Baby routine bath or feed first

Washing and bathing your baby

You don't need to bathe your baby every day. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom instead. This is often called "topping and tailing".

Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Make sure the room is warm. Get everything ready beforehand. You'll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.

Topping and tailing tips
  • Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
  • Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it doesn't get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby's eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don't transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
  • Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby's ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby's ears. Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
  • Take off the nappy and wash your baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
  • It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they'll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you're saying.

Bathing your baby safely

You don't need to bathe your baby every day, but if they really enjoy it, there's no reason why you shouldn't.

It's best not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they're hungry or tired. Make sure the room you're bathing them in is warm.

Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water, 2 towels, a clean nappy, clean clothes and cotton wool.

  • The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
  • Don't add any liquid cleansers to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.
  • Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face.
  • Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl.
  • Once you've dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
  • Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders. Then use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
  • Keep your baby's head clear of the water.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  • Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.
  • This is a good time to massage your baby. Massage can help them relax and sleep. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.
  • If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn't too hot. It's easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.

Video: how do I bath my baby?

In this video, a midwife shows you how to bath your baby properly.

Media last reviewed: 4 October 2022
Media review due: 4 October 2025

Cutting your baby's nails

Some babies are born with long nails and it's important to cut them in case they scratch themselves. You can buy special baby nail clippers or small, round-ended safety scissors. Or you could try filing them down with a fine emery board instead

See more
  • Baby sleep tips
  • Changing your baby's nappy
  • How to soothe a crying baby

Page last reviewed: 15 September 2021
Next review due: 15 September 2024

Do Baths Help Babies Sleep?

Are you wondering if a bath will help your baby sleep? I’ve got good news for you! 

Not only can baths help at bedtime, but a good bath can be a helpful tool for navigating many situations that may pop up throughout your day. 

Let’s talk about it.

Should a bath be part of the bedtime routine?#

A bath is a great addition to any bedtime routine. Research tells us that a warm bath before bed actually promotes good sleep! Here’s what happens: When we soak in that nice, warm water, blood rises up to the surface of the skin in a process called vasodilation. Once we get out of the bathtub, our blood vessels are still open causing our core body temperature to drop just a bit. This slight drop in temperature helps prepare our bodies for sleep. That means that baths CAN help babies sleep.

Additionally, when we bathe our little ones in the evening followed by a bedtime routine, the repetition of these nighttime activities cues baby’s brain that bedtime is near and it’s time to wind down for sleep.

Does a bath HAVE to be part of the bedtime routine?#

It’s totally up to you! For some families, a nightly bath is an enjoyable part of the evening routine. For others, daily baths simply aren’t feasible. That’s okay! Do whatever works best for you and your baby. Taking the bath out of your nightly schedule won’t make or break your bedtime routine. Consistency in what you do after the bath is the key!

Not sure what to include in that bedtime routine? I have a whole blog packed with bedtime routine tips and examples to help get you started in creating your own unique bedtime routine.

Can I use a bath to calm a fussy baby?#

Warm water can be very calming for cranky babies. (Who can blame them?! A good bubble bath always calms me down too.) When my little ones were fussy, I found that putting them in the bathtub was a good way to help them unwind and calm down. When they were really little, I would climb in with them for a little skin-to-skin time. This can be so relaxing for both you and baby! 

If you have a fussy baby and don’t have time for a full bath, let me share one of my favorite tricks. Wrap your newborn in a swaddle and turn on the faucet. Make sure the water is good and warm, but not too hot. Once the temperature is just right, allow the warm water to wash softly over the top of baby’s head. You’d be surprised how quickly this can relax your little one and help her calm down. Watch me try this here:

Dealing with the witching hour or a colicky baby? This is a great tool to keep in your back pocket. A little “warm water therapy” might be exactly what your baby needs to get through those tough evening hours.

Bonus Tip: If your little one is teething, offering a popsicle in the bathtub is a great way to soothe those achy gums (and make the mess super easy to clean up!)

Can I use a bath as an awake-time activity?#

Have you ever just needed something to get you and your baby to nap time? We’ve all been there! Offering a bath is a great option when the weather isn’t great, or you just need something fun and engaging to fill that awake time. 

