How to ‘top and tail’ your baby

Here's how to wash your newborn during the early days

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For the first week you may find that ‘topping and tailing’ is the easiest way to bath your baby.

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‘Topping and tailing’ simply means carefully washing your baby’s face, neck, hands and bottom, morning and night, plus cleaning the nappy area as necessary.

Midwife Nikki Khan shows you how:

PREPPING

Always make sure the room is warm and free from droughts (ideally 18 degrees centigrade).

You’ll need:

  • A bowl of warm water
  • A towel
  • Cotton wool
  • A fresh nappy
  • Clean clothes

TOPPING

Wipe each eye by using a piece of cotton wool dipped in cool, boiled water and gently wiping across your baby’s eye, from the nose outwards. Use a new piece of cotton for each eye.

Wipe the ears with a damp cotton wool pad/ ball but do not clean inside them, and never use cotton buds. Remember to wipe behind the ears as milk often drips there and can become sore if the area is not cleaned and kept dry.

Finally, use fresh pieces of damp cotton wool to wipe your baby’s face, neck creases and hands, ensuring that creases are dry to avoid chaffing from damp skin.

TAILING

Wash your baby’s genitals and bottom, ensuring all creases have been cleaned and patted dry.

With baby girls, always wipe from front-to-back as they are prone to urine infection.

There is a white, cream-like substance in baby girls’ vaginas at birth. This is the remains from the vermix (the protective covering that protected the skin in the womb). Try not to remove it during cleaning as it will eventually be absorbed and act as an excellent barrier cream.

While your son is a baby, his penis will self-clean to some extent. Don’t try to pull back his foreskin to clean.

Always use fresh cotton wool balls when cleansing the separate areas to avoid cross infection.

Ready to bath your baby? Read our guide to bathtime basics

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Another advantage of ‘topping and tailing is that you’ll be able to keep your newborn baby’s umbilical stump dry. Read our full guide on how to care for your baby’s delicate belly button

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