How to wash your baby

Advice on cleaning your little one from her head to her tiny toes

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  • Hair

    Your baby might not have very much hair, or she might have a very full head of it! Either way, you can still wash her scalp with mild baby shampoo.

    “Only use a grape-sized drop,” says midwife and health visitor Gill Thomson ( “You’ll need to rinse thoroughly, so do this at bathtime.”

    Try this...

    Simple baby shampoo is 100% free from perfume and colour – perfect for newborn tresses. £2.05 from Boots.

  • Cord/Belly Button

    “The remains of the umbilical cord need to be bathed in cooled, boiled water,” says Gill. “Eventually it’ll dry and fall off (this can happen anywhere between 10 and 21 days), just like leaves from a tree.” The best way to dry it after wiping is with a fresh, dry piece of cotton wool. “The cord base may be quite yellow and gunky, but that’s nothing to worry about,” says Gill.

  • Eyes

    “For sleep in the eyes, always use cotton wool and fresh, cooled, boiled water,” says Gill. Bathwater might have soap in which will irritate. “Clean from inside out, starting at the corner near the nose,” says Gill. Use a second piece of cotton wool for the other eye to prevent spreading any infection from one eye to the other. Gently pat away any water from her face with a clean, dry towel.

    Try this...

    Soft organic cotton wool will be gentle on your baby’s skin. Simply Gentle Organic Cotton Balls, £1.99 from Nature Botts.

  • Ears

    Go gently around the ears, says Gill. Things don’t need to be prodded in, as the wax inside is designed to protect.  “Just use a cotton bud to wipe around the folds of skin, don’t stick it into the ear or be too forceful,” she says. Remember to wipe behind the ear, too, where the skin can get sweaty and milky.

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  • Creases of the neck

    Milk and saliva often get into these little creases, so it’s important to keep them clean between baths. It’s simple to do. Cotton wool and warm water is perfect. If you 
notice her skin is dry, try rubbing some olive oil onto it, says Gill. Remember to dry the 
skin with a piece of cotton wool too, otherwise sores or rashes could develop.

  • Hands/Nails

    "You don’t need to worry too much about cleaning under the nails, as babies don’t get too much dirt under there,” says Gill.

    The bigger risk is the nails getting longer and your baby scratching her face. Babies born past their due date will have longer nails. If you notice your little one’s nails are growing quickly, use either small nail scissors or simply nibble at them yourself.

    “A small emery board also works well,” advises Gill. “When your baby’s relaxed 
you could peel the longer nails, or just nibble at them.”

    If she does have any dirt under her nails, try using a soft baby toothbrush and warm water to brush underneath them.

    Try this...

    Keep little fingers safe with these baby nail clippers and magnifying glass, £1.99 
by RCTK4 from Amazon.

  • Boys Genitals

    “Don’t touch the foreskin or try to pull it back,” says Gill Thomson. It won’t be ready to do that until he’s about 2. “He will play with it and help it along in time,” she adds.

    Clean around the testicles and in the folds of skin with warm water and cotton wool to get rid of any poo from the nappy, and always put his penis facing downwards when putting a nappy back on so wee doesn’t shoot out of the top of the nappy, giving you a warm and wet surprise.

  • Girls Genitals

    “Always wipe from front to back to avoid poo getting into the vaginal area,” says Gill. At a couple of days old you might notice a discharge or even blood in her nappy. “Some mums save the nappy to show the midwife,” says Gill. “The bleed is perfectly normal in girls, it’s a reaction to your baby no longer being in contact with your hormones – similar to a withdrawal bleed when you stop taking the pill.” Clean any discharge away as normal, and apply a small amount of a good barrier cream like Vaseline.

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  • Mum’s story

    “Bethanie’s cord looked infected for a while, and was hanging like a thread. I really wanted to remove it, but my health visitor assured me it was ok and I should leave it. I took her advice to clean around it and eventually it fell off – into her nappy, which meant we wondered where it was for a while!”

Cat Lane, from Northampton, mum to Bethanie, 10 months, and 37 weeks pregnant


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