Bathing A Newborn Baby

Many babies love bath time! Even from those early newborn days you can watch a baby relax and enjoy being (back) in the water! Of course as they grow bigger, they learn to splash and play in the tub and will quite often cry when it’s time to come out. They then get old enough to beg you for 5 more minutes, spill water over the sides of the bath, and as much as it really isn’t funny.. poop in the bath. It happens mums. Sorry!

Firstly, do not rush into bathing baby. There is no need to put a baby in the tub within the first day or so after her birth. A baby arrives into this world covered in a fantastic waxy white substance called vernix. Vernix acts as a ‘butter’ to protect baby in the womb and the first few days after birth and it starts developing on a baby in the womb at around 18 weeks gestation. It is a magic formula that is so great for a baby’s skin. Preferably it should be left to soak in (this only takes a few hours after birth to a few days where it sits in baby’s creases). As long as it sits on babys skin it acts as a thermal insulator and protection from environmental factors that can damage the fine and delicate newborn skin. Vernix also works as a protective barrier for baby’s skin as vernix contains antibacterial properties! It really is magical stuff! A newborn baby doesn’t sweat either (another body temperature controlling system) so you wont have to worry about a baby suffering from BO or sweatiness… There really is no rush to bathe a baby, and simple ‘top and tail’ washing will do for those early days.

When you feel that baby is ready to start bathing, Start by running your baby’s bath and having all the bits you need ready to hand. While there are a huge range of beautifully smelling baby washes, soaps and shampoos available on the market, the best thing for baby’s skin is just plain tap water. The chemicals found in bath additives can dry out new born baby’s skin (which can be dry  in the early days and weeks after birth anyway) and even cause irritations and skin complaints such as eczema or dermatitis. Use a gentle soft flannel or plain cotton wool (balls, pleated or pads) to gently wash baby, starting with their face, then working you way down the body. Use a clean piece of cotton wool for each eye in turn, and a fresh piece for noses and ears too.

Gently swill water over baby if they are happy for you to. Some baby’s find this fun, others may freak out and get upset. Just remember to keep baby happy during bath time. A scared baby may start to hate bath time, which is horrible for them and definitely and unpleasant experience for you too!

I often found it nice to bathe with baby, especially for those first few early baths. I would get into the water first by myself and have my husband hand over baby. I could then hold them close, and keep them calm and relaxed during these scary first few baths. I even enjoyed breastfeeding in the water, using the time together as a beautiful way of bonding. And a warm bath can help breast milk flow, fantastic if you may be worried about supply issues!

babys first bath
Ivy’s first bath at 1 and a half weeks old.


But, we need to be safe at bath times too! We are all too familiar with an image of mum leaning over the bath tub dipping her elbow into the water to test for a safe temperature. But, is this method really the most reliable and safest way? Well, to be honest, no. Back in the day, before we had snazzy bath thermometers it was great, but now we can accurately measure a baby’s bath water safely and quickly. The new digital bath and room thermometer from Tommee Tippee is cute, small and does the job perfectly. And no need for us mums to get our elbows wet either!

tommee tippee bath thermometer

Baby’s bath water should be comfortably warm. It is recommended that the bath water mimics closely to a baby’s natural body temperature, normally ranging between 36.5*C and 38*C. Put the cold water in first and then top up with warm water. Make sure you give the water a good swirl around before monitoring the bath temperature. This is because hot water and cold water can sit separated in the tub and cause hot spots which could catch you by surprise and second or even third degree burns can happen to a child in just seconds.

startfish bath thermometer
The thermometer will quickly tell you if you need to adjust the bath temperature to make the bath comfortable and safe for baby.


The thermometer is a fun little star shape (It’s the iconic Tommee Tippee logo if you noticed?!) and comes with a handy stand too. With a quick light tap on a surface the thermometer turns on and accurately and quickly reads the temperature of either the baby’s room or their bath water. If the bath water is too hot, a little LED indicator is lit up to let you know the water isn’t safe for baby to splash around it. The cute little thermometer is also a certified bath toy, that floats on the bath’s water surface. the temperature can also be displayed in either Fahrenheit or Celsius too. We found the thermometer great fun, even with older babies, but in just a matter of days a new tiny human will arrive and the star will have to be shared between bath times!

The kids think it is just so cute and love having it to play with in their own baths too. The thermometer can be used in the bath and out too! Just pop the thermometer onto its little stand and use in baby’s nursery (or all over the house) for quick and accurate temperature readings. A superb idea when you don’t fancy buying a thermometer for different rooms, just take this small thermometer all around the house with ease.

tommee tippee bath thermometer

If you are nervous about holding baby in a bath, especially if leaning over your big family bath tub, there are lots of fantastic bath supports for baby to rest in and help you both feel comfortable. Remember you will feel all fingers and thumbs during those first few awkward bath times, but with patience comes calmness and with calmness comes a happy baby and most definitely happy parents.

You must also remember to never leave a baby alone in a bath, obvious reasons guys! A baby can drown in even a shallow bath, of just 3cm of water. Its best to ensure that their bath water ever has more depth than their waist height.

It’s also a good idea when using a baby bath to use it on a flat level surface, the floor being the most ideal place. This will reduce the risk of a bath toppling or falling any height that could hurt a baby if accidently knocked over. Avoid temptations of bathing baby on a bed, or table such as a high top like a kitchen work surface or even a baby changing unit!

Baby’s are slippery little wrigglers once out of the bath, and can get cold very quickly as their skin hits the air. Have a good grip on baby and keep them wrapped up in a towel and dry quickly but calmly. You can buy little hooded bath towels designed just for babies, the hood on the towel helps them to stay warm as heat is lost quickly through the top of their heads.  I think it is very useful to have all of baby’s clean clothes ready and waiting for when you emerge from the bathroom. You don’t want to go leaving baby alone while you rummage through drawers for vests and nappies.

Take bath time as a moment to bond and relax with your baby, you can always incorporate baby massage into his night time routine. A goo night time bath routine can settle and soothe baby for the evening ready for a good nights sleep… or both of you!

babys first bath

Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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  1. Aww look at that cheeky face! Definitely looks like bathtime is a fun one

    1. Oh she loves it! They all do! 🙂

  2. Lovely post! She looks so sweet ^^

  3. Simon A says:

    Clever idea

  4. Hi there, thanks for sharing this informative post. This will help me to bath my baby.

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