Tips for Bathing a Newborn Baby: Making Bath Time Enjoyable and Safe

by Meghan Yost

If you are new to the whole baby thing, like I was, here are some tips for bathing a newborn

Even though Grace is now 14 months old, it seems like just yesterday we were taking her home from the hospital and learning how to be parents.

I felt clueless as a new mom. I’ve said it on my blog several times but I really didn’t know anything about caring for a baby, including how to give a newborn a bath. 

What made it worse is Grace seemed to cry every time we put her in the water (or changed her diaper, or put her down in her bassinet, yada, yada, yada). 

We weren’t sure if she didn’t like getting wet, the water was too cool for her (because we always erred on the side of caution – and still do), or what. 

But after doing a little research, we figured out a few things to make bath time more enjoyable for both her and us. 

We began to feel more confident as caregivers to our little peanut. So to help other new parents out there who feel as clueless as we did with something as basic as bath time, I’ve put together a list of tips for bathing a newborn.

Steam up the bathroom beforehand

To make sure Grace never got cold, before bath time, we started running really hot water in the shower to make the room nice and toasty (I think this is obvious but feel the need to state: This is not the same water we filled her infant tub with as it would be much much too hot).

Always check the water temp (and double check)

We purchased a no contact thermometer that can be aimed at the water to check the temperature. The nurse who gave Grace her first bath in the hospital also taught us to use our inner arm to check the water, since it’s more sensitive to temperature. When Grace was a newborn, we kept the temp lukewarm – maybe 90 degrees. Now at 14 months old we aim for 95 degrees or less.

Have a second tub of fresh water on hand

When filling your infant tub, fill a second small tub or bowl with warm, fresh water. This way you can dip your washcloth in it instead of using dirty water the baby is sitting in.

Keep baby warm with a washcloth

While you’re bathing baby, cover their belly and chest with a warm washcloth and use a second one to clean them. Periodically dip the washcloth that’s on the belly in the warm bath water so they don’t get cold.

Wash from top to bottom

Wash baby’s face first, then work your way down. As the nurse in the hospital taught us, wipe baby’s eyes first using a washcloth dipped in fresh water. Also use a different, clean part of a washcloth for each eye (we actually used a different washcloth for each one). If you don’t do this, you could risk your baby getting an eye infection. Once the eyes are clean, work your way down the body – face, arms, torso, etc.

Use gentle soap

If you use soap, opt for gentle baby products and keep out of baby’s eyes. A lot of times when we bathed Grace as a newborn, we didn’t even use soap. But if we did, we always used Babyganics unscented soap, which has never irritated Grace’s skin. I’ve also always been careful not to get soap in her eyes because even if something says tear free, it doesn’t mean it won’t sting.

Warm baby’s towels in the dryer

One of my favorite tips for giving a newborn a bath is to put towels in the dryer beforehand. That way they are nice and toasty when baby gets out (make sure they’re not too hot for baby!) You could also warm baby’s jammies in the dryer as a nice treat. (I learned this tip from Taking Cara Babies, which on a side note, is a great resource if you need help getting baby to sleep better.)

Use two towels

We would lay one of the warmed towels on our bed for when we took her out of the bath. We’d use the second one to dry her off. That way when we laid Grace down, she’d be dry and warm.

Dry baby’s hair before leaving the steamy bathroom

This kept Grace warm when we took her out of the bath room to finish our bath routine.

Follow up bath time with a baby massage with lotion

I always lotioned Grace up after her bath to keep her skin moist. Like with soap, I recommend using a gentle product that’s fragrance free. I opted for Babyganics and still use it to this day on Grace as well as myself.

Bath time before bed time

Lastly, give your baby a bath before bed (unless, of course, they’ve had a major blowout midday and need to be cleaned up). Doing so may help them drift off to sleepyland – and help mom and dad sleep more peacefully too. 😉

I hope these tips for bathing a newborn help you in your new parenting journey. I know how stressful it can be caring for a new baby, especially when you’re running on little to no sleep.

Before signing off, I’m happy to say, Grace grew out of her bath hating stage pretty quickly – maybe within a month or so. Now bath time is one of her favorite parts of the day.

If you’re looking for more posts on parenting, check out my Mom Life section on the blog.


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