Ultimate Newborn Bathing Guide

When the doctor first put Lily in my arms after I had given birth, I was amazed at just how tiny she was and how fragile she seemed as I held her.  I also remember how scared I was at the thought of trying to give her a bath.  We had a lot of bathing questions for the nurse before we left the hospital about this very important part of baby care!

Sponge Baths

When Lily first came home from the hospital, we did sponge baths with her for the first week or so until her umbilical cord stump fell off.  Our nurse explained that the  reason for this is to prevent infections in this area.  She also told us to also wait a day or two before taking the first bath because of the vernix: this is a thin, waxy layer on a newborn that helps to protect their skin. She also suggested only doing this a few times a week at first to keep their skin from drying out. 


Here is the routine I followed for the sponge baths and that seems to work well for other parents I have talked to:

  • Make sure you have ALL the stuff you need to get the job done!  Once the bath starts, you won’t want to have to stop it. I always used a baby towel with a hood, a soft washcloth, a basin of warm water and baby soap. I also made sure to have a clean diaper and change of clothes on hand so I could get Lily dressed as soon as possible after the sponge bath. 
  • Lay your baby down on a flat surface.  This could be a changing table, the bed, the counters in the kitchen or bathroom or on the floor.  I would usually bathe Lily on her changing table because it was easier on my back but there’s no one right way to do it. Make sure, though, that if the surface is hard, you use a towel or changing pad to keep your baby comfortable. 
  • Undress your baby and wrap them quickly in a baby towel. The one I used for Lily had a hood to go over her head to prevent loss of body heat. Babies can get cold easily, so when you start the sponge bath, make sure to only expose the part of the body you are actually cleaning. 
  • When you begin the sponge bath, start with the baby’s head and face.  At this point only use warm water and a washcloth to wash these areas, then dry them right away and replace the hood as soon as you can. When you wash the eyes, go from the inner corner of the eye to the outer one.  
  • Move on to washing the rest of your baby’s body.  Again, make sure to only wash one part at a time to keep the baby from getting cold.  They will be a lot less fussy if they are comfortable!
  • Perform after-bath care. When you are done with the washing, make sure to dry your baby off gently but thoroughly, then put on a clean diaper and clothes. 


Tub or Sink Baths

Once Lily’s stump fell off, we were able to progress to taking regular tub baths. While some people will use the kitchen sink, I preferred to get a small plastic bathing tub, just because I liked how portable it was and how much freedom it gave me.   


I have to admit that I was nervous when I began to switch to tub bathing, but actually the practice isn’t too different from the sponge baths.  Here is a good routine to follow:

  • Make sure you have everything you need right at hand! It is important to gather your supplies together before you even start the bath.  Better yet, keep them all in one place so that you can access them quickly. I kept a bin with bathing supplies in the bottom drawer of LIly’s changing table. 
  • Prepare the tub. Line the bathing tub or the basin with a towel or liner and fill it with 2-3 inches of warm water (around 100 degrees). Make sure to test the temperature with the inside of our wrist to make sure it is not too hot.  Then, being careful to support the baby’s head and neck, slide them feet-first into the tub.  I would always hold Lily with my left arm and perform the bath with my right since I am right-handed. 
  • Bath your baby, beginning with the head and face. As with the sponge baths, start with the baby’s head and face: if you are shampooing, then use a small drop of it and massage it gently into the scalp.  When you rinse it off, make sure to keep it out of the baby’ s eyes. After this, you can move down and wash the rest of the body.  
  • Do after-bath care. Dry your baby gently but thoroughly. If your baby’s skin is dry, you can gently massage with a moisturizer. Then put on a clean diaper and set of clothes and you are ready to go!


Bathing newborns is a little scary at first simply because they are so small and delicate but you will be surprised at how quickly you catch on – and how much you can enjoy this bonding time between you and your baby.  I always liked to do this in the evening as part of Lily’s bedtime routine as it would relax her and get her ready for sleep. 









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