Becoming a new parent is undoubtedly one of life's greatest joys. But amid all the excitement and baby bliss comes the uncertainty of caring for a tiny tot. One of the earliest tasks that might give you pause is your baby's first bath.
While there are a few things to keep in mind in terms of safety and efficiency, anyone can master the newborn bath. Read on to learn not only how to bathe a newborn but also when to bathe a newborn and what products you'll need.
How to Bathe a Newborn: Frequency, Best Practices and Steps
If you've yet to bathe your bundle of joy, you've come to the right place. This guide on newborn baths will break down how often to wash your baby, general best practices, safety precautions and step-by-step instructions. Let's get started.
How Often to Bathe a Newborn
Infants don't get very dirty in those first few weeks, so daily baths aren't really necessary. Your newborn's first bath may not be until they're a week or two old. Before that, you can gently wipe them down with a damp washcloth or a disposable newborn cleansing cloth as needed.
The first few months, you only need to give a baby a bath two to three times a week. If your infant enjoys the bath, you can wash them daily — but no more than that, as it can dry out their delicate skin.¹
Newborn Bath Safety and Best Practices
Before diving into how to bathe a newborn, it's important to discuss safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offer specific recommendations for keeping your little one safe in the bath.²
Keep the following best practices in mind.
1. Use a Sturdy Tub
A newborn bathtub should be sturdy with some sort of backrest or support to prevent baby from slipping down into the water. Foldable and inflatable tubs aren't recommended, as they're more likely to collapse or trap a baby's limbs.²
2. Be Mindful of Hazards
Before giving your infant a bath, check the tub for sharp edges, bumps or anything else that could scratch, cut or pinch. You'll also want to look out for rust and mold, which can accumulate when a tub isn't drained and dried thoroughly.²
3. Keep the Water Shallow
Don't fill the tub up with too much water. A shallow bath between two to four inches deep is safest.
4. Check the Water Temperature
The bathwater should be roughly 100°F and no warmer than 120°F to prevent burns.¹ If you're feeling the temperature with your hands, it'll be warmer than lukewarm but likely cooler than the baths and showers you take.
5. Never Leave the Newborn Bath
Most importantly, never leave your baby alone in the bathtub or turn your back, even for a moment. According to the AAP, infants can drown in just an inch of water.² To avoid having to leave or turn away, make sure all bath essentials are within reach before getting started.
For more insight into the AAP's guidelines for infant safety, read our Baby Pillow and Blanket Guide: When Can Newborns Sleep With a Pillow and Blanket?
10 Steps on How to Bathe a Newborn
The first newborn bath can be a little daunting. Once you get the hang of it, though, you'll probably find it to be relatively easy — and supremely cute.
Here's how to bathe a newborn.
1. Gather all your baby bath essentials, including a washcloth, towel, soap, and potentially a couple of toys.
2. Fill the tub with about three inches of warm water, making sure it's no warmer than 120 °F.
3. After undressing your infant, carefully lower them into the water, feet first, while holding them close and cradling their head with one arm. Depending on the shape of the tub and how old your infant is, you may need to continue supporting their head while bathing them.
4. Dip a washcloth into the water and gently run it over their face, neck and body, rinsing with clean water as needed.
5. You don't necessarily need soap the first month or two — the warm water should be enough to clean their body and eliminate germs. However, you can use a small drizzle of mild shampoo or bath wash on their scalp, bottom and between skin creases if necessary.
6. Carefully rinse the shampoo with a wet cloth or a small cup, avoiding the eye area.
7. When you're finished, lift your infant out of the tub while supporting their head.
8. Place your baby on a clean towel, either on the changing table or on the floor to prevent falls.
9. Wrap your baby in the towel and gently pat them dry, paying attention to crevices and creases.
10. Apply a mild lotion, ointment or diaper cream if needed, and dress your infant as usual.
What towel should you use after the bath? See our guide on The Best Towel Materials and Sizes to find out.
Bathing Your Child at Every Stage
Once your little one graduates from a newborn bath and enters the baby and toddler stages, you can begin washing them more frequently. At around six months, aim for about three times a week or every other day.³
If your child enjoys the water at this stage, you can make baby bath time part of your nightly routine. And as they start crawling, walking, spending more time outdoors or potentially going to daycare, you may want to bathe your toddler every day.³
You can wash your child in an infant tub as long as they still fit. Once they're able to sit up on their own or outgrow it, you can transition them to a regular bathtub. But even then, make sure the water isn't deeper than a few inches.
For more tips on navigating this timeline, check out our blog, When Should Your Baby Make the Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed?
Baby Bathtime Essentials
Now that you know how to bathe a newborn, you might be wondering what products to have on hand. Find a breakdown of essential baby bath items below.
As mentioned above, you'll need a sturdy newborn tub (sometimes called an infant bath). A sink can also work.¹
As noted, you don't necessarily need to use soap or for a newborn baby bath. However, you might want to have a mild bath wash or cradle cap shampoo at the ready — just use these products sparingly to avoid irritation and drying out your baby's delicate skin.
You'll also need a rinsing cup. You can buy a product for this specific purpose or just use a small plastic cup or bowl from your kitchen. Even if you're not using soap, you'll want to rinse your infant's body with warm water in the bath.
Some babies love bath time, some tolerate it, and others resist being washed. In any case, bath toys can make the experience more fun. Since the baby won’t be immersed in water, simple tactile toys like rattles, teething rings, and the occasional rubber duckie work best.
Hooded Baby Towel
Depending on how often you do laundry and bathe your child, you'll also want to have at least a few baby washcloths. They come in handy when cleaning a baby's body in the bath, rinsing them off and drying them afterward.
When your baby graduates to the toddler stage, you'll want to lay out an absorbent bath mat so they have a place to stand while you dry them off.
Get more insight into bathroom floor coverings with our guide on Bath Mats vs. Bath Rugs.
Comb or Brush
If your little one is blessed with hair, you'll want to have a small comb or soft-bristled brush on hand as well.
Check out these guides for more helpful guidance on baby basics, bedding and nursery essentials:
Natural Laundry Products
After a few baby bathing sessions, you’ll want to make sure you’re washing and caring for your baby bath products accordingly. Consider using non-toxic laundry essentials like natural laundry detergent and wool dryer balls since babies are especially impacted by toxic chemicals that come in cheaper laundry products like dryer sheets.
For more insights into which laundry items are safest and best for you and your children, explore these guides:
Where to Buy the Best Newborn Bath Essentials
Is there anything cuter than a baby taking a bath? Maybe not. But you can make the experience softer, snugglier and more convenient with baby bath essentials from Parachute.
When you browse the baby collection, you'll find everything from hooded baby towels and Turkish cotton washcloths to quilted changing pads and muslin swaddle blankets. Shop the selection today!