Popular Categories

What You Need to Know About Bathing a Newborn

I know the “bathing a newborn” topic is covered a lot of other places on the Internet. Last month, though, I realized that I had yet to properly Heatherize this important subject.

In other words, I need to take the standard boring ho-hum parenting “how-to” of bathing your baby and transform it into an enjoyable and entertaining article!

Or your money back!

The #1 Rule When it Comes
to Bathing a Newborn

The number #1 rule you MUST remember when bathing your baby is this: You are about to move into enemy territory. 

That’s because, in the Land of Baby Parenting, water isn’t your friend. 

Water is Sauron. Voldemort. Penguin. Dr. No. The bad guy in every film you’ve ever watched.  (Except Freddie Krueger, who was “misunderstood.”)

Don’t let your guard down.

You should have one hand physically touching your baby at all times.

Now that you’ve settled into the uncomfortable truce that is bathing a newborn, it’s time to discuss the finer details of the battle.

A Common Bathing Mistake:
Bad Timing

Many parents are mistaken when it comes to the timing of the bath.  They either…

  1. Bathe their newborn too late in the day (making bedtime a nightmare)
  2. Bathe their newborn too often during the week (drying out the skin)

The Bathing Time of Day…

Ask any parent when they bathe their baby and 99.999% of them will say “at night before bed”.

It’s true that bathing your newborn (or any baby for that matter) before bed can be a soothing part of the bedtime routine that gets him ready to slip effortlessly into snoozeland.

It’s also true that for babies who are more alert and sensitive, bathing is an extreme sport. They get super excited, jacking their adrenalin up to an eleven.

It’s like trying to get a sky diver to take a nap 10 minutes after landing.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Don’t just assume that a bedtime bath is a good fit for your infant.  Watch him closely after the bath and see if he seems more excited and animated AFTER the bath.  If so, you’ll need to move that bath up earlier – perhaps in late afternoon after he’s just woken from a nap, or early evening, an hour or so before bed.

Bathing Peer Pressure

Since most adults shower every day, it’s a common assumption that your baby should get a daily bath as well.

It also happens to be a wrong assumption.  (I mean, it’s not as if your 6-week-old is in construction or something.  How dirty can they get?) Bathing your newborn more than 2-3 times a week can actually dry out his skin and contribute to eczema or cradle cap.

Since I’ve made a promise to always be honest with you, let me dust off a family secret:

I bathed my firstborn Lauren religiously every other day.  *prideful gold star*

By the time my third Bella came around, my newborn bathing routine was established in the last minute corner of “Oh Crap! It’s Been a Week and Tomorrow is Church!” Saturdays.

In other words, don’t feel too guilty about the bath thing. If a few days go by between baths, it’s really no big deal.  You’re not a parenting failure. You’re just like the majority of parents who don’t admit it on Facebook.

The Best Equipment
for Bathing a Newborn

Okay, so now we’ve gotten those things out of the way, it’s time to step up to the battle line. This means you need to know thy equipment.

Don’t forget: water is the enemy.  

You do not want to get halfway through the newborn bath only to realize you forgot suchinsuch. Here’s what you’re going to gather for your arsenal:

The Best Tubs for Your Little Bubs

You could bathe your baby in the tub you soak in on Saturday nights. (hahaha – okay, the one you dream about soaking in on Saturday nights.)

You could bathe him there, but I don’t recommend it. Here’s why:

  1. Your newborn is in the “fat frog” stage. He’s all scrunched up like a cute little chunk-ball.  Chunk-balls don’t sit up.  They roll.  Bathing a newborn this way would require a minimum of three arms.
  2. The soaking bathtub is what I call a SMS – Sacred Mom Space.  If at all possible, preserve the non-pooped-in sanctity of your SMS.  

When it comes to bathing your newborn, here are the three best “tubs for your little bubs”:

  1. Purchase a free-standing tub for your newborn that will adjust to the needs of a growing baby like this one.
  2. Save your back and use the kitchen sink with the Blooming Bath cushion.
  3. Get an adjuster like the Angelcare Bath Support and screw the SMS – you’ve only got one bathroom anyway.

