Baby's First Bath

Bathing a newborn for the first time can be a pretty daunting and nerve-wracking experience, so it's a good idea to get someone to help you if possible. You might want to wait until you are confident handling your child before you give the first bath, but until then, daily 'topping and tailing' will suffice.

Here is what you need and how to do it!

Topping and tailing

Topping and tailing simply means washing your baby's face and bottom to keep him clean.

To top and tail, prepare a bowl of warm water and undress baby, leaving the nappy on. Use separate pieces of dampened cotton wool or cotton pads to gently clean around each eye. Use more cotton wool or a soft flannel to wipe around the mouth, nose, face, neck, ears and hands.

Then take off baby's nappy and wash his bottom area with cotton wool and warm water or wipes. You may find a specially designed 'top and tail bowl' useful for quick washes.

Preparing the bath

You can use the main family bath, the kitchen or bathroom sink, or a tub or bath support seat specially designed for infants.

Before you begin, make sure the room is warm with no drafts. Place everything you need within easy reach, so that you don’t have to go and get something halfway through. (You must never leave a baby unattended in the bath, not even for a second.)

You will need:

Fill the bath with 12-15cm of warm water to cover your child's shoulders, and swish it around with your hand to ensure the heat is evenly distributed. The water should be about 37 degrees C. Test the temperature with your elbow or check it with a thermometer.

Bathing your baby

After topping and tailing as normal, hold baby firmly with one of your arms behind his back, neck and shoulders and your other hand underneath his bottom. Then, gently lower him into the water. Once in, you can free your hand from underneath and gently wash his body and scalp with a soft flannel or sponge (or just your hand if it's easier).

You can use a mild body wash and shampoo suitable for newborns, but warm water alone is enough in the early weeks.

Your baby's first bath will be a new experience, so only keep him in the water for a few minutes in case he does not like it. Then put your free hand under his bottom for support and gently lift him out onto a towel – it will be more comfortable for baby if the towel is on a padded changing mat. Remember, wet babies are slippery and wriggly so take extra care!

With baby in your lap or on the mat, pat him gently with a towel, making sure all of his creases are completely dry, and apply a barrier cream to prevent nappy rash. If skin appears dry, you can smooth on baby lotion or oil before you put a nappy on and dress him.

When and how often to bathe?

You can bathe baby every day if you want, but two or three times a week is enough as long as you top and tail daily. Although you may find bathing at bedtime helps settle and prepare him for sleep, you can do it at any time of day. Try and pick a time when he is not hungry, full or sleepy, but content, awake and alert.

Many infants enjoy their baths, but if your baby isn't amused, you could try sharing your own bath. You'll probably need someone to hand you the baby once you get in, and be there to lift him out. Make sure the water is not too hot and do not add anything such as salts, oil or bubbles, unless it is suitable for newborns.

Hopefully over time, your little one will get used to his baths and they will become a fun, enjoyable experience for both of you.