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How to Bathe a Newborn: A Guide for First-Time Parents

How to Bathe a Newborn A Guide for First-Time Parents

I’ve heard my sister say several times that one can never truly be “ready” to care for a baby. She said the skills, like those required for bathing a newborn, come instinctively.

Although instinct is a great sidekick, as a doting tita and aspiring mom, I empathize with first-time parents preparing for the arrival of their child.

After all, what parent wouldn’t want to give the best care to their children?

With this in mind, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to bathe a newborn, the best practices you can apply, and other helpful tips and tricks to ease your parenting jitters.

How to Bathe a Newborn [Things You Must Know]

In my experience of bathing my newborn nephews and nieces, there are three staples to get the job done efficiently: lukewarm water, fragrance-free soap, and gentle hands to caress your newborn baby.

Aside from these three essentials, there are other things you MUST bear in mind. To help you out, here are the five easy steps you can follow to bathe a newborn properly:

Step #1: Prepare the Baby Bath Essentials

First, you must gather all the essentials for the baby. You can begin the process by placing their changing clothes beside the changing bed or table, along with other dressing essentials like powders or ointments.

Then, prepare the essentials near the bathing area. Start by placing the best baby bathtub and best baby bath seat securely on top of the kitchen sink for better height, or if the tub has rubber feet, on the bathroom floor.

Where you place it depends on your comfort as long as it’s close to a water source. You can also prepare a flat surface if you intend to use sponge bathing (or washcloth bathing) instead of traditional bathing.

After that, put lukewarm water inside the tub. If you don’t have a built-in heater, put the cold running water in first, then heat another batch of water and mix both in the tub. 

Next, ensure the soap and washcloth are beside the tub. Baby washcloths can be used for thoroughly cleaning a newborn’s body with water. Once everything is settled, you can remove your baby’s clothes. 

If you’re not bathing your newborn in a tub, wrap the baby in the best baby towel and only expose the baby’s parts that need cleaning at that particular time. This is a method that doctors recommend.

TIP: If you’re unsure how many baby towels you need, I suggest picking up 2-4 towels just to be sure.

Step #2: Place the Baby Inside the Baby Bath Tub

Now it’s time to place the baby inside the tub. If you prefer sponge bathing, place your baby on a flatter surface (making sure to support their head and neck).

But first, check the water temperature using your wrists or the baby bath thermometer. If the temperature is alright, expose the baby’s feet first to the water.

Make sure you hold the baby securely in one hand while the other is used to pour water or apply soap.

For those using a washcloth, dip the cloth into the lukewarm water you prepared and squeeze it lightly to remove excess water before cleaning your baby’s body.

PRO TIP: You can also include the best bath toys inside the baby bathtub if they get fussy during bath times, but ensure you know how to clean bath toys for the baby’s safety.

Step #3: Clean the Baby’s Head

Whether using the sponge or the traditional bathing method, you’ll need a clean cloth to wipe the baby’s face as you move from head to toe.

Start by cleaning the scalp thoroughly with gentle hands. You can also add a small amount of shampoo to clean the baby’s hair.

After that, clean their face, the neck, and the back of the ears with the washcloth. You can add gentle baby soap, like Cetaphil Baby Moisturising Bath & Wash when washing the neck and back ear parts. 

Then, dip the washcloth in clean lukewarm water, squeeze, and rinse the parts you cleaned with soap and shampoo. You can also rinse them by pouring small amounts of water over the scalp and the neck. 

A common mistake I’ve observed first-time parents make is to pour water over their baby’s face and ears. Remember NOT TO DO THIS for your baby’s safety.

Step #4: Clean the Rest of the Body

After washing your baby’s scalp and neck, proceed with the rest of the body. Dip the washcloth first in the water and soap mixture, squeeze a bit of the water off, and clean the following body parts:

  • chest area
  • hands
  • fingers and in-betweens
  • legs and in-between thighs
  • baby’s bottoms, especially those covered by diaper
  • feet
  • toes and in-betweens

Once the parts mentioned above are thoroughly and gently cleaned, don’t forget to rinse off the water and soap mixture using a washcloth or directly pour water on the baby’s body.

Step #5: Dry Baby With a Clean, Soft Towel

After the fourth step, wrap the baby with a clean and dry soft towel. Then, lay the baby flat on a dry and comfortable surface. Next, I lightly pat them dry with the towel.

I always ensure that my nieces and nephews’ skins are free from water residue from bathing before putting baby powder and freshly ironed clothes on them.

Best Practices When Bathing a Newborn

Best Practices When Bathing a Newborn

I only want the best for my family, and I am certain you feel the same.

To achieve that, I want to share with you the best practices in bathing a newborn that I have gathered from helping the moms in my life care for their newborns. Here are the tips and tricks I want you to remember:

  • Use mild and moisturizing soap with a gentle and safe formula for newborns. You can also use this soap in a breast milk bath.
  • A fragrance-free shampoo like the Cetaphil Baby Wash & Shampoo is one of the best shampoo types for cradle caps, which can help during bathtime.
  • You can try a breast milk bath for your newborn for their natural moisturizing and antibacterial properties.
  • Only put 2 inches or 5 centimeters of lukewarm water in the tub. 
  • When holding the baby while bathing, always hold their head and neck securely.
  • Keep shampoo suds away from your baby’s eyes when washing the scalp and hair.
  • You can bathe the baby any time of day, a morning bath is best for tropical countries like ours.
  • Do not add water to the tub in the middle of bathing.
  • You can massage your baby while cleaning the parts of their body, like their head, arms, and legs.