Taking Care of Baby’s Skin (Kinda Important)

Time to talk shop soap.

Chances are you got about 3-4 bottles of baby wash at your baby shower. (Too bad, they should have used one of these awesome baby shower gifts instead.)

There’s nothing wrong with Johnson and Johnson.  If you got it, use it.  It’ll work fine.  (Do NOT use non-baby products to on a baby. Put away your husband’s AXE. It’s better to use plain water than use adult products on a baby.)

Here are three things you’ll thank me for introducing you to:

  1. A dermatologist-created gentle baby wash that has the seal of approval of the National Eczema Association. (Read: All your hopes and dreams in a bottle.)
  2. A dermatologist-created treatment for cradle cap (aka “dragon scales”) on your baby’s head. Where was this 10 years ago!
  3. A super soft apron/towel that keeps you dry while you cuddle with your clean baby. mind = blown

If there’s a history of eczema in your family (or a rash pops up), I would donate those baby shower bottles to your local pregnancy center and use one of the items above instead. Not only will they take good care of your baby’s UBER-sensitive newborn skin, they smell heavenly.


The 1-2-3 Process of
Bathing a Newborn

This was the part in the article where I was going to type out the steps to bathe your baby. Then I remembered something: you’re not stupid.

Call me a reckless baby blogger, but I’m guessing you can probably figure it out.

I refuse to treat you like…well…a baby.  I will, however, offer you a few…

Tips to Tweak Your Newborn
Bathing Technique

Here are a few extra “bonus” bathing tips I’ll toss out there, just in case you were wondering about earwax, or what to do with a loose deuce.  (Get it? Deuce? #2? *groan*)

Newborn Bathing Tip #1: Only in the Presence of a Belly Button

If your newborn is a NEW-newborn, and still has the umbilical cord stump attached, you should only do sponge-baths. No immersion baths without the presence of a belly button.

“Bathing Day” will come….but it is not THIS day!  (A million parenting points if Aragorn’s voice shouted that out in your mind.)

Newborn Bathing Tip #2: Ear Cleaning is a Major No-No

Don’t stick anything, ANNEEE-thing, inside your baby’s ear canal.

It’s nice to have a baby that can hear. Keep it that way. Clean only the outside of your baby’s ear.

Newborn Bathing Tip #3: No Chillin’ in the Bathroom

Your baby will get chilled easily, so you want these bathing sessions to be short.

Newborns aren’t going to do much in the water except throw their arms and legs out widely like a falling tree frog (yes, it’s hilarious – and a normal reflex) so don’t think they need to be bathed for more than 10 minutes.

Seriously.  My hubby’s record for a proper newborn bath was 2 minutes 28 seconds.

I know, I know…now your husband will want to beat his record.  (Cameron: “Bring. It. On.”)

As your child gets older, you can introduce him to the wonder that is bath toys, and they will want to LIVE in the bathtub.  For now, though, shoot for short and sweet.

Newborn Bathing Tip #4: Handling Your Caddyshack Moment

At some point there’s going to be a “Baby Ruth” floating in the tub.  Prepare your ick face, because it’s coming.

Actually, if your baby suffers from constipation, sometimes sitting in a warm bath is a great way to get the factory working again!

Should you…

a)  Call your husband into the bathroom, feign “engorgement” and rush away to pump (leaving him to clean it up)?

b) Take a picture and use it as leverage for unwelcome suitors in the years to come?

c) Bronze the moment forever, just like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes?

d) Follow the excellent step-by-step (and hilarious) instructions provided by Carla the Bubblelush?

(Despite the allure of A through C B, go with D.)

Bathing with the Enemy

Remember, despite all the fun of bathing a newborn, you are still flirting with the enemy: water.

Stay vigilant. Keep one hand on your baby at all times.

I know it may seem a little “over the top”, but considering the alternative…*shudder*

Once you’ve gotten your “overprotective parent” hat on, break out a few bath toys (these won’t get moldy), and let your baby start to explore the wonders of “liquid pouring on chubby legs”!

What about your baby?  

Does he like baths? or hate them?  Do baths help her calm down for the evening?  Or get her all riled up for play? 

Have You Read These Yet?

