How to protect my baby from SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
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Alison Ross
Registered Midwife, DipHe, BSc (Hons) Was a midwife at Kingston Hospital and Specialist Midwife in Perinatal Mental Health.
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Bath and bedtime

How to bath your baby

Top tips from the experts on bathing your baby - how soon after the birth should you do it, how often and what’s the safest way?
Video Tutorial
In Short

Our expert midwife, Alison Ross, has these essential tips:

Don’t bath your baby in the first 24 hours after the birth – he needs time regulate his temperature naturally, which a bath can interfere with.

You don’t need to bath your baby every day - and it doesn’t matter what time you do it.

When running a bath, put the cold water in first and top up with hot to reduce the risk of scalding.

Should I bath my baby as soon as she’s born?

No. It’s not necessary to bath her in the first 24 hours because she needs that time to regulate her own temperature and a bath might interfere with that process. After that, you might choose to bath her every day, but you certainly don’t need to. Indeed, the natural smell of your baby will help you bond with her as this smell will be familiar to you. It’s also good for you not to use strong smelling toiletries (although you may want a shower sometime after the birth) as your baby will love your familiar smell.

When should I bath my baby?

It doesn’t really matter when you bath your baby – lots of parents of older babies like to make a bath part of the bedtime routine, but a newborn is too young for that just yet. Do it whenever you fancy!

How often should I bath my baby?

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the frequency of bathing. Be led by your baby. If she seems to like it, bath her more often – if not, every few days is fine.

How do I bath my baby?

Watch the video demonstration of our midwife, Alison Ross, bathing a newborn baby. It’s much easier to learn by watching an expert.

Here are some tips to bear in mind:

  • When bathing your baby, make sure that you prepare the environment in advance – the room must be free of drafts, with all windows closed. Make sure that you’ve got everything to hand – a towel (warmed on a radiator if it’s winter), nappies and clean clothes. It goes without saying that a baby should never be left in the bath unattended.
  • It’s a good idea to put the baby bath on the floor, which prevents you having to bend over too much and hurting your back. It doesn’t really matter whether you use a specifically designed baby bath to bath your baby, a plastic bowl or even the kitchen sink. That said, if you do bath your baby in the sink, make sure that you protect her from the taps.
  • Always remember to put the cold water in the bath first, and add the hot water until you get the right temperature. This helps reduce the risk of scalding.
  • Don’t use perfumed bath bubbles or oils – plain water is best for a baby’s sensitive skin.
How do I test the bath temperature?

You can test the temperature of the bath by either using your elbow or the inside of your wrist, or you can use a specially designed baby bath thermometer, which most baby stores sell. Just pop it in the bath and when it indicates the temperature is OK, you’re good to go! Ideally, ensure that the temperature isn’t any warmer than body heat – 37 degrees. You should barely be able to feel it on your elbow or wrist as it’s the same temperature as your skin.

Is there a special way to bath my baby?

You need to get things ready in the right order when you are bathing your baby so he doesn’t get cold. Bathing can be a lovely bonding experience so keep talking gently to him to reassure him throughout the procedure.

  • When the bath is run and at the right temperature, strip your baby down to his nappy or diaper.
  • Wrap him in a nice warm towel. Once you’ve cleaned his face, gently take him over to the bath. Keeping him wrapped up, wash his hair in the water. There’s no need for shampoo.
  • Gently dry his hair with the towel, then unwrap him, remove his nappy and pick him up, making sure that he’s nice and secure in your arms.
  • With a very small baby, it’s a good idea to rest his head on your wrist and grasp him gently under his arm. Rest his bottom on your other wrist and grasp him around the thigh.
  • Don’t worry about getting the hold exactly right. As long as you keep your baby safe, and he feels secure, it doesn’t really matter how you do it.
  • When your baby is immersed in the bath water, with your free hand gently wash him, making sure to remember the creases of his hands, under his neck, under the arms, around the creases of the legs as well his genital area and bottom.
  • Don’t worry if your baby cries as you lift him out of the bath. Understandably, they hate feeling cold and wet! Dry him as quickly as possible, remembering all the cracks and creases – behind the knees, around the wrists, under the arms and under his neck. As soon as he’s dry, put him in a fresh nappy and get him dressed as quickly as possible.
  • Lots of parents (dads in particular) like to bath with their baby and health visitors often recommend it as a way of helping dads have some special time. You will need to be happy to be in a lukewarm bath. Often babies prefer a bath with their mum or dad as they are not half immersed in a basin and can stretch and float. Obviously, partners need to be there to supervise and hand/receive baby so best to avoid if alone in the house.
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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.