Think about it, the bathtub is essentially a large water table! Fill it with toys, and your little one is sure to have a great time! As an added bonus, you may even get to drink a whole WARM cup of coffee as you watch your baby splash and play in the water.

How do I give my newborn a bath?#

If you’re new to bathing little ones, you may be wondering, “What’s the best way to do it?” Here are a few quick tips for bathing your sweet baby: 

  • Wash Clean To Dirty: Start by washing the cleanest part of your little one first and end with the dirtiest. This likely means you’ll be washing your baby’s head first and bottom last.

  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Soft Spot: Yes, we want to be gentle with baby’s soft spot…BUT, it’s also important to know that there is a very thick membrane covering that soft spot. Don’t be afraid to wash that little head!

  • Keep Baby Warm: Allow the water to fill the tub so that the water covers your baby’s chest (without coming too close to his ears or face.) Keeping his body submerged will help to keep him warm and comfortable throughout the bath.

  • Use A Warm Towel: Wet and cold. That’s a combination nobody loves, including your baby. Right before you start the bath, toss a fresh baby towel in the dryer for 10-15 minutes. When you’re almost ready to dry off, ask your partner or a big sibling to grab the warm towel. This will keep your little one feeling calm and cozy even after bath time has ended.

Check out this video to see a newborn bath in action! 

Yes, baths as part of the bedtime routine can be so helpful in helping babies sleep, but they can also be a great tool for parents anytime of day! For more tips on all things baby sleep and routines, head to my blog. It’s packed with so much good information to help you navigate those first years with your little one.

If you want to see everything step-by-step and with all my best tips, check out my First Five Months Bundle.

How to bathe a newborn child so as not to harm him

When can a child be bathed after being discharged from the maternity hospital

Vasilisa Avramenko, neonatologist, expert of the Mama TV channel, member of the Union of Professional Motherhood Support, answers the main question of young mothers: “When is it possible to bathe a child after discharge from the maternity hospital?” The expert assures:

“Bathing starts after discharge on the same day or the next.”

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At the same time, a doctor who monitors newborns draws attention to the need to separate the concepts of "wash" and "bath". You can wash in the maternity hospital immediately from the first day. But with a full-fledged wash in some cases it is worth delaying.

“Sometimes it may be advised to refrain from swimming if you have had a TB shot in your arm (BCG or BCG-M). But here it is worth remembering that while bathing you can not rub the injection site. If water gets into the place of vaccination, then nothing bad will happen. Also, the presence of a non-falling umbilical cord (umbilical cord or bracket) is not a contraindication to bathing, ”explains the neonatologist. nine0005

When is it okay to give a newborn a full bath?

Since babies are not usually given a full bath in the maternity hospital, many mothers wonder if bathing a newborn baby from the first days of life is not dangerous. Neonatologist Avramenko is in a hurry to reassure young parents:

“You can bathe completely even from the first day, it’s just that usually the conditions in the maternity hospital don’t allow, it turns out only to wash. Accordingly, immediately after the discharge of the child, you can bathe.

What to bathe a newborn baby in

The doctor warns that it is not safe to bathe a child in a large bathtub, so you should definitely do it in a baby bathtub.

“What kind of baby bath will be - this is already the choice of parents. It may be with a special slide, but as a rule, these are more suitable for slightly older children, and not for newborns. However, this depends on the weight and height of the baby at birth. Trays on a stand can also be used, but this is more for the convenience of parents and especially for mothers who have had a caesarean section. Such a baby bath is adjusted to the height of the parent - this way the back and arms are not overloaded. nine0005

What should be the temperature of the water when bathing a baby

Vasilisa Avramenko does not recommend that parents adhere to the old method - the “elbow method” (when the water temperature was assessed using the sensitivity of the skin on the elbow):
“Everyone has a different sensitivity threshold and unaccustomed skin can feel comfortable water for an adult, but for a child it may be too hot or too cold. Therefore, in order to avoid burns or hypothermia, at first it is better to use a special water thermometer. The optimal water temperature for a child is 36.5-37.5 degrees. In fact, this is body temperature - it will be as comfortable as possible. nine0005

Many adults, especially first-born parents, find it necessary to boil water to bathe their baby. The neonatologist assures that this is not necessary - ordinary warm tap water will do.



