Bathing Basics

You should give your baby a sponge bath until:

  • the umbilical cord falls off and the navel heals completely (1–4 weeks)
  • the circumcision heals (1–2 weeks)

Bathing more than two to three times a week within the first year may dry your baby’s skin.

Have these supplies all set before bathing your baby:

  • a soft, clean washcloth
  • mild, unscented baby soap and shampoo
  • a soft brush to stimulate the baby’s scalp
  • towels or blankets
  • a clean diaper
  • clean clothes


Sponge baths. For a sponge bath, choose a safe, level surface (such as a changing table, floor, or counter) in a warm room. If there’s a sink within your reach, fill it up. Otherwise, fill a bowl with warm water (not hot!). Take off your baby’s clothes and wrap him or her in a towel. Damp a washcloth or a clean cotton ball with water and use it to wipe your baby’s eyes one by one, starting from the inner corner to the outer corner. Use a clean part of the washcloth or another cotton ball to wash the other eye. Using a damp washcloth as well, you may carefully wipe your baby’s nose and ears. For the face, wet a cloth with warm water and a little mild soap and wipe the baby’s face gently and pat it dry.

Afterwards, using a baby shampoo, produce a foam and gently wash your baby’s head and rinse. Using a wet cloth and soap, gently wash the rest of his or her body, especially to the creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck, and around the genital area. After washing those areas, softly pat them dry and then your baby is all set to put on a diaper and clean clothes.

Tub baths. Once your baby is ready for tub baths, the first baths should be gentle and fast. If he or she doesn’t seem to like it, go back to sponge baths for a week or two, then try the bath again.

In addition to the supplies listed above, add:

  • an infant tub containing no more than 3 inches of warm — not hot! — water (to check the water temperature, feel the water with the inside of your elbow or wrist). An infant tub is a plastic tub that can be put in the bathtub; it’s an ideal size for babies and makes bathing a lot easier to do.

Take off your baby’s clothes and then position him or her in the water promptly, in a warm room, to avoid chills. Ensure that the water in the tub is not above 3 inches, and that there’s no longer water going into the tub. Use one of your hands to support the head and the other hand to guide the baby in feet-first. Speaking gently, gradually lower your baby into the tub until the water reaches the chest.

Use a washcloth to wash his or her face and hair. Gently massage your baby’s scalp with the pads of your fingers or a soft baby hairbrush, including the area over the fontanelles (soft spots) on the top of the head. When you rinse the soap or shampoo from your baby’s head, cup your hand above the forehead so the lathers don’t run toward the eyes. Gently wash the rest of your baby’s body with water and a small amount of soap.

During the bath, frequently pour water carefully over your baby’s body to keep him or her from getting cold. Afterwards, wrap your baby in a towel right away, making sure to cover his or her head. Baby towels with hoods are excellent to keep your baby warm after a bath.

While bathing your infant, never leave the baby unattended. If you need to go somewhere, wrap the baby in a towel and take him or her with you.

Next, Learn now about Circumcision and Umbilical Cord Care or about Feeding and Burping Your Baby

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