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After your baby is born, one of the first big steps you’ll take as parents is giving them their first bath. This is an important time for mum and dad, as bathing your baby is about more than just hygiene and cleanliness.

Like many of the jobs you’ll do in their first few weeks and months, bath time is a time for strengthening the bond between parent and baby. But giving your little one their first bath can be a daunting prospect that takes a little getting used to, for both you and them.

While some babies will take to the water straight away, it can be a stressful experience for those who take time to get used to being in the bath. Find out more about how to ensure you make bath time an easier experience and keep your baby both clean and happy.

Water Isn’t Enough for Your Baby’s Bath

Water as a cleanser doesn't remove the fat-soluble impurities left behind under nappies and clothes, and if they remain, they can cause the delicate skin barrier to break down. And water alone can actually dry your baby’s skin. Repeated use of water only, especially when hard or chlorinated, has been shown to cause moisture loss from the skin cells, which can leave baby skin irritated or red.

A gentle baby specific cleanser like JOHNSON'S® TOP-TO-TOE® Wash is recommended to help cleanse effectively.

Ideal Baby Cleanser:

  • Effectively removes impurities including fats and oils
  • Respects baby's sensitive skin barrier by maintaining skin pH
  • Formulated to be mild to avoid irritation

Baby’s first bath time

When that first bath time comes, there’s a lot for parents to consider, from what products you need to use to the water temperature and depth. However, for baby’s first bath, it’s best to keep things simple and stick to a few tried and tested tips, including:

  • Bathe them with someone else around for support and confidence
  • Stick to gentle sponge baths initially
  • Start with a short bath and a quick clean to let them get used to the experience

Remember, while your baby’s umbilical cord stump is still attached (this will fall off anytime between around five and 15 days after birth1 it’s best to avoid getting it wet to avoid infection, so sponge bathing may be the best method for keeping your little one clean in their first couple of weeks.

When should you first bathe a new born baby?

Your baby shouldn’t be given a bath straight after they’re born as they need to stay warm. But don’t worry, the nurses will have given them a good clean after birth.

While you can give your little one a bath as soon as a few hours after they’re born, many parents prefer to give them a while to get used to their new surroundings, so will just give them a top and tail for the first few days. This involves just making sure your baby’s neck, face and hands are clean and you can do it using moist cotton wool pads.

Many parents will wait until they feel a little more confident lifting and handling their baby, so will wait a week or so before they put them in a bath, but it’s safe to do so as soon as you feel comfortable.

How often do you need to bathe your baby?

Babies don’t move around too much in their first few weeks, which means they won’t get dirty and won’t need to be bathed every day. However, if they enjoy it and don’t seem stressed by the experience, then there’s no reason you can’t give them a daily bath2.

Generally speaking, you should aim to bathe your baby two to three times a week, making sure you keep them clean in between by regularly cleaning their face, head and neck with cotton wool pads and their bottom with baby wipes after a nappy change.

How do you bathe your baby?

Before you give your baby their first bath, there’s a few things you’ll need and some things to remember. It’s also important to take care whenever your baby is in the bath and never leave them unattended, even for only a few seconds.

Things you need for baby’s first bath:

  • Baby bath
  • Soft towel
  • Wash cloth or sponge
  • Jug for pouring water
  • JOHNSON’S® Top to Toe Baby Wash or JOHNSON’S® Cottontouch™ 2 -in-1 Bath & Wash
  • Clean nappy
  • Changing mat
  • Change of clothes

Bathing your baby step-by-step

Bathing your baby needn’t be a difficult experience. Follow our simple guide for a bathtime that will be easy and stress-free for you and your baby.

  1. Lay everything you’ll need out next to the bath so you can easily reach it.
  2. Pop your baby bath inside your bath to reduce splashing.
  3. Fill the bath with about three inches of lukewarm water. It’s important to keep the water cool enough that your baby won’t get scalded, but hot enough that it keeps them warm, so 37C3 is often considered the best baby bath temperature.
  4. Test the water temperature before you put your baby in. Traditional methods such as using your wrist or elbow can be a good indicator, but a thermometer is a useful way to ensure you get it spot on.
  5. Gently lower baby into the water to let them get used to it and support their head and shoulders with one arm at all times when bathing.
  6. Start by cleaning your baby’s face with a wash cloth or cotton wool.
  7. Wash their hair and body gently using JOHNSON’S® Top to Toe wash or JOHNSON’S® Cottontouch™ 2 -in-1 Bath & Wash and a clean, soft cloth and rinse off using a jug and clean water.
  8. Carefully swish the water around your baby without splashing.
  9. Be sure to pay special attention to the creases and folds in their skin where dirt can easily get trapped.
  10. As soon as they’re out of the bath, wrap your baby in a soft towel to keep them warm and dry them gently as soon as you can, patting them dry, starting with their hair and face.
  11. After a bath is a great time to give your baby a massage with a gentle moisturiser such as JOHNSON’S® baby lotion or JOHNSON’S® Cottontouch™ Face & Body Lotion to keep their delicate skin smooth and soft.

How to clean your baby’s ears

Your baby’s ears will be very sensitive, so be gentle when cleaning them and take care to never put anything inside their ears. Use a damp cotton pad to wipe around the outside and gently remove any dirt or wax.

How to clean your baby’s nose

Gently clean your baby’s nose by using damp cotton wool balls. Avoid putting anything up their nostrils as this can cause damage internally but wipe around the nose to make sure it’s nice and clean and to ensure they can easily breathe through their nose.

Where to bathe your baby

Choosing where to bathe your baby may seem like a difficult choice at first. Most people will buy a smaller baby bath that they can put on the bathroom floor or inside their own bath, but there are a number of options and the most important thing is to make sure you and your baby are comfortable.

  • Bathing your newborn in a baby bath. While your baby is still small, bathing them in a baby bath tub is often the easiest and safest option. It’s the right shape for cradling your baby and supporting their head, while it also enables you to wash them safely without fear of them moving around too much.
  • Using a full-sized bath. Using a full-sized bath can be a bit more tricky until your baby is big enough to sit up properly and support themselves. Most babies will have outgrown their baby bath tub by about six months old and can then be moved into the big bath.
  • Sink bath. Bathing your baby in the sink is an old tradition, but it’s advisable to take care if you choose to bathe your baby in the sink. Always remember to turn the tap away to avoid injury and use a foam insert or soft towels on the bottom of the sink to make it more comfortable for them.

For more tips for bathing your baby, head to the JOHNSON’S Bathtime hub, where you’ll find more information around making the most of bathtime.

1 https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/what-is-the-umbilical-cord/

2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/washing-your-baby/

3 https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a40/bathing-your-baby-safely

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