Washing and bathing your baby

You don’t need to bathe your baby every day but you should wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully every day. This is often called ‘topping and tailing’.

Washing newborn baby.
Content supplied by NHS Choices


Choose a time when your baby is awake and contented and make sure the room is warm. Get everything ready beforehand. You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.

You may find the following step-by-step guide useful:

  • Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
  • Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it doesn’t get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby’s eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don’t transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
  • Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby’s ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby’s ears. Wash the rest of your baby’s face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
  • Take off the nappy and wash your baby’s bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
  • It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they’ll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you’re saying.


Babies only need a bath two or three times a week, but if your baby really enjoys it, bathe them every day.

Don’t bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they’re hungry or tired, and make sure the room is warm. Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or washing-up bowl filled with warm water, two towels (in case of accidents!), baby bath liquid (unless your baby has particularly dry skin), a clean nappy, clean clothes and cotton wool.