When to bathe a baby?

Most babies do not need a bath every day. With their regular nappy changes and face-wiping after feeding, a bath every other day is usually enough. In fact, bathing your baby too often can dry out their skin. Bathing can be done at any time of day and it is best to start with sponge baths and avoid tub baths until your baby's umbilical cord falls off.

Umbilical cord

Also called the birth cord. A tube connecting the blood supply of the uterus of the mother to the circulatory system of the developing baby.

What you need

Items you will need for bathing your young baby include:

  • Soft washcloths;
  • Basin or clean sink;
  • Towel;
  • Thick towels or a bath cushion;
  • Baby bathtub;
  • Baby shampoo or soap, and;
  • Clean nappy and clean clothes.

Before giving your baby a bath, remember to:

  • Have everything you need ready and within arm's reach;
  • Clear the counter of any breakables and electrical appliances, and;
  • Make sure the room is warm and there are no draughts.


What not to do

When bathing your baby, do NOT:

  • Walk away from your baby, even for a moment;
  • Use soaps and cleansers in the first month after birth;
  • Add more hot water while your baby is in the tub;
  • Use cotton buds in your baby's ears, as they can damage their eardrums;
  • Scrub your baby. This is abrasive and unnecessary - gentle massage is enough;
  • Use hairdryers, as they can cause burns, or;
  • Retract your baby boy's foreskin, as the foreskin is fused to the head of the penis until later in childhood. It retracts on its own at a later age.


The retractable fold of skin that covers and protects the tip of the penis.


The thin membrane between the external and middle ear that converts sound waves into vibrations, which are then transmitted to the inner ear.

How to give a sponge bath

Sponge baths should be used instead of tub baths until your baby's umbilical cord falls off or, if they have been circumcised, until their circumcision wound heals, to reduce the risk of infection. When giving a sponge bath:

  • Add warm water to your clean sink or basin;
  • Place your baby on a bath cushion or thick towel;
  • Keep your baby covered with a towel or blanket;
  • Use a moistened cloth without soap to gently clean your baby's face;
  • Clean the rest of your baby's body - you can use some baby soap to do this, but it is not necessary;
  • Dry and wrap your baby in a towel or blanket again before washing their hair;
  • If you want, add a little baby shampoo to your baby's hair with a wash cloth and rinse it out, making sure to not get any water running down their face, as shampoo might get in their eyes, and;
  • Dry their head with a towel (not a hairdryer) and brush their hair with a comb.


Entry into the body of microorganisms that can reproduce and cause disease.

Umbilical cord

Also called the birth cord. A tube connecting the blood supply of the uterus of the mother to the circulatory system of the developing baby.

How to give a tub bath

Sometimes, particularly the first few times, babies do not like being bathed. If this is the case, you can try talking to them softly, or use bath toys. When you give your baby a tub bath, be sure to:

  • Fill the tub with warm water and test the water to make sure it is not too hot, remembering that babies have more delicate skin than adults. You may want to use a baby bath thermometer to test the water temperature, otherwise test it with your wrist or elbow;
  • Wash your baby as you would giving them a sponge bath, making sure you always have one hand supporting their head and neck, and;
  • Clean the bathtub after every use.


  1. Bathing and Skin Care for the Newborn | UCLA Health Library - Los Angeles CA. Accessed 26 November 2014 from link here