Bathing your newborn baby

You can safely tub bathe your baby after birth and before the cord falls off. Your baby may be bathed every two to three days with mild baby bathing products. Bathing often can dry your baby’s skin. Spot clean areas such as baby’s chin and mouth, neck folds, diaper area and creases of the groin each day. Be sure and dry skin and creases well.

Bath guidelines:

  • The room should be warm (about 75 degrees F) and free of drafts.
  • Gather everything you will need for bathing, drying and dressing baby before you begin the bath.
  • A sponge or rubber mat on the bottom of the tub or sink will prevent baby from slipping.
  • Remember that baby is slippery when wet.
  • Support baby firmly when in the tub to provide a feeling of security.
  • Use warm water (95-100 degrees F)
  • Never add more hot water while baby is in the tub. This could burn baby’s skin.
  • Never bathe baby under a hot water faucet that could be turned on accidentally. Turn the water faucet away from baby if possible.
  • Never leave baby alone in the tub – even for a second.

Swaddled developmental bath

Newborns enjoy a swaddled developmental bath. The baby is wrapped with a soft cloth or receiving blanket in a flexed position and is placed to shoulder level in a tub of warm water. The baby is bathed, one area at a time by unwrapping, washing, rinsing and rewrapping. Baby remains swaddled, flexed and in the warm water during the entire bath experience. This helps baby feel safe and secure. Baby is often very relaxed during the bath, and may even fall asleep.

  • Undress your baby.
  • Remove the diaper and make sure baby’s bottom is clean.
  • Wrap your baby in a receiving blanket or soft towel.
  • Place baby in a tub of warm water up to their chest about 5 inches deep.
  • Support baby’s head out of the water. 
  • Wash baby’s face first with clear water. Begin with the eyes. Use a clean, soft washcloth with plain water.
  • Start at the corner of the nose and wipe toward the outer side of the eye. Use a clean area of your washcloth for each eye. 
  • Wash the rest of the face and ears. A wash cloth is all that is needed for cleaning baby’s ears. Never use cotton swabs (Q-tips) to remove ear wax.
  • Wash baby’s hair with baby shampoo or mild soap and rinse well. Gentle washing will not hurt the soft spot (anterior fontanel). Cover baby’s wet hair with the warm wet blanket to maintain heat.
  • Unwrap one arm, wash, rinse, and rewrap the arm and hand before moving to next arm. Wash each leg and foot, one at a time in the same way. Diaper area is bathed last, washing from front to back. 
  • To wash the back, set baby up in a sitting position while supporting their head, neck and chest.
  • After bathing, lift baby from the tub and wet towel and place on a dry towel. Wrap with dry towel, cuddle and sooth!

Bathing daughters

  • If you have a baby girl, you may notice a clear or white mucous or blood tinged vaginal discharge during the first weeks of life. This is normal and is from mother’s hormones passed on to baby during pregnancy. There may also be a white substance between the labia (lips), called smegma. This gradually disappears.
  • No special care is required except keeping the diaper area clean. To clean, use a wash cloth and warm water, gently separating the skin folds. Always wipe from the front to back.

Bathing sons

  • Gently wash the penis and around the scrotum. Rinse well.
  • He may continue to have tub baths after his circumcision. 
  • If he is uncircumcised, clean the penis carefully with soap and water. It is usually not necessary to pull back the foreskin. The foreskin will gradually loosen on its own as the child gets older.

Cord care

  • Keep the diaper folded below the cord.
  • Keep the cord clean and dry until it falls off in 1- 3 weeks. 
  • To clean the cord, dip a cotton swab in water, and gently clean the base of the cord. Dry with a clean cotton swab. Since there are no nerve endings in the cord, this does not hurt or sting.
  • Your baby may fuss because of the cooling effect on the tummy.
  • The base of the cord may look moist and you may see a few drops of blood as it loosens. Continue to clean the cord base often. Never pull or loosen the cord. 
  • After the cord falls off, continue cord care until the site is healed. Report any signs of infection, such as redness, odor or drainage to your health care provider.

Additional resource: Healthy Mom & Baby