How to wash your baby – step-by-step

Terrified of handling a slippy little tot in the tub? Here's how to make bathing your newborn a safe, enjoyable experience


Step 1: be prepared

Get all the equipment you’ll need to hand before you even think about running the bath or getting your baby’s togs off.


You will need flannels, cotton wool, a bowl of cooled, boiled water, a towel, a clean nappy, clothes and if you’re using products, any baby wash or baby shampoo

“Don’t use products until your baby is about six weeks old, as a newborn’s skin is so sensitive and can get quite dry,” says nursery nurse Sam Saunders.

It’s also handy to have a rubbish bin at the ready for cotton wool you have used and for the dirty nappy.”


Step 2: run the bath

“If you’re bathing a newborn baby, you can wash him in your own normal bath, or you could use a baby bath that either sits on the changing station or that can be put inside your bath,” says Sam.

There are also many different types of bath supports available that you simply sit inside the baby bath or your own bath (or even the kitchen sink) to help you ‘hold’ your baby in a comfortable position while washing him.

“Put about five or six inches of water into the bath,” says Sam. Check that the temperature is warm, not hot, with your elbow (which is more sensitive that your fingers). Use a bath termometer if you feel unsure about how to get the correct temperature. The water should be 36-37°C.


Step 3: ease your baby in

Lowering your baby into the bath can feel daunting, but try not to worry. Slip one arm softly but firmly under your baby’s shoulders and support him under his arm. Hold his bottom with your other hand and gently lower your baby into the warm water.

Once he’s safely in the bath, remove your hand from under his bottom. “Hold the arm that’s furthest away from you with your hand so he can’t roll away,” says Sam. “Then you can use your free hand to wash him.”


Step 4: wash your baby

Your free hand can now be used to gently wash your baby. Use cotton wool dabbed in cooled, boiled water for his face. “Wash your baby’s face moving from the inside outwards, so that you don’t spread any infections, then dry him using a clean piece of cotton wool.

You can wash his hair with your free hand. You don’t need shampoo at this age, unless his hair’s really dirty,” advises Sam.


Step 5: dry your newborn

“A newborn baby might have had enough after about three or four minutes, but if he’s a bit older he can have a play,” says Sam.

Lift your baby out of the bath with one arm behind his shoulders and neck and the other under his bottom, gripping his legs lightly as you wrap him in a towel. Always keep one hand on your baby. Pat him gently as you dry him, not forgetting to dry between his delicate skin folds.


Mum’s tip

“When Thurston was a newborn I’d put a warm wet flannel on his tum in the bath to keep him calm and warm, and I would pre-warm his towels, too.” Hannah Miles, 29, from Margate, mum to Louis, 8, Zeke, 5, and Thurston, 4.


Read more mum tips here

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