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Bathing your baby

We discuss when to give your baby a bath, ways you can wash your little one and tips to help keep them safe at bath time..

Bathing your newborn baby can be a lovely experience but it may feel stressful at first. Some babies take to baths well and others don’t seem to like them.

Your little one may really enjoy their first bath. But don’t worry if they don’t like it straight away. Most babies grow to enjoy bath time as they get more familiar with the experience.

You might find it helpful to watch this video from NHS Choices about how to bath your baby.

 

Safety tips for bath time

It’s important to keep safety in mind at bath time. Babies and young children should never be left unattended in a bath, not even for a minute (Public Health England, 2015). Here are some bath time tips:

  • Get everything ready ahead of your baby’s bath, so you have everything you need to hand.
  • Make sure you always use the hot and cold taps at the same time when you run the bath.

  • Check the bath water temperature first before putting your baby in. The standard way to check is to put your elbow in the water because your hand can cope with high temperatures.

  • Don’t be distracted away by another child, a phone call or doorbell. What feels like a couple of seconds can turn into a minute or two. Leaving your little one even for a few moments could be enough time for them to seriously hurt themselves or drown.

  • If you forget anything – ask your partner or another family member to grab it for you. Or take your baby with you to get what you need.

    (NHS Choices, 2015; Public Health England, 2015)

When should I give my baby a bath?

  • You don’t need to give your newborn baby a bath in their first few days but you can if you like.

  • If you’re anxious about bathing your little one, you don’t need to put them into a bath until you feel confident about it.

  • You may prefer to just wash your little one’s face and bottom to begin with. This is sometimes called ‘topping and tailing’.

  • Choose a bath time when your little one is content and awake. It’s better not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they’re hungry or tired.

  • Some babies love bath time to begin with, others don’t. You may need to try different ways of bathing your baby and at different times of day, to find out what suits you both.

    (NHS Choices, 2015)

How often can I give my baby a bath?

  • Your little one won’t need a bath every day but if they enjoy it there’s no reason why you can’t.

  • If you’d prefer to top and tail your newborn, you can do this every day or every few days or as needed.

  • Every baby is different – you will soon find out what works best for you and your little one.

    (NHS Choices, 2015)

How do I wash my baby?

  • If you want to top and tail your newborn, you can do this by washing them using cotton wool and bowls of warm water.

  • You can wash your newborn in a small baby bath.

  • If you’d prefer to share a bath with your little one, see below for more details.

  • It can help to have an extra pair of hands at bath time, so encourage your partner to get involved.

  • You shouldn’t use any cleansing products to bathe your baby; only mild, non-perfumed soap can be used where needed (NICE, 2006). Plain water is safer for your baby’s skin during in the first month.

(NHS Choice, 2015)

Can I take a bath with my baby?

  • Babies love to lie on a parent’s chest in the bath.

  • Having a bath with your baby can help you both relax and encourage breastfeeding. (NHS Choice, 2015)

Tips for co-bathing:

  • Get yourself settled and relaxed in the bath. Check the temperature is not too hot with your elbow.

  • Ask your partner to pass you your baby and lay them on your legs facing you.

  • Now you can lower as much of them into the water as you and they want by straightening your legs.

  • You might want to chat or sing to your baby to help soothe them.

  • When you want to get out, make sure you pass your baby back to your partner. It can be difficult to get yourself and your baby out together safely.

(NHS Choice, 2015)

As your little one gets more used to bath time and you become more confident handling them, bathing with your baby becomes lots more fun.

This page was last reviewed in October 2017.

Further information

Our helpline offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

NHS Choices Birth to Five section.

Public Health England (PHE) provides guidelines about bathing children under two safely.