Women's Healthcare Topics

When do You Give a Newborn Baby a Bath?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

No 'Bath' Until the Umbilical Stump Falls Off

The baby bath and bathing your newborn baby can be an exciting and scary experience during the first few weeks of life. Most babies are very fragile and quite slippery when wet, which can make baby bath time a wee bit intimidating particularly during the first week or two.

When you prepare yourself fully for what lies ahead however, you'll find bathing your baby far more enjoyable than 'scary' on any given day. Nothing more enjoyable than placing your clean love one in their new crib after a bath.

During the first one to two weeks of life, your baby will not need an actual 'bath' until their umbilical stump falls off. For most newborns this occurs right around age 10 days. Until then it is fine for you to sponge bath your newborn with a moistened washcloth. Take care to wipe off your baby's face and hands, and clean your baby's genital area thoroughly each time you change their diaper.

Once your baby's umbilical stump has fallen off and the surrounding area heals you can start giving your baby tub baths.

Most babies are small enough that you will not need to wash them in the actual tub. You can either purchase a baby bath or you can simply wash your newborn in the kitchen sink. While some parents bathe their babies every day, it isn't necessary that you do so until your baby is a little older and starts getting into more mess.

Some parents however find that bathing the baby helps establish a routine or nighttime ritual prior to being placed in the crib.

Bathing a newborn can be tricky at first. Babies are very slippery and like to wiggle about when wet and soapy. For this reason it is a good idea not to bring your baby into the shower with you until you are comfortable with them so that you are calm enough to get a good grip on them and avoid slipping or even dropping them.

Baby Bathing Tips

The best thing you can do to ensure a smooth baby bathing experience is:

    This article helps explain how to give a newborn baby a bath.
  • Have all the supplies you will need with you nearby. These include bath supplies, a towel, a clean diaper, cream and clothes.
  • Lay out your baby's towel prior to the bath, so you don't have to struggle with it while handling your squirming and slippery baby.
  • Fill the baby's tub with only 2 to 3 inches of water initially. This is just enough water to clean your baby without overwhelming them.
  • Try to keep the babies water warm but not too hot. A good range is between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Avoid undressing your baby until you are ready to actually bathe them, so they don't become unnecessarily chilled.
  • Wash your baby from top to bottom and front to back with a soapy cloth. Be sure to check behind the ears (where spit up milk likes to collect) and be sure to clean the genital area thoroughly.
  • Be sure to rinse your baby with a couple of cupfuls of water before removing them from the tub.
  • Be sure your baby's genital area is thoroughly dry before placing a diaper on him/her, to help prevent diaper rash.

Some babies take to bath time right away, cooing the entire time, while others scream from start to finish. Your baby's temperament will likely decide the length of bath time each night.

If you find yourself with a fussier baby, try placing your babies tub somewhere warm so they don't get chilled as easily. This may help calm them and make bath time more enjoyable for you both.

It is important that you never, ever leave your baby alone unsupervised while in the tub, even when they are able to sit up in the tub on their own. We'll repeat this because it is important.

Never, EVER leave your baby unattended in the tub, even for a second. Many babies have drowned in the tub when their parents stepped out for just a minute, to answer the phone or doorbell, or even grab a towel.

If you have to leave the bath area, always wrap your baby up and take them with you.

Other things you can do to ensure your babies safety include:

  • Make sure the water heater in your home is set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer could result in severe third degree burns to your child.
  • Never put your child's tub on the edge of a counter and walk away with the baby in it.
  • Avoid placing your baby in the tub while the water is running because the temperature can change suddenly.
  • Gather all the supplies you need for your babies bath and have them nearby, never walk out of the room without baby to grab a towel or diaper.


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