How to Bath a Baby

Bath time is a wonderful opportunity for you to enjoy fun and stimulating play with your baby or to calm, soothe and refresh her.

Bathing your baby creates intimate connections and is a beautiful way for you to build a relationship. It is especially helpful for dads or grandparents who may spend long periods of time away from her.

Bathing should not be a complicated procedure. Try to keep it simple and organised so you can relax and enjoy the experience.

It is important for you to choose a tub that holds a decent amount of water as a deeper bath is more relaxing. The exact shape is not important, and bath seats and gadgets are not necessary as most babies enjoy being free in the water. Make sure you place the tub and other materials on a stable, hip-height surface. Some tubs come with stands or you could use a washing machine, firm change table or kitchen bench. If you don’t have such a surface, you can straddle the tub on the floor between your legs. Some equipment you will need:

  • Two soft towels
  • Soft liners or washer
  • Cotton wool balls or makeup removal pads
  • Cotton tip applicators
  • Barrier cream
  • Hair brush and comb
  • Fresh baby clothes and nappy

You won’t need bath wash, oil, shampoo or moisturisers to bath newborns in – clean, warm water is best for delicate skin.

Make sure you choose a warm, draft-free area and have everything you need within easy reach. Lay the two towels open, one on top of the other, on a stable surface. Place your baby in a safe spot while you half-fill the tub with water. To avoid overheating the base of the bath, start with cold water and gradually add hot until it is warm (about 34-37°C). Test the water temperature with a water thermometer, or dip your elbow in — if the dipped elbow discolours, it’s too hot! It should feel neither hot nor cold.

Lay baby on her back on the open towels and undress her but leave the nappy on. Next, wrap her securely in the top towel and while she is lying down, wash her eyes using a seperate moistened cotton wool ball for each eye, wiping from the nose outwards. Wash her ears by wiping around the outer ear folds (NEVER USE COTTON TIP APPLICATORS INSIDE THE EAR CANAL) with a moistened cotton wall ball.

While bub is wrapped, pick her up and tuck her under your arm with her face looking up towards you. Wipe over her face using a water-soaked liner or soft washer. With the head over the bath use your free hand to wet her hair with the bath water. Once her hair is washed, lay her back down on the towels and dry the hair.

It is now time for you to unwrap her and take the nappy off. Before putting her in the bath you need to establish a secure hold and give her neck support. Do this by placing your forearm under her head, neck and shoulders and grab her upper arm with your fingers. Place your other hand under her bottom and lower back. When you have a firm hold, pick bub up and lower her into the water with a gentle rocking movement.

Once she is in the water, take your hand away from under her bottom and gently wash her body, especially the skin folds, underarms and nappy area. Give baby time to relax in the water while you maintain a firm hold.

When you want to wash her back, switch your grip on her upper arm to your free hand then flip her carefully onto her stomach. Be sure to keep her chin up and out of the water by resting her head on your forearm.

After she has had enough time on her stomach, flip baby back over onto her back and place your hand under her bottom before you remove her from the water and lay her on the towels. Use patting and dabbing motions to dry her, paying attention to the neck and groin creases. Use a cotton tip applicator to dry the base of the umbilical stump for the first week or two. Finally, remove the wet towel and dress baby on the dry, bottom towel.

Not all babies (or parents) enjoy bathing at first, but it soon becomes an enjoyable part of the daily routine.

For more information on raising babies and toddlers – mum, baby & toddler – together we learn’ 

Video footage by Tahnee Wimart