It’s one of the most magical first milestones in a baby’s life: baby’s first bath. But mastering the technique of bath time with a slippery precious newborn takes a little knowledge and practice. Here, we take you through everything you need to know about your newborn’s first bath, so that you’re a pro in no time.

When should you bathe a newborn?

Let’s start by addressing an important question: when should you give a baby their first bath? 

Don’t give your baby their first proper bath until their umbilical cord stump falls off. This happens around 1-3 weeks after birth. Until then, nothing more than a sponge bath, or ‘topping and tailing’ is necessary. 

Once the cord has gone, there are no hard and fast rules about how long to wait for your baby’s first bath. Make it a successful experience by choosing a time that works for you, when you don’t feel hurried or stressed. Wait for a feed to settle in their tummy and your little one is alert and not too tired. 

If you’d like to take photos of this experience, you’ll need another person on hand to help as your hands will be far too busy for photos! But the photos are definitely worth having for their memory book!

Many parents find that the timing is best for first baths in the morning. However, bath time can become a wonderful part of the bedtime wind down routine, so choose when suits you. 

Daily baths aren’t really necessary for non-mobile and non-weaning babies. Indeed, bathing too often can dry out their fragile skin. 

Different bath types

There are a number of different bath types to choose from when bathing a baby. Baby baths (and indeed washing up bowls!) can be suitable when your baby is very tiny. They can be placed on a flat secure surface at your waist height, making it much easier in the early days when you are still recovering from birth, and your little one is very small and unable to control their movements. 

There are also bath supports suitable for newborns that are placed within a standard bath. Your little one can graduate to a more upright support as they master learning to sit and are ready for some splashy fun with bath toys. 

Whichever bath type you choose, it’s essential that your newborn is fully supported by you and they are never left unattended.

Baby’s first bath temperature

Whichever bath type you choose, it’s important to get the temperature spot on. It needs to be comfortably warm. Too hot and you risk hurting little one, too cool and bath time will be very short lived and peppered with screams! 

Always run the bath fully first. Never have your baby in the bath as the water is running. Mix the water well so there are no hot patches. If you use a baby bath thermometer, it should read around 37°C. Alternatively, simply dip your elbow into the water to judge if it is a comfortable temperature. 

Make sure the room you’re using is nice and warm too as little ones aren’t able to regulate their own temperature easily and could get chilly when they are taken out of the water. 

How to give your baby their first bath

Start by making sure that you have prepared everything you will need. The bath should be ready using the temperature advice above. Ensure it is plain water. You don’t need bubbles or soap just yet!

You will also need a couple of towels, sponges, cotton wool, a clean nappy and some clothes to dress your baby in afterwards. Lay one towel out flat ready to receive your little one post bath. This will make it easier when your baby is wet and slippery.

For their first bath, you may find it easier to clean their face and head out of the bath, with them sitting facing you on your lap. As you gain more confidence and little one is more self-supporting, this can then happen in the bath too.

Once you are ready to put your baby in the tub, remove their nappy, wiping away any mess with cotton wool. Gently lower your baby into the water. Ensure they are supported by one hand under their head, shoulders and upper arm to keep their head clear of the water. Hold firmly, but comfortably. Keep talking to your little one, or singing, so that they feel reassured.

To wash your baby, use your other hand to scoop handfuls of water over them and use your fingers or a delicate sponge to gently wipe their crevices and chubby bits! Keep the first bath short and sweet. Remember to wipe baby girls from front to back. 

When ready, lift your little one up carefully using both hands to safely place them on the towel you laid out previously. Pat them dry, and gently dry the creases in their skin. There’s no need to use any oil or lotion when your baby is still so young. Wrap them up warm and get them dressed.

If your baby seems upset by bathing, you can choose to bathe together for some lovely bonding moments. It is best if you get in the bath first and someone else passes your baby to you. They can also take your little one while you get out too. 

The benefits of bath time

Giving your newborn their first bath is usually a really special time, but don’t worry if the first occasion doesn’t go to plan. Tears or poos in the bath aren’t unusual! Just try again another time, returning to sponge baths until your little one is ready. 

Once you’ve both mastered bath time it can be far more than just a great way to clean your baby. Bonding at bath time is wonderful and soon you’ll find that bath time is a highlight of the day. It’s a great time for skin to skin snuggles too. Chat throughout and sing, and it can gradually become one of baby’s favourite moments and you’ll soon be rewarded with gummy smiles!

Time in the tub is also a sensory learning time, can be soothing and a good distraction to colicky tummies and may even help lull your little one off to sleep.

Enjoy some fun in the tub!