Helpful Tips

A Guide on How to Wash a Baby: Newborns and Babies Six Months and Up

baby in water

Most babies will only need to be bathed a few times a week, since overdoing bath time can actually cause a variety of skin issues and can result in dried, irritated skin. As you probably already know, a baby’s skin is very sensitive, so learning how to wash a baby will involve using the right types of products, not allowing them to remain in the tub for too long, and using a special basin or baby bathtub if they’re unable to support their head at this point.

How you wash your baby will change as they grow. In the beginning, as a new mom or dad, there are many things to learn and bath time can be a stressful time for new parents who don’t know the right way to wash a newborn. But as your baby grows and you become more comfortable with the process, you’ll feel more confident when it comes to determining when they really need a bath and when you can get by with skipping bath time for a day or two.

How to wash a baby should be based on their age. For newborns, you should only bathe them when they’re dirty or at least two to three times a week. Use a special baby bathtub that’s designed for infants who are not able to sit unassisted. Once your baby is around six months of age you can stop using the infant bathtub and fill up your regular bathtub with a few inches of water. Baths shouldn’t last for more than five minutes, which means your infant should only be in the tub long enough for you to wipe them down, wash their hair, and rinse them off. A longer bath can be very drying to their skin, so a short efficient bath a few times a week is often recommended for most infants.

Bathing Frequency

Many new moms and dads believe a baby needs a bath every day, but that’s not really the case, that is at least until your baby is mobile in which case you may need to bathe them more frequently once they’re eating solid foods and making messes all around the house.

But for simple cleans ups, all you really need to do daily is wash his or her face and hands and clean anywhere there are skin folds. Of course, you’ll also wipe down the genital area, but this is usually done with every diaper change.

Newborn Bath Time

Mother holding baby

Bathing a newborn is much different than bathing an older infant. For starters, you’ll need to be mindful of their umbilical cord stump. Because of the healing stump, most pediatricians recommend giving your infant a sponge bath with a wet washcloth instead of fully submerging them in a baby tub. This should be done for the first week.

Baby Tub

When the umbilical cord stump has fallen off, inspect the area closely to ensure it’s fully healed. If it is, then you can give your baby a bath in their special tub, every two to three days. If you’re breastfeeding, then you won’t have to bathe them as often as a bottle-fed infant since breast milk fed infants aren’t as prone to spitting up like formula-fed infants are.

Baby tubs are very small tubs made out of a type of durable plastic. These tubs will fit inside a standard tub and feature a design that allows the infant to lie in a reclined position so that their head and neck are supported. This is a much safer way to wash an infant since they are unable to sit up at this point and need neck support.

If your baby remains clean most of the time, you should only need to bathe them every three days or so. However, if they spit up often then you may need to bathe them more frequently, just try to limit the amount of time they spend in the tub. A bath at this age should take no more than five minutes.

Be Prepared

Some new mothers find washing newborns to be a little scary in the beginning since the infant is unable to move and needs special neck support. Because of this, I highly recommend using a dedicated infant washtub. You will also save on water since you won’t have to fill up the whole tub. The infant tub should only be filled up with enough water to cover their stomach.

Use a cup to rinse off your baby and pour warm water on them during their bath to keep them nice and warm. Once bath time is up, promptly remove them from their tub, use a hooded towel to keep them nice and warm and make sure you dry them off thoroughly in order to avoid a rash. Apply lotion and diaper rash cream if needed.

Bathing Babies Six Months and Up

Happy toddler

When your child is this age, they should be able to sit on their own, unsupported. Before you bring your baby into the bathroom for a bath, have all the supplies laid out, such as bath wash, washcloths, towels, clothes, lotion, and a clean diaper. Next, you’ll fill up the tub with three to four inches of water that’s nice and warm and not too hot. Ideally, the temperature should be around ninety-two degrees. If you’re worried that you’ll scald your baby’s sensitive skin, purchase a baby bath thermometer. These usually come in the form of a rubber duckie that you’ll place in the water. If the bottom of the duck turns red this means that the water is too hot. If the bottom turns bright blue, the water is too cold.

Now you’re ready to bring your baby into the bathroom to undress them. Once they’re ready for the bath, put them in slowly, feet first. Make sure you use one hand to support their bottom and the other to support their back. To keep them warm and comfortable and to prevent them from getting cold, pour cups of warm bath water over them regularly during their bath.

The Five-Minute Bath

Use baby wash sparingly since using too much can dry out their skin. Wash your infant using a soft washcloth from front to back and top to bottom. Begin by washing their hair with the washcloth and rinse the soap off using a small cup. Next, wash their eyes and face with a cloth. Use the same washcloth to finish washing the rest of their body, rinsing them off by pouring cups of warm bathwater all over their body.

Once the bath is over, grab a hooded towel, placing the hood on their head and wrapping the rest of the towel around their body. If they have a diaper rash or their skin feels dry, don’t forget to apply lotion and diaper rash cream before you get them dressed.

Fast Cleanup

If you don’t have the time to fill up the tub, add some baby wash for bubbles and pull out the toys, then you can give them a quick bath in the kitchen sink. Plug the sink and place a large washcloth on the bottom of the sink for your infant to sit on. Make sure you remove any dish soap, dishes, or anything your baby can grab as you clean them. Make sure the water is nice and warm and you have all of the supplies handy before you place your baby in the water. This job is much easier if you have a double sink since you’ll need to turn the water on once more to rinse them off. Again, make sure you pay close attention to the water’s temperature and use a cup or bowl to fill up with fresh water and carefully pour it over your baby’s head to rinse off any remaining soap.

Related Questions

How Do You Sterilize Baby Bottles?

New parents have so many things to learn. However, sterilizing baby bottles is one of the most important techniques you’ll need to have down when your infant arrives. If you’re looking for a way to quickly and efficiently sterilize your infant’s bottles, then I recommend using the best bottle sterilizer, the 2019 Fast Baby Bottle Warmer Bottle Sterilizer which comes with an automatic shut off feature and precise temperature controls. To learn more about the importance of sterilizing bottles, click here to read my extensive guide.

How Soon After Birth Can You Bathe a Baby?

As I mentioned earlier, you should wait until the umbilical cord has healed before you wash your baby in your tub. This should take around one week. If your baby’s umbilical cord stump hasn’t fallen off at this time, make sure you speak with your child’s pediatrician to ensure no infection or irritation is preventing the area from healing correctly.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to wash a baby can be intimidating in the beginning, for most new parents. Follow this guide based on your baby’s age and you’ll find that bath time is a breeze when you have all your supplies ready and on hand and you only allow your infant to stay in the bath for a short five-minute bath. Remember, a baby should remain in a special baby tub until they’re around six months of age and able to sit up, unassisted by mom and dad.