Bathing your baby for the first time is a great chance to bond and connect with your new child but can feel overwhelming. Babies may cry at first, however, in time the combination of warm water, your voice, and the feel of your touch will help them to relax. Baths are not needed every day. Washing your baby's face and hands daily and cleaning their genitals during each diaper change is a good way to keep them clean between full baths.1
In the Hospital
Evidence suggests it's best to delay your baby’s first bath until 24-48 hours after birth.2 The best time for a baby to have their first bath is the first 2-3 days of life.3 Reasons for waiting to bath your baby include:
- Lower risk of infection: Vernix, a wax-like substance, is found on your baby’s skin after birth and protects them from infection.
- Maintenance of blood sugar: Having a bath can cause the release of stress hormones that lower your baby’s blood sugar.
- Better temperature control: Staying warm after birth uses a lot of newborn energy. Giving your baby a bath too soon may make it even harder for them to stay warm after birth.
Bathing your baby in a tub may be more enjoyable than a sponge bath for both you and your baby. Compared to sponge-bathing, babies who are tub bathed cry less, lose less heat and are calmer during their bath.5
- Make sure your supplies are within reach; don’t leave your baby alone during a bath, even for a moment, and always keep one hand on your baby at all times.1 3
Telephone Support for Families
- Do not bathe your baby right after feeding as they may spit up.4
- Choose an area that is safe and easy to bathe your baby (baby bathtub, sink, or basin).4
Keep the room warm.1
- Bath water should be warm, not hot. Test the temperature with your inner wrist or elbow.4
- Fill the tub with about 2-3 inches of warm water (water should reach to about baby’s belly button).5
Hold your baby securely at all times until they are older and able to hold their head up and keep their back straight. Health Canada recommends that baby bath seats NOT be used as they can give parents a false sense of security.4
- Soap isn’t necessary. If you decide to use soap, gentle, dye and scent free soaps are best for baby’s skin. Wash it off your baby’s skin completely to prevent skin infections.
- Remove any jewelry that may scratch your baby.4
- Wash from top to bottom, and front to back (clean to dirty) using a clean washcloth.
- Start with the face. Do not use soap and begin with baby's eyes. Using a clean part of the cloth or a new cotton ball for each eye and washing from inner to outer corner. Then continue washing baby's face. Never put your baby’s face under the water.4
- Use a clean washcloth wrapped around your little finger to clean the outer ear and nose. Do not use cotton swabs (Q-tips) to clean inside your baby’s nose or ears. Any mucus or earwax will work itself out in time.4
- Wash baby's hair next. Dry and cover their head once washed to prevent as much heat loss as possible.
- Continue washing down baby's body from head to toe (cleanest to dirtiest), washing baby's genitals and bottom last.4
- Wipe a girl's genitals from front to back. This prevents stool being brought forward to the vagina. Gently wash the vaginal lips.4
- Gently wash your baby boy's penis, without pulling the foreskin back. Usually, the foreskin is not fully retractable until a boy is three to five years old, or even until after puberty. Never force it.1
- Pat your baby completely dry with a towel at the end of the bath, especially in skin folds.4
- You can bathe your baby in a tub before the cord stump falls off, simply pat it dry after the bath.4
Date of creation: February 13, 2013
Last modified on: October 5, 2023