood Diaries Facebook group where all mums get together and share stories and solutions with one another: https://www.facebook.com//groups/motherhooddiaries/