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Washing your baby

4-minute read

You don't need to bathe your baby every day, but you should wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully every day. This is often called 'topping and tailing'. Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Make sure the room is warm. Get everything ready beforehand.

You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool balls, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.

You may find the following step-by-step guide useful:

  • Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their singlet and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
  • Dip the cotton wool ball in the warm water (make sure it doesn’t get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby’s eyes from the inside corner to the outside corner. Use cotton wool ball for each eye. This is so that you don’t transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
  • Wipe gently around each nostril to get rid of mucus. Do not put anything inside your baby’s nostrils (including cotton buds). This can damage the lining of the nose and cause bleeding.
  • Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean behind and around the outside of your baby’s ears, but not inside them. Do not try to clean inside your baby’s ears because it is very easy to cause damage.
  • Wash the rest of your baby’s face, under the chin, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
  • Take off the nappy and wash your baby’s bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
  • It will help your baby to relax if you talk, sing or smile while you wash them.

Bathing

Babies only need a bath 2 or 3 times a week, but if your baby really enjoys it, you can bathe them every day.

Don’t bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they’re hungry or tired. It’s a good idea to give a baby a bath at the end of the day. This helps to set up a bedtime routine. Make sure the room is warm. Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or washing-up bowl filled with warm water, a towel, baby soap, lotion or shampoo, a clean nappy, clean clothes and a wash cloth.

  • Put a non-slip bath mat on the floor and one in the bath. Make sure you have everything you need close by and turn off your phone so you’re less likely to be distracted.
  • The water should be warm, not hot (37 to 38°C). Turn the water off and check the temperature and mix it well so there are no hot patches. Fill the bath to about 8cm.
  • Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face.
  • Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders.
  • Kneel down or sit on a low stool so that you don’t hurt your back.
  • Keep your baby’s head clear of the water. Use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
  • Shampoo the hair last (you only need to do this once or twice a week).
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second. It is important to stay with your baby at all times when they are in the bath and they have your full attention.
  • Gently lift your baby out of the bath and wrap them in a soft dry towel.
  • If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. It’s easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.

Bathing your newborn

Step by step guide on how to give your newborn a bath.

Bathing a newborn - video

Video provided by Raising Children Network.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2020


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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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