Washing and bathing your baby

It is important that you wash or bathe your baby carefully every day, though you don’t need to give them a full bath every day.

How to wash your baby

You should wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully each day. You can do this on a changing mat.

Choose a time when your baby is awake and contented and make sure the room is warm.

You will need a bowl of warm water, some cotton wool, a towel and a fresh nappy. You do not need to use soap on a new baby.

When washing your baby:

  • take off your baby’s clothes except for the vest and nappy and wrap your baby in a towel
  • gently wipe round each eye, from the nose side outwards using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye so you don’t transfer any stickiness or infection
  • using fresh, moist cotton wool, wipe out each ear, but don’t clean inside their ears – never use cotton buds in the ear canal
  • wash the rest of your baby’s face and neck with moist cotton wool and dry gently – wash and dry your baby’s hands in the same way
  • take off the nappy and wash your baby’s bottom and genitals – see the page on changing your baby’s nappy for more information

How to bathe your baby

You should bath your baby two or three times a week, or more often if they enjoy it. Don’t bath them straight after a feed or when they are hungry or sleepy. Make sure the room is warm and that you have everything you need ready in advance.

When bathing your baby, you should:

  • check that the water is not too hot – test it with your wrist or elbow to make sure it is comfortable warm
  • undress your baby and wrap them snugly in a towel - wash your baby’s face with cotton wool and water as described above, there is no need to use any soap
  • wash your baby’s hair with mild, unscented baby shampoo, supporting their head over the baby bath or basin and rinse carefully – you don’t need to use shampoo every time
  • take their nappy off at the last minute
  • put your baby gently into the water and, using one hand for support, gently swish the water to wash them without splashing their face
  • if your baby seems frightened of the bath and cries, it will help to talk in a low voice
  • never leave your baby in the water alone, even for a few seconds
  • for boys, gently clean the top of the foreskin of the penis – the foreskin can be pulled back very gently to clean
  • let your baby out and pat them dry with a warm towel – if your baby’s skin is dry, gently massage in some baby oil or cream

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