How to Dry a Newborn

How to Dry a Newborn

The process of drying a newborn after bathing is easy. Just follow these straightforward steps:

  1. Cover your baby with a fresh, clean towel right after bathing.
  2. Lay your baby flat on a comfortable surface. 
  3. Gently pat them dry. Make sure to be thorough but gentle when patting your baby. Don’t forget to ensure their creases are dry, like the neck and back of the ears.
  4. Apply baby lotion to keep your baby’s skin hydrated.
  5. Lastly, dress your newborn, and vóila, you’re done!

Most Filipino moms I know, including my mom and sister, put baby oil on a newborn’s head, feet, and tummy mainly to protect the baby from aswang

Nevertheless, science says it’s an important step to prevent or alleviate the flaky skin of a newborn.

The chest part is also puffed with baby powder to ensure freshness, given the climate in the country.

When Should You Bathe Your Newborn?

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests waiting at least 24 hours before bathing a newborn baby for the first time. 

This gives pediatricians and other healthcare workers enough time to check the baby’s condition after birth.

My sister’s doctors explained that postnatal care is a crucial aspect that determines the baby’s status through monitoring vital signs and physical checkups.

However, the WHO emphasized that the delay can be lessened to at least six hours when culture requires bathing immediately after birth.

How Often Can You Bathe Your Newborn?

How Often Can You Bathe Your Newborn

If you’ve ever wondered, “How often should you bathe a newborn?” the answer is two to three times a week.

This is enough to keep their skin healthy and hydrated. The logic behind this is that newborns aren’t active enough to get dirty or sweat a lot.

However, you can clean your baby with a damp washcloth hours after bathing if you don’t live in a well-ventilated area, or you’re in a part of the Philippines where it’s hot day and night.

It’s essential to clean and hydrate their bottoms after every diaper change using gentle baby wipes and diaper rash creams.

What’s the Best Temperature for a Baby’s First Bath?

The best temperature for a baby’s first bath is 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit

I check my nieces and nephews’ water before their bath by putting my wrist on the water and testing how the temperature feels. To double-check, I use the best baby bath thermometer.

It’s vital that the water is not scalding hot nor too cold, as it can damage the baby’s skin and make the baby’s body temperature drop faster, respectively.

Why Should You Bathe Your Newborn?

Bathing a newborn is an indispensable part of their routine. But why? Well, here are the reasons why you should bathe your newborn:

  • Bathing keeps the baby’s skin healthy, soft, and hydrated
  • Bathing helps the baby develop and maintain a normal body temperature
  • Bathing refreshes the baby, particularly in extremely warm weather conditions 
  • Bathing cleanses the baby’s body to prevent the development of bacteria and germs

However, all these are achievable if you follow the steps above and the other tips and tricks when bathing a newborn.


If you still have questions about bathing your newborn, read on!

Should I Use Soap When Bathing My Newborn?

Yes, you can use a small amount of soap when bathing your newborn.

However, the soap must be mild, fragrance-free, and pediatrician and dermatologist-recommended to ensure the safety of your baby’s skin.

To recap, the Cetaphil Baby Moisturising Bath & Wash is the product I use for my nieces and nephews, and it has given the best results for their skin.

What Should I Avoid When Bathing My Newborn?

When keeping babies safe and secure, there are things to avoid when bathing your newborn, such as:

  • Avoid leaving your baby in the tub with or without water, especially without supervision, as drowning can cause immediate death.
  • Avoid using water that’s too hot, as it can burn the baby’s skin.
  • Avoid bathing your baby every day, as it can dry their skin.
  • Don’t risk using anything with parabens or phthalates. Avoid soaps with synthetic fragrances, too. These can harm your baby’s delicate skin.
  • Avoid getting shampoo and soap suds in your baby’s eyes and mouth.

How Should I Bathe a Baby With an Umbilical Cord?

To prevent infections, you should bathe a baby with an umbilical cord stump using the sponge bath method. In this process, you will perform the following steps:

  • Prepare the baby’s essentials
  • Place the baby on a flat surface
  • Clean the baby’s head with a damp washcloth
  • Clean the baby’s body parts with a damp washcloth
  • Pat your baby dry with a clean towel

You don’t need a baby tub with water when using this method. You can also choose not to use soap and shampoo. 

When Can I Start Bathing My Baby Daily?

You can start bathing your baby daily with lukewarm water once the umbilical cord stump dries and falls off

Final Thoughts

As a new parent, I know you need reassurance that you’ll give your baby the best care, particularly when bathing. The good thing is you can be reassured when following the steps and tips mentioned above.

Just make sure that you bear these steps in mind after 24 hours post-birth:

  • Always prepare the baby’s bath essentials beforehand.
  • Place the baby in lukewarm water inside a baby bathtub with a baby bath seat (until your baby is old enough to sit in the bath without a seat) or on a flat surface for the sponge bath method.
  • Start cleaning from the baby’s head.
  • Clean the other parts of the body.
  • Dry the baby with a clean towel after the bath.

With everything listed in this article, you can bathe a newborn efficiently and safely.

Josie Mariano
Josie Mariano

Hello, my name is Josie Mariano, and I’m proud to say I’m a soon-to-be mom.
Although my partner and I are still waiting for our firstborn to arrive, we’re already doing whatever it takes to prepare for our baby’s needs.
I’ve been joining a lot of parenting forums and asking my doctors for advice on how to prepare for my baby. They’ve all been very informative and I was able to spot the areas I still need to work on.
At the same time, I also rely on my mom for tips on what to do during my pregnancy journey.
With everything that I’ve learned so far, I’d like to share these experiences to fellow parents and soon-to-be parents!