We  honesty!  This post contains affiliate links that provide extra money for our mutual coffee habits addictions. Click here to learn more.

14 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About Bathing a Newborn

  1. True confession: we ditched the plastic baby bath a few weeks into #1 b/c he screamed bloody murder in it and have showered our kids ever since – even as newborns.  It was a lot easier that way, and bonus for skin-to-skin bonding with Daddy b/c showering them was his job – they had all sorts of fun games they played together.

  2. Heather,
    This is a great post, you had me laughing out loud! Thx for that. Thank you also for confirming what I’ve come to know that you don’t need to bathe your baby every day (dry skin, anyone?)
    Also, the water is the enemy thought is such a good reminder!

  3. Unless there’s a reason (like blowouts) we do once a week baths until they’re old enough to start running around & getting dirty. It was a hard adjustment for my husband, who thinks everyone should bathe at least once a day. We use the Aveeno oatmeal baths too when they’re needed, and Burt’s Bees or Aveeno baby on his hair. He gets a rub down with Aquaphor after every bath for his Keratosis Pilaris. We used his bathtub (rarely), the sink (frequently), and on days I hadn’t been able to shower I popped him in the tub or shower with me. I’ve always been paranoid about ear cleaning so we use the baby swabs from J&J. It’s almost impossible to go too deep with those.

    1. We go through a TON of Aquaphor too. It really is great for skin conditions. I hadn’t heard about those baby swabs from J&J – definitely going to check those out. Thanks for sharing them TJ!

  4. Thankfully my 6month old daughter has always loved baths. On the whole. She gets pretty active in the bath, especially now that she’s figured out how to splash! By the end she gets sleepy so we take her out, have a cuddle, and then put her to bed. I must admit there have been times where I’ve gone almost a week without bathing her, at most giving her a sponge bath. Nowadays she has one every other day.

    As for baby products, I know you say not to use adult products, but there is one brand I do like to use for bub and that’s Aveeno. Their oatmeal bath wash has been really gentle on her skin. I’ve stopped using anything in her hair and just rinse with water and rub down with a wash cloth. Her hair has become thicker since then. The other brand I like for babies is Mustela. They are a bit pricey though.

    1. Rebecca, I did a little research on the Aveeno Oatmeal bath – and I have to say you’re perfectly right. It’s extremely gentle. Good find! Thanks for sharing!

  5. With my first, baths were short and sweet (because they consisted of him screaming at the top of his lungs and flailing his limbs all the time), but they were daily. What can I say, as a first-time mom, I wanted to earn that gold star. I remember being utterly confused when my pediatrician told me that I should cut down on the tubs. I also remember being stubborn and keeping up the daily baths (minus the soap on every other day). Reducing the soapy baths took care of the cradle cap issues.

    With my second (now two months old), I’d say she has gotten a bath so far each time I caught myself thinking: “hum, when was the last time I washed her?”. Now that I’m finding myself in need of a stable bedtime routine I’ve decided on giving her a bath every day but using soap only once or twice per week. Since she loves bath time and doesn’t seem prone to skin problems (like her big brother was due to a dairy allergy diagnosed at 6 months), I’m thinking we’ll be keeping this up.

    1. Sounds like a good plan Sophie! Some babies really find the bath a soothing, melatonin-encouraging experience. It’s great that you’ve found the perfect bathing blend for what she needs. 🙂

  6. Since about 3 or 4 months, my son has been bathed as part of the bedtime routine. He’s always enjoyed bathing (hooray) and it does seem to calm him down. Even if he does get all riled up while on the changing table getting PJ’s on, a nursing session soon after knocks him out. again, woot! But I do bathe him every single day. I’m so terrified to change the routine and cause him to not go to sleep easily! I do soap just every other day. The bath with no soap is just for play and for routine’s sake. Think it’s OK for a now 8 month-old to bathe every day? I knew to not do that when he was an infant, but when does the switcharoo start?
    Note: he has yet to be helping daddy in the garage or constructing new homes.

    1. Melanie – that sounds like a great compromise. He’s starting to get into things more now, I’m sure. Plus, the every-other-day soap thing is a brilliant idea – just in case. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *