How to Bathe a Newborn: Step by Step

Newborns are so fragile and giving them a bath can be scary no matter if you are a first-time mom or veteran mom. If you are wondering “how do I bathe a newborn”, here is your guide for how to bathe a newborn step by step.

How often to bathe your newborn

Newborns require a delicate cleaning routine that is not as complicated as it may sound. A common question that new parents have is the frequency of their newborn’s baths; “how often does a newborn need to bathe?”

Although we take a bath every day, it is not necessary to do the same for your newborn until they become more active and are on the ground more frequently. In fact, daily baths can cause dryness and other skin problems, which is not ideal for their gentle skin that is still adapting to their new, dry surroundings.

It is recommended to bathe your baby every other day or opt for a sponge bath until their umbilical cord falls off which could take up to a week. By following this routine, you can keep your newborn clean and healthy while also avoiding skin irritation.

Can a newborn have a bath before the umbilical cord falls off?

You may have concerns about how often to bathe your newborn and whether it’s safe to do so before the umbilical cord falls off. It is completely safe to give your little one a sponge bath while the cord is still attached, however, it is recommended to wait until their cord falls off completely before submerging their body in water, such as having them lay in their infant tub with water inside.

Just remember to be gentle when washing around the cord and let it fall off naturally. There is no evidence to suggest that bathing your newborn with the cord attached will increase their risk of infection, so you can relax and enjoy this special bonding time with your precious baby.

Benefits of bathing your newborn

Apart from the obvious benefits of maintaining your baby’s hygiene and health, bath time also offers several other benefits for your little babe:

  • Encourage Sleep- Baths can be part of a bedtime routine to help babies wind down and prepare for sleep.
  • Bonding for baby and parent – Bath time focuses on one-on-one time. Allow bath time to be a bonding experience by singing to baby, talking, you can even set up your phone on a tripod and record you and baby interacting with each other. It’ll always be a great memory to look back on.
  • Soothe a fussy baby – Giving your baby a warm water bath has a calming and soothing effect. It can help calm an upset/gassy belly by encouraging baby’s muscles to relax allowing gas to pass and making for a happier little one!
  • Learning – your newborn will find the face-to-face time to be a fun time with mom and dad while they are learning all at the same time. You can encourage baby to talk (coo’s), sing, count their little fingers and toes, teach them their body parts “let’s wash your toes, hands, fingers, nose”, etc.
  • Soothe and heal a diaper rash – Allowing your baby’s bottom to breathe without a diaper on helps to soothe, heal, or prevent diaper rashes. Keeping baby clean with water instead of wipes can help protect their skin. If you find that baby has a diaper rash, baking soda in the bath tub will help soothe their irritated skin.

This post contains affiliate links to products I love, use, and recommend on my children. This means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase off of a link at no extra cost to you.

Giving your Newborn a Sponge Bath

A sponge bath is required when baby’s umbilical cord is still attached, however, a sponge bath is also another way to quickly clean baby if you can’t put them into the tub of water.

1. Gather all of the bath supplies: washcloth, a bowl of warm water, a towel, baby soap, and anything else you may use on baby.

2. Make sure you are not in a place where it may be cold (window breeze, AC vent) and place baby on their towel. Undress them and wrap them in their towel to stay warm.

3. Start by washing baby’s face with a damp, slightly soapy (not too much) washcloth. Dry after washing each time so they are not cold.

4. Keep your baby covered in the towel as much as possible. Being cold could upset them!

5. Once baby is fully rinsed, be sure they are completely dry and apply moisturizer, if you want to, then get them dressed so they are warm and comfortable.

Bathing your Newborn Safely

Never, ever take your hands or eyes off your newborn while bathing. They can quickly turn over or slide out of their tub in seconds.

Drowning can happen in a little bit of water, especially for a newborn. If you forgot something, please ask someone to help you or take baby with you. It is NOT worth leaving baby unattended for “one second.”

Where should you bathe your newborn? 

Have you seen parents bathe their children in sinks, tubs, changing table? There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to where you should bathe your newborn, however, just make sure the area is warm enough as babies lose their heat quickly and sanitary.

Also, where you bathe your baby is going to change as they get older, the space becomes more limited. Some parents start off on the changing pad with a sponge bath then move into a sink or bathtub. I personally gave sponge baths on the changing pad and in the tub – it’s all up to you!

How to bathe a newborn: Step by step

Establish a Routine:  Bathing your newborn before bed can be a soothing and calming activity. Once you establish this routine, your little one will pick up on it and associate warm baths with it being almost time to go to bed. This will help establish a healthy sleeping schedule for your little one as well. 