Do I need to add special baby bath products to the water

How can I wash my baby and avoid an allergic reaction?

Neonatologist Vasilisa Avramenko answers: “A newborn, and indeed children of the first year of life, do not need to be bathed in any special products, herbs (they can cause irritation or allergies), and even more so antiseptics (they can dry the skin). The same applies to special bathing products. The skin is the "protector" of the baby, and what this organ encounters can cause a reaction. The fewer exposures, the easier it is for the skin to adapt to the environment.” nine0005

However, the doctor clarifies that if you still wash the child using bathing products, then it is recommended to add them to the water no more than twice a week.

“You can also add bathing oil to the water to soften the water, especially if you know your water is hard,” says Vasilisa Avramenko.

How to bathe a newborn baby correctly

Many young parents are wondering what to wash first - the genitals, arms and legs or wipe all the skin folds first. However, the neonatologist reports that, in general, there is no clear algorithm for what to wash first and last - this is at the discretion of the parents. nine0005

But there are different methods of bathing a newborn. For example, the so-called adaptive bathing is in a diaper.

“Sometimes diaper bathing is used, especially when this is the first child for the parents. And also in the case of active children, since bathing in a diaper allows parents to calmly start bathing each part of the body. But this is optional. If adults feel confident, and the baby does not resist and is calm about the procedure, then this method will not be required, ”the specialist assures. nine0005

The doctor notes that the usual bathing is used more often with pouring water from a ladle from above, that is, from head to toe, but the order may vary.

How can I clean my baby's skin if necessary? The neonatologist recommends:

“If desired, while bathing, you can use a soft cup or a special mitt, on which to apply a baby bathing agent. Distribute it, and only then apply it to the skin of the child. It is not recommended to do the opposite - pour the bathing agent on the child, and then distribute it over the skin. It’s better to do it on your hand, on a sponge.” nine0005

Dr. Avramenko explains that you only need to apply bathing or skin cleansing products to the skin if you are washing the child out of the stool or the skin is really contaminated with something. In other cases, just warm water is enough.

“If you see dryness, redness or a rash after using the product, then it is better to replace it with another one or not use it at all,” the neonatologist warns.



How often to bathe the baby

While some parents are accustomed to bathing their newborn every day, others think that once a week is enough.

To the question “how often to bathe a baby”, the neonatologist did not give a universal answer for everyone, since it depends on the preferences and cultural characteristics of different countries: “There are no strict recommendations, but it is worth noting that the child must be clean so that his skin could perform all protective functions. There should be no redness or damage to the skin. And this often happens if, for example, the diaper is not changed often enough or the remains of the stool remain on the skin of the child. nine0005

It is worth remembering that bathing has another important function.

“In general, bathing helps not only cleanse the skin, but also affects its receptors – it stimulates the neurological development of the child. Therefore, the bathing procedure is good from all sides. Once a day, I would recommend that every child bathe completely - that is, daily, ”- Dr. Avramenko.

Why you shouldn't bathe your baby after feeding

Many parents have heard that you shouldn't bathe your baby after feeding, but don't know why. nine0005

The neonatologist mentioned two main versions, one of them: “If we are talking about a child after two weeks of life, the amount of food eaten (milk or formula) increases and when bathing itself, the parents change the position of the child and due to anatomical features, the child may burp . Accordingly, the child will be deprived of the nutrients he needs for growth and development.”

There is also a second version.

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“After a person takes food, there is some redistribution of blood flow - the stomach and intestines begin to be supplied with blood more intensively. When bathing, warm water is used, so blood flow can go to the skin and muscles. As a result, blood distribution may be disturbed up to a violation of pressure (its decrease). But still, this is more applicable to hot procedures, for example, hot baths. And for children of the first year of life, such procedures are not carried out, ”explains the neonatologist. nine0005

What to do after bathing

Can I moisturize my skin with baby oil after washing? Dr. Avramenko answers as follows:
“In the first month of a newborn's life, baby oil can only be used to soften water. The oil is not applied directly to the skin, as this can form such conditional films that cover the pores. As a result, there is a violation of skin breathing and heat transfer, respectively, the child may overheat, since his thermoregulation is just being established. Therefore, we do not use oil for the skin.” nine0005

Special children's cotton swabs with limiters can also be classified as prohibited substances. The doctor says that they are not suitable for babies:

“Firstly, they can injure, as they are large enough for a newborn. And secondly, it makes no sense to use them, because it is not recommended to touch the nose and ears, since the glands are not yet so active and earwax is not produced much.

