How to safely give your baby a bath for the first time

The thought of handling a wet and potentially slippery baby for the first time could make any new parent nervous but our guide will leave you feeling confident about how to safely bath your baby.  

Close shot of a baby in a plastic tub for infants being slowly placed inside by his father's arms.

Congratulations on your bundle of joy!  Now that you're in the comfort of your home it’s time to start thinking about giving your baby her (or his) first bath in the upcoming days.  Here's how to do it. 

When to Bathe Your Baby

Newborns don’t need a bath every single day as they will not be getting dirty nearly as quickly.  Bathing your baby two to three times a week for the first several months is more than sufficient and will help to prevent their skin from drying out.  Of course, this routine can always be modified as needed.  You’re almost certain to encounter an instance of “explosive” poop where your baby’s stool manages to travel beyond the limits of their diaper.

Safety Reminders

Prior to giving your baby a bath, let’s go over the potential safety hazards so you know how to avoid them.    

  • Babies should never, under any circumstances, be left alone inside the bath. Drowning can occur quickly, even in very shallow water.
  • Use warm (not hot) water to prevent scalding the baby. The water temperature should never exceed 100° F. Always test the water on your skin prior to putting your baby in the bath.
  • Drops, slips and falls: Remember that water and/or soap can make your baby slippery so keep them on the surface of the tub when cleaning them and maintain one hand on them at all times. The tub should be equipped with an anti-slip bathtub mat.  Avoid spilling water on your bathroom floor and use a rug to help keep the place dry.

Bathing Your Baby

Have everything you need readily available.  Keep a shower caddy containing the following:

  • Wash cloth
  • Baby cleanser or soap
  • Baby shampoo
  • Rinsing cup
  • Hooded baby towel

You’ll be giving your baby a sponge bath so turn off the water once there’s a sufficient amount in the tub to rinse off the baby.  There’s no need to fully submerse your baby in water and avoid doing so until the umbilical cord has fallen off and has fully healed.  Allow time for circumcised boys to heal before bathing them in fully submersing the area of their bodies.

Use a baby bathtub for your newborn.  Once they’ve outgrown this you can move them directly to the bathtub.  If you choose to shower with your baby, make sure your shower has a non-slip mat.

Using the washcloth, gently clean your baby starting with the face, followed by the body, extremities and genitals.  Finish off by gently rinsing out baby’s hair.    

Have that towel ready!  Babies can’t regulate their body temperature so you’ll want to ensure that your baby is dry and warm immediately following their bath. 

Keep in Mind

As your child grows and is able to sit up and move around in the tub you’ll want to keep them away from the faucet so they don’t bump their heads.  A bath spout cover will solve for this.

It’s almost inevitable that your child will want to drink either the water from the tub or spout.  Be consistent in discouraging this behavior from early on.   

Lastly, have fun!  Be sure to smile at your baby as you bath them and they’re sure to smile back.  Hopefully it’s a moment you enjoy and also look forward to, every couple of days.