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Washing your baby

7-minute read

There’s nothing like the smell of a baby who’s just had a bath, and for many parents bath time is one of the pleasures of caring for their baby.

It’s common to have lots of questions when it comes to a baby’s bath time. Having the information you need can help you feel relaxed and confident about bathing your baby.

How do I bath my baby?

It helps to be organised before giving your baby a bath. Take time to plan beforehand and be prepared so you can bath your baby safely.

  • Use a non-slip bath mat on the floor and in the bath. A towel on the bottom on the bath is a good alternative to help your baby feel secure.
  • Fill the bath with warm water. An ideal temperature is around 37-38 degrees Celsius. You can check the temperature of the bath water with your elbow or wrist, it should feel neutral or slightly warm on your skin. You may also choose to use a bath thermometer.
  • Run cold water through the tap after filling the bath to avoid the risk of burning.
  • Talk gently to your baby as you lower them into the bath.
  • Hold your baby securely with one hand, using your free hand to wash your baby’s skin. Pay particular attention to their skin folds. Use plain water on their face, especially around their eyes and mouth, then use baby wash or soap on their skin and hair.
  • Lift your baby gently out of the bath on onto a clean, dry towel. Gently pat their skin dry and make sure you dry inside their creases.
  • Dress your baby by starting with a clean nappy.

Bathing a newborn baby

Newborns are used to a warm and watery environment and often soothe when they are bathed. Generally, a bath 2-3 times per week is enough to keep your newborn baby’s skin clean. If they like to be bathed, it’s fine to bath them more frequently. Sometimes baths can dry your baby’s skin so only use a small amount of soap or baby bath wash.

If you’d prefer not to bath your baby every day, a quick ‘top and tail’ clean will do. Clean your baby’s face and eyes with cotton wool and warm water. Use a washer to clean your baby’s hands and nappy area.

Make sure you support your baby’s face and head clear of the water and talk gently to them so they feel safe.

Bathing your newborn

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

How should I wash my baby now they can control their head?

Between the ages of 3-4 months most babies have developed head control, though still need help to keep their face and head out of the water. Hold your baby securely and expect them to move around more than they did when they were a newborn.

How should I wash my baby now they can sit up?

Babies aged between 6-9 months often enjoy a couple of baths each week and may prefer to sit in the bath, rather than lie down. You may find a baby bath is too small for your baby to splash around and the big bath is a better option.

How often should I bath my baby?

It’s not necessary to bath your baby every day — around 2-3 times per week will be enough. Though you may find your baby relaxes when they’re bathed and you like to include bathing as part of their pre-settling routine.

You may need to bath your baby more often once they’re eating solid food. There’s always more mess to clean when babies are learning how to feed themselves.

When is the best time to give my baby a bath?

There is no one perfect bath time — any time of the day or evening is fine to bath your baby. Try to pick a time when there’s less chance of your baby getting cold and you’re not rushed.

You may choose to have your partner or another trusted adult with you when you bath your baby, at least in the early weeks.

What do I need to bath my baby?

After some practice runs, you’ll work out what suits you best. Generally, it’s helpful to have:

  • A table or bath stand which is stable and at a comfortable height so you don’t need to bend over.
  • At least one large towel and a washer.
  • A mild cleanser — any baby wash is fine or if your baby has dry skin, a non-soap, moisturising cleanser. Many baby washes are also suitable to use as shampoos, just make sure you rinse their scalp well.
  • A clean nappy and clothing.

Where can I bath my baby?

Babies don’t tend to care what they’re bathed in, as long as they have room to move around and the water is deep enough so they don’t get cold. Baby baths are ideal because they’re portable, easy to empty and easy to clean. Some parents like to use the kitchen sink in the early weeks of their baby’s life before graduating to the big bath. You may like to use the big bath as soon as your baby is beyond the newborn stage.

What steps should I take to keep my baby safe in the bath?

  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, even for a minute. Babies and children can drown in just a few centimetres of water and should never be left unsupervised in and around water.
  • Fill the bath with comfortably warm water. Check the temperature with your wrist or elbow before placing your baby gently into the bath.
  • Keep your baby’s head and face clear of the water.
  • Empty the bath water out as soon as you’ve finished. This is a good habit to get into before your baby becomes mobile. Babies can drown in only a few centimetres of water. Consider doing a resuscitation course.
  • Make bath time a happy event and try not to rush it. Watch for your baby’s responses and talk gently to them.

As my baby grows, will there be changes to how I bath them?

As your baby gets older, they will learn to anticipate bath time and enjoy the opportunity to splash and play with bath toys. They may try to stand up and even climb out of the bath; watch them carefully so they don’t slip. You may like to use a protective cover over the taps.

What bath products are safe for my baby?

Most bath products labelled 'for baby' or 'suitable for use on a baby' will be fine to use. Baby bath washes are often soap and paraben free, to reduce the risk of reactions to the eyes and skin. If your baby has very sensitive or dry skin, you will need to use a soap-free wash which is suitable for their skin.

Bathing a newborn - video

Video provided by Raising Children Network.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

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Last reviewed: October 2021

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

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