Gather Your Supplies: Gather everything you are going to need, before getting started. I have a basket under my sink with all of our bath essentials, so it is easy to access. This makes it easier if you are alone with baby, and so you don’t forget any necessary bath supplies.

Also, by having all of the bath supplies readily available, baby is more likely to be safe without you having to reach for anything that may cause them to be unsafe.

Some supplies you may need for bath time may include clean clothes, diaper, soap, washcloths, towel, and lotion. If your baby has some hair a baby brush could be beneficial too to help soothe them!

Time to Bathe Baby: Always make sure the water is lukewarm (not hot and definitely not cold) Place your baby into the bathtub feet first so they can get used to the water temperature (never place baby in the tub while the water is still running).

You can place a washcloth over baby’s body to help keep them warm as you wash their arms, hands, legs, toes, leaving their belly, private parts and head last. Highly recommend head last so they don’t get chilly during their bath.

Use a gentle soap with minimal amount of soap. Their skin is so delicate they don’t need to be “scrubbed”. Wash baby’s neck (be sure to get really good under the neck this is where it’s common for breastmilk/formula/spit up to get under and have that “cheese” smell, and behind ears too!)

Rinse Baby: Rinse baby with clean water, NEVER pour water over your baby’s head or splash water. They are so delicate and require gentle cleaning.

Gently Dry: Pat baby dry, do not wipe rough and keep them warm and covered. This is usually the part most babies don’t love because they get cold which makes them cranky. I wrap my babies in a towel and pat dry while they are wrapped. Sometimes I would rock them and sing while patting dry, so they stayed content.

Lotions:  Baby’s skin shouldn’t need too much moisturizer, if any at all. You can skip this part but if you want to, add a minimal amount gently to their skin. You can even add in a light massage to continue to calm them before bed. Be sure the lotion isn’t too cold. You can warm the lotion in your hands before applying to baby’s skin.

Fresh Diaper and Clothes: A fresh, new diaper and clothes is so refreshing. There is nothing better than that and your baby will thank you!

Bathing Products for Baby

If you aren’t sure what to add to your baby registry for bath items, here are some items I highly recommend as I have used/use them on my three boys:

Baby Bathtub: I have limited storage in my bathroom so instead of getting a large plastic tub I opted for the bath chairs that can easily fold and be stored away in the closet.

Baby Wash: I originally used Honest Brand Fragrance Free Soap for my older two and then when I had my third, to save money, I changed it to the soap we all use which is Dr. Bronner fragrance free. This last forever!

Nail File/Clippers: Baby nail clippers. I never filed their nails or used gadgets because I felt comfortable with nail clippers. If you do not feel comfortable, that’s okay! There are other options like this nail file kit.

Washcloths: This may sound so simple – a washcloth, right? Wrong! For my baby registry I opted for bamboo washcloths, target brand (higher quality/thicker) and a cheaper, thin material. I much prefer the cheaper, thin material.

The bamboo washcloths were too thick it was hard to wash a newborn, the target brand high quality/thickness again was too thick, but it wasn’t worse than the bamboo.

I much prefer these washcloths. They are thin, much easier to wash a newborn with, and are gentle on their skin. I still use these on all of my kids, and they are ages 5, 3 and 1.

Towels: Any baby towel will work fine as long as it’s soft. The towels with the head pieces are great because they keep baby’s head warm and the towel stays on baby while you are drying them.

Lotion: I used lotion for my firstborn and then stopped after my second and third, however, I do not apply lotion after baths because I don’t think it is necessary (for newborns). I do apply after 3+ months.

If you do want to, I suggest Tubby Todd. This lotion helped my babies when they had eczema. It reduces the inflammation, relieves their itchiness and prevents dry skin.

Hair Brush: Whether or not baby has hair, I used a brush to not only brush the little hair my kids had but also to take off any dry skin/cradle cap.

Fridababy sponge: I still use this on my kids and myself! I highly recommend this sponge. It’s so great to wash a baby’s hair, and good for their skin too. The Fridababy sponge is soft on baby’s skin, lather’s a good amount of soap to keep them clean and acts like a massage to calm and soothe baby. It also helps with eczema, dry skin, and cradle cap.

Bath Toys: My kids have had their share of bath toys. Majority of them just collect mold and I’ve thrown out a ton. Is it necessary, not really until they can sit up. It’s worth it when they get older! Bubbles too!

Water Cup: The cups will collect mold. You just need to be sure the cup itself gets washed and dries fully before storing it.

I hope I am not forgetting anything! I try to be minimal when it comes to any home item. I know it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the cute stuff – I did too with my firstborn and that is okay! There isn’t a right or wrong way. As long as baby is safe and has everything they need, you’re doing great mama!

If you have any additional tips or questions, please leave them in the comments. I would love to help answer any questions you may have or hear tips from other moms!