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Bathing

A bath can be a time of fun and closeness for both of you. Your baby only needs a bath two or three times a week. Bathing your baby too often may dry out her skin. Choose a time when your baby is not hungry.

Important

If your baby boy has been circumcised, wait until his penis has healed (one to two weeks) before giving him a tub or sink bath.

It is OK to give your baby a tub bath when the umbilical cord is still attached. Be sure to dry the cord and area around it well with a clean gauze or cloth when the bath is done.

There are two ways to bathe your baby: a sponge bath or a tub or sink bath. Never take your hand off your baby or leave your baby alone during a bath, even for a moment.

How to give a sponge bath

Tip

Newborn skin is sensitive and dries out easily. Use a soap made for babies that does not have perfumes and dyes. Use very little soap during bath time.

If your baby’s skin is dry, check with your baby’s health care provider before applying lotion. It is normal for newborn skin to be dry.

Gather everything you need before you undress your baby. You will need: a baby tub or a clean sink, warm water, mild baby soap, baby shampoo, washcloth, towel, soft-bristled baby brush, clean diaper and clothing.

Lay your baby on a towel on the changing table or counter. Keep her covered with a towel so she doesn’t get cold. Keep bath time short.

Hold your baby so her shoulders and head are over the tub when you wash her head.

A. Hold your baby so her shoulders and head are over the tub when you wash her head.

Use both hands to gently place her in the tub.

B. Use both hands to gently place her in the tub.

Gently support her head and neck with one hand while you bathe her with the other hand.

C. Gently support her head and neck with one hand while you bathe her with the other hand.

  • Test the temperature of the water on your wrist or inside of your arm. It should feel warm, not hot.
  • Only uncover the part of your baby you are washing. Pat the area dry and re-cover with the towel.
  • Use a soft washcloth and warm water to clean your baby. Rinse the cloth after washing each body area.
  • Wash your baby from where she is clean to where she is dirty. The order is:
    • eyes
      • Use the clean edge of the washcloth to clean around each eye. Gently wipe from the center of the nose outward.
    • face and neck
    • tummy and back
    • arms and hands
    • legs and feet
    • genital area
      • for a girl: wash the inside of the labia by wiping down toward the buttocks. Use a clean part of the washcloth for each side.
      • for a boy: gently wash around the penis and around and under the scrotum. If your son is circumcised, only use water on the penis until healing is complete. This usually takes 7 to 14 days.
    • buttocks
  • When the bath is over, wrap and dry your baby with a soft towel.
  • Don’t use powder. It can get in your baby’s lungs and make her sick.
  • Brush your baby’s hair or scalp with a soft-bristled baby brush.

How to give a sink or tub bath

  • Gather everything you need before you undress your baby. You will need: a baby tub or a clean sink, warm water, mild baby soap, baby shampoo, washcloth, towel, soft-bristled baby brush, clean diaper and clothing. If you are using a sink or a plastic tub, it is helpful to line it with a towel or receiving blanket to make the surface less slippery.
  • Test the temperature of the water in the sink or tub on your wrist or inside of your arm before you use the water or place your baby in it. It should feel warm, not hot.
  • If you are placing your baby in a clean sink or tub, make sure the water covers your baby’s body up to her shoulders. This will help keep her warm.
  • You can position your baby on her back, supporting her head with your arm. Or, sit her up, supporting her head and neck with one hand. The water may not reach her shoulders.
  • Hold your baby firmly. Babies are slippery when wet.
  • Wash your baby from where she is clean to where she is dirty. The order is:
    • eyes
      • Use the clean edge of the washcloth to clean around each eye. Gently wipe from the center of the nose outward.
    • face and neck
    • tummy and back
    • arms and hands
    • legs and feet
    • genital area
      • for a girl: wash the inside of the labia by wiping down toward the buttocks. Use a clean part of the washcloth for each side.
      • for a boy: gently wash around the penis and around and under the scrotum. If your son is circumcised, only use water on the penis until healing is complete. This usually takes 7 to 14 days.
    • buttocks
  • Rinse the soap off well after you have cleaned an area.
  • When the bath is over, wrap and dry your baby with a soft towel.
  • Don’t use powder. It can get in your baby’s lungs and make her sick.
  • Brush your baby’s hair or scalp with a soft-bristled baby brush.

How to wash your baby’s hair

You only need to wash your baby’s hair one or two times a week.

You can wash your baby’s head before you put her in the bath, or after the rest of her bath is done.

  • Hold her so her shoulders and head are over the tub.
  • Scoop up some of the bath water to wet her head and use a small amount of tearless shampoo.
  • Rinse her head well and dry it with a towel.
  • If you are placing your baby in a clean sink or tub, make sure the water covers your baby’s body up to her shoulders. This will help keep her warm. You can position your baby on her back, supporting her head with your arm. Or, sit her up, supporting her head and neck with one hand. The water may not reach her shoulders.
  • Brush your baby’s hair or scalp with a soft-bristled baby brush.

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic