Time for a bath

They’re so fragile and tiny that often parents are nervous to bathe their newborns. Make the worry disappear and have fun getting your baby squeaky clean with these useful tips.

As most first things you’ll encounter after bringing baby home, the first scrub-a-dub-dub can seem a little daunting. When do you give the first bath? How much water do you need? What temperature? Read on for some useful tips that’ll take the guesswork out of this common bedtime ritual.


It’s ok to wait a few days—even a week—before bathing your newborn. The World Health Organization recommends delaying the first bath until at least 24 hours after the birth, others recommend waiting longer. In fact, studies show that there are many benefits from waiting, like allowing more time between mother and baby to bond, increased likelihood of breastfeeding, and a longer exposure to the vernix, the creamy, white covering babies develop in the womb that helps regulate warmth, moisture and contains antioxidant and antibiotic properties.

When you are ready to wash your baby, remember the first step is a sponge bath, until the umbilical cord falls off. For circumcised babies, you’ll want to wait until that’s healed as well.


A baby that isn’t crawling or walking yet doesn’t get as dirty as a toddler, so they don’t need a daily bath—2-3 times a week should do the trick and not over-dry baby’s sensitive skin.  You can wash the areas that need a little special care like the hands, face, chin and neck and diaper area daily with a soft wash cloth like these organic terry ones in lukewarm water (not hot!).


You’ll want to think about the best time to give your baby a bath. Wait at least an hour after feeding, and keep in mind whether the water is something that stimulates them or soothes them. If splashing around gets them going, then you might want to schedule bath time earlier in the day. For most babies, the water has a calming effect, so many parents will integrate it in their bedtime routine.


Before you even begin the bath, you’ll want to make sure you get organized. Have everything you need within arm’s length: soap, towel, wash cloth, diaper, change of clothes. You never, ever want to step away from the bath while you baby’s in it.


Be mindful of the water temperature— it should always be lukewarm, never hot. Dip your elbow in the running water, if it feels warm to you, it might be too hot for your baby. You can use a bath thermometer to make sure you’re keeping the temperature between the recommended 90-100 degrees F. Fill the tub with an inch or two of water, that is sufficient. Invest in a baby bath tub that can transition easily between stages of newborn to toddler and always cradle baby’s head while washing. Keep testing the water and when it gets too cool, you know it’s time to get out. An added measure to make sure you baby is not getting cold is to crank up the thermostat in the room. You’ll want to wrap them in a towel as soon as they get out. Make sure you dry them properly and get them dressed quickly—you don’t want them losing body heat.


Use gentle, tear-free soap, and shampoo. Read the label properly and look for options free of any parabens or toxic ingredients and no added perfumes or dyes that can irritate baby’s skin.

Once you’ve done this a few times, like most parenting skills, it will become second nature. You can make bath time fun by bringing in bath toys when baby is ready for them and using the time to make lots of eye contact and interact with your baby. Above all, these rituals should be enjoyable and help create an even stronger bond with your baby.

June 22, 2019 — James DiMiele