Bathing Routine

Establishing a Bathing Routine

Never leave a baby unattended in a bath.

It is not necessary to bath a newborn baby for several days after the birth. Top and tailing is quite adequate. In the winter months, bath baby every five days increasing to every two or three days in the second or third week after birth, until you feel it is necessary to bath your baby every day. In the summer months, a bath in hot weather can be very soothing and refreshing and therefore it is up to the parents how often and how frequently they decide to bath their child.

Top and tail your baby twice a day, in the morning and before bed, to keep your baby clean (see details on top and tailing here).

Bathing routine for baby

Once you have prepared everything for bathing, undress your newborn baby and wrap him in a towel. Wash the face first with warm wet cotton wool pads, muslin cloth or face sponge, then pat dry. Following this, wash baby’s hair; you can lean over the bath or basin to do this while baby is still wrapped in the towel. Use a sponge or cloth, rinse well, then pat hair dry.

Unwrap the towel and gently lift baby into the bath. He may cry, but just speak gently and reassuringly to him. If he continues to feel vulnerable, place a clean, warm, wet, folded facecloth across his chest and heart. This helps him to feel ‘protected’ and he may even cling onto it with his hands.

To make the bathing procedure more relaxed you can place a large folded towel or changing mat on the floor near the bath. This makes wrapping and unwrapping baby easier, after you have washed his hair and body, as you can lift him up and down from the towel or changing mat into the bath. Lift the baby out of the bath and wrap the baby in their towel and dry the baby on the mat or changing table.

All babies have a fear of falling, so always lift him gently up and down especially during the first few weeks of their life until they are more confident of their surroundings.

Pat all his body dry making sure to dry well behind baby’s ears, under arms, under neck and between the leg crevices. You may find a clean muslin square is helpful when attempting to dry a very young baby as they are soft and absorbent and easy to handle as you dry under arms and between leg crevices.

There are different attitudes toward moisturising baby’s skin. Many cultures find gently massaging a baby’s body with oil or moisturiser reassures baby in many ways. It’s soothing, moisturizing and calming, an excellent way to show love and nurturing to your little one. It is particularly important to use a moisturising oil or cream if your baby’s skin is overly dry and cracked. Massaging and moisturising your baby’s body after a bath can be very beneficial, particularly as he grows older. Once he is dry, lie baby on his tummy. Massage from the feet upwards, towards the body, using gentle strokes. This position allows for ‘tummy time’ when a baby can lift their head which will help to strengthen the muscles at the back of their neck.

A young baby is more able to enjoy his bath if he is not too hungry. Many maternity nurses suggest that it is a good idea in the first weeks to feed baby one breast or half a bottle before his bath, waiting approximately twenty minutes for the milk to digest, before you proceed with the bath routine.

Once the baby is dressed, you can offer the other breast or other half of the bottle, wind him well and settle to sleep.

The bathing routine will become a regular daily occurrence for you and your baby for many months ahead. It is a comforting and happy end of the day experience before you settle your little one to bed.​

Key Points To Take Away

  • Never leave your baby in the bath unattended
  • Undress your newborn and wrap him in a towel. First wash his face, then hair, then unwrap your baby and gently lower him into the bath
  • If your baby cries, you can try speaking gently to reassure him or place a warm, wet, facecloth across his chest and heart to help him feel protected
  • You can place a folded towel or changing mat on the floor to help unwrap or wrap the baby before and after the bath
  • During the first few weeks always lift your baby up and down gently as babies have a fear of falling
  • Pat your baby’s body dry, especially behind ears, under arms and in neck and leg crevices
  • If your baby's skin is overly dry and cracked, you can use moisturising oil or cream
  • After you have dried your baby, lie him on his tummy and massage him from feet up to his body. This also allows baby to have some tummy time and build up strength in his back and neck
  • It's a good idea to feed baby one breast or half a bottle, wait 20 mins and then bath baby so he is not hungry during your bathing routine. You can feed the other breast or half a bottle after the bath