It is up to you how often you bathe your baby. Some babies love being in the water, and giving your baby a warm bath can become a fun and relaxing ritual.
That’s not to say you have to bathe your baby every day. If your baby is newborn, a bath two times or three times a week is enough to keep him clean.
Bear in mind that if you live in a hard water area, too much tap water may dry out and damage your baby’s skin.
- wash your baby’s face regularly
- clean your baby’s genitals and bottom after each nappy change
- wipe any grime off his skin
When you do bathe your baby you may find it a little scary the first few times. You may want to have someone with you to give you a bit of support. It’s also helpful if you’ve forgotten something you need for your baby. Until you get into a routine, you’ll probably find this is a common occurrence!
Handling a wriggling, wet and slippery baby takes practice and confidence, but you and your baby will get used to bath time and start to enjoy it. Most babies find warm water soothing and a bath may help a fussy baby to relax and calm down.
Where should I bathe my baby?
To begin with you may find it easier to use the kitchen sink or a small plastic baby bath.
You could use your big bath, but it can be awkward as you need to kneel or lean over the side. If you do use your big bath, it may help to use a bathing seat or support, a rubber mat or sponge bath base.
When should I bath my baby?
Choose a time of day when you’re not expecting any interruptions and have time to devote to your baby. It is best if your baby is awake and contented before you start, and between feeds, so he’s neither hungry nor full.
When your baby is newborn you may find it easiest to bath him during the day. But after a few months, a bath can become part of his bedtime routine.
Warm water can help to relax your baby and make him sleepy. It is also an opportunity for other family members to get involved. Bath time is a part of baby care that dads often enjoy taking on.
If someone comes to the door or the phone rings and you feel you must answer it, scoop your baby up and take him with you.
Never leave your baby unattended in the bath, not even for a few seconds. That could be all the time it takes for your baby to get into difficulty in the water. Even if one of your older children is in the bath with him, or you are using a special bath, bath support or bath seat, you must stay with your baby.
What’s the best way to give my baby a bath?
At first, bathing your baby may seem like a huge undertaking, with all the things you have to remember to have to hand. It will get easier. It won’t be long before your baby’s bath becomes another routine you’ve got down to a fine art.
Before you start your baby’s bath, gather all the things you’ll need. These may include:
- A bowl of warm water for face washing
- Several clean pieces of cotton wool
- A sponge or flannel
- A liquid baby cleanser or bath emollient that’s mildly acidic (around pH 5.5), as this will protect the natural acidity of your baby’s skin
- At least one clean, dry towel. Hooded towels are good for wrapping up your baby from top to toe
- A bath thermometer, if you have one, for testing water temperature
- A muslin square, old flannel or towel if you have a baby boy. He may do a wee when his nappy comes off and he feels the fresh air on his skin
- A clean nappy and clothes
- A warm blanket
Before you bathe your baby, wash his face. It is easier than trying to do it while your baby is in the water. There is no need to use soap or cleanser on your baby’s face.
Wash your baby’s face with clean pieces of cotton wool dipped in warm water and squeezed out.
If your baby has dried mucus in his eyes or nostrils, dab it first to soften the mucus. Wipe each eye from the nose outwards with a fresh piece of dampened cotton wool.
Now, follow these steps to make baby bathing easy:
- Keep the room warm and close windows and doors if there is a draught.
- Put cold water in the bath first, then hot, so that the bath water is comfortably warm.
- Use a bath thermometer, if you have one, to check that the water is about 37 degrees C to 38 degrees C. Or use your elbow, rather than your hand, to gauge the temperature. It should feel neither hot nor cold.
- For newborns and babies up to six months old, fill the bath with about 13cm (5in) of water. Or just make sure there’s enough to allow your baby to settle in the water with his shoulders well covered. Never fill the bath more than waist-high (in sitting position) for older babies.
- Bring your baby to the bath area, undress him and remove his nappy. If there’s poo in the nappy, clean your baby’s genitals and bottom before putting him in the bath.
- Gradually slip your baby into the bath. Use one arm to support his neck and head, and slip your hand round to hold his arm. With your other hand, support his bottom.
- Continue to keep a good grip and support his head with one arm, as he may get quite slippery when he’s wet, and use your other hand to wash him.
- Wash your baby with water, or use a liquid baby cleanser or bath emollient that is mildly acidic (around pH 5.5). If your baby’s skin is dry or tender, you could add a little bath emollient to the water. The emollient will make your baby slippery to handle, though.
- Use your hand, a flannel or a sponge to clean your baby from top to bottom and front to back. For your baby’s genitals, a routine wash is all that is needed.
- Lift your baby out of the bath, and straight on to a dry towel. Wrap him up warm and pat him, rather than rub him dry before putting a nappy on.
- Then wrap your baby in a dry towel or blanket again and give him a cuddle to help keep him warm. You may want to smooth on a mild moisturising lotion, cream or oil first if his skin is dry.
- Dress your baby in clean clothes, wrap him in a dry, warm blanket, and give him a kiss on his sweet-smelling head.
Once your baby is a couple of months old, you or your partner could share a bath with him. Being in the bath with your baby is a lovely way for you to be close to each other. It’s a great way for dads to have precious skin-to-skin time with their baby, too.
Have a quick shower or wash before you get in the bath. Make sure the water is warm, not hot. Use mild baby cleansers and washes, as your normal bath products will be too harsh for your baby’s skin.
It can be tricky, and risky, to get in and out of the bath while holding your baby, so ask your partner or someone else to help.
They can pass your baby to you once you’ve got in and lift him back out again when you’ve finished.