In general, after bathing, the neonatologist recommends drying the skin folds, as well as the skin around the umbilical cord, if it has not fallen off (this place should be dry and number, so that there is access to air). After bathing, if necessary, you can use a moisturizer or drying cream under the diaper. And to keep warm, it is necessary to adequately dress the child, sometimes after bathing you can use a cap. nine0005

How to properly bathe your baby | Happy Moments

With the advent of a small child in a family, sometimes the simplest things seem incredibly difficult for new parents. Feeding the baby, dressing and hygiene ... And such an event as the first bath turns out to be a whole sacrament for many, requiring special knowledge and skills. However, having mastered this process, very soon both parents and the baby will begin to receive a lot of pleasure, pleasant emotions and benefits from it.

Benefits of bathing

Bathing a child in the bath is not just about taking care of the child's skin, but also strengthening the immune system. During water procedures, the baby hardens, trains its not yet perfect thermoregulation. The child learns the world, masters a new environment for himself, feels his body differently, and of course, receives positive emotions together with his parents. In addition, taking a bath soothes, relaxes and prepares the baby for sleep. Thus, daily bathing becomes an important stage in the formation of the baby's regimen from the first days of life. nine0005

Bath time

The evening is considered the ideal time for bathing the baby. Water perfectly calms, adjusts to a night's sleep. It is important for parents who have chosen this daily routine to create an atmosphere of peace themselves so that the baby does not get overexcited and can sleep peacefully. However, there are children for whom evening bathing is not suitable due to individual characteristics of the regimen: then their parents should bathe him in the morning, choosing the most convenient moment in order to get the maximum benefit and positive emotions from the process. nine0005

Another question that worries many parents is when to wash their baby - before feeding or after? And even pediatricians do not have a clear answer, since the baby himself determines the time for bathing with his mood. If the baby is hungry and crying - taking a bath, of course, should be postponed, after waiting some time after feeding (especially if the baby is bottle-fed, because mixtures are digested longer than breast milk).

Preparing for bathing

Most parents prefer to wash their newborn baby in a plastic baby bath with a little water in it. Beforehand, the bath must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected by dousing with boiling water. For the first baths of a newborn, it is recommended to use cooled boiled water, or add a weak solution of potassium permanganate to the tap. nine0005

The optimal temperature to start swimming is 33-34 degrees. If you have not had time to get a water thermometer, you can make sure that the water is at the right temperature by dipping your elbow into the bath.

The air temperature in the room should also be comfortable: you need to make sure that there are no drafts in the room, but you shouldn’t close all the doors either, so that later on leaving the stuffy bath you don’t create sudden temperature changes for the baby.

Prepare a bucket of warm water for rinsing your baby, a diaper and a large towel to wrap your baby up after bathing. Before you wash your baby, prepare clean clothes, cotton swabs, a clean diaper, and baby skin care products. nine0005

Baby bath products

Modern baby bath products can be used from the first days of life. Baby soap and shampoo should have a special pH level that suits the delicate and sensitive skin of the baby, be sure to be hypoallergenic, and do not contain harmful fragrances. Pediatricians recommend using soap or foam for bathing very young children no more than 1-2 times a week. Shampoo your child's hair once a week. On other days, it is enough to bathe the baby in clean water. If necessary, a decoction of chamomile, calendula or string can be added to the water: this is especially true when irritation or prickly heat appears on the child's skin. nine0005

Bathing sequence

Before bathing your baby, make sure the tub is at a height that is comfortable for you. Then fill the bath with warm water, if necessary, add bathing foam or herbal decoction to it. Check the temperature of the water with a thermometer or touch it with your elbow. Place a bucket of hot water next to the bathtub to add to the bathtub as it cools. Gently submerge the baby in the water, leaving the head on the surface, placing a pillow from a folded towel or diaper under it. Water the baby with warm water, washing hands and feet alternately, using soap if necessary. The newborn also needs to wash all the folds, the spaces between the fingers, the armpits.

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