To Top

back to buying guides & advice


How to Bathe a Newborn

Until his umbilical cord drops off (which will happen after a couple of weeks), you'll need to give your baby sponge baths. Here, a guide to bathing a newborn.

With everything else you have to do as a new mom, the good news is you need to sponge bathe (and later tub bathe) your baby only once or twice a week for the first month or so. (But you may want to do it more often just for the pleasure of cooing over those tiny toes, stroking that silky skin, and clocking some prime bonding time.) To begin, find a flat surface – bathroom or kitchen counter, bed, even the floor – in a warm room, choose a time when your little one's well rested and not too full or hungry, then follow these steps for bathing a newborn.

Gather your supplies.

Have everything you'll need at your fingertips before you start. Otherwise, you'll have to gather up your naked newborn mid–sponge bath to fetch whatever you've forgotten. Here are the essentials:

  • One or two cotton washcloths
  • A couple of plush towels (the bottom one can be hooded)
  • shampoo (or a product that does double duty)
  • Cotton balls
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A plastic basin filled with warm water
  • A plastic cup
  • Baby lotion
  • Diaper cream (if your darling's rash-prone)
  • A clean diaper
  • A fresh set of clothes

Have everything you'll need at your fingertips before you start. Otherwise, you'll have to gather up your naked newborn mid–sponge bath to fetch whatever you've forgotten. Here are the essentials:

Set up your baby's sponge-bath site.

Layer one towel on top of the other. Arrange everything else within easy reach.

Prep your baby.

Lay him down on the top towel and strip him down to his birthday suit. You'll be washing the top half of his body first, so drape the blanket over his lower limbs to keep him toasty.

Download a printer-friendly version

Focus on his face first.

Dip a corner of a washcloth or cotton ball in the warm water, and gently wipe one eye from the inner corner outward. Using a different corner of the cloth or a clean cotton ball, clean the other eye. Wet the washcloth entirely and wash your munchkin's mug, especially around his mouth and under his chin where milk and drool can pool, and inside and behind his ears. (Never use a cotton swab to clean inside your cutie's ears.) It's okay to use a little soap on your baby's face for stubborn crud.

Wash his body.

With the blanket still in place over his lower body, dip the washcloth in warm water and wash your little one's neck and torso. (You usually don't need soap when cleaning most parts of your newborn – they just don't get that dirty). Maneuver carefully around the umbilical cord; it's okay to gently wipe away any crustiness around it. Next clean under his arms and between his fingers, reposition the blanket so it covers the top half of his tiny body, then clean his legs and toes. Be sure to get into those little creases and skin folds.

Clean the diaper area.

If your baby boy is uncircumcised, no need to pull back his foreskin; simply wipe his penis clean. Do the same if he's been circumcised, and then follow whatever directions your doctor has given you. If you have a girl, gently wipe the folds of her vagina. Next up: that tiny tush. (Be sure to use a little soap for this part of the baby sponge bath.)

Shampoo his hair –

If he has any, that is. (If he doesn't, use a washcloth on his bald noggin.) Using water and a tiny bit of shampoo, lather your baby's scalp. To rinse, hold your critter football-style (the back of his head cradled in one hand, his body draped along your arm) with his head over the basin. Fill the cup with water and gently pour it over your baby's head.

Dry him off.

Peel off the top towel (it's probably damp anyway) and use the bottom one to pat your sweetie dry.

Lotion him up.

If your baby has dry or eczema-prone skin, massage a hypoallergenic lotion into his skin (warm it first between your palms).

Diaper and dress.

Finished bathing your newborn? Slip on a fresh diaper and dress your little one in some clean clothes. If he needs a little soothing after his sponge bath, swaddle him in a blanket. Then settle in for some serious snuggling with your clean, sweet-smelling sweetie.

for more pregnancy and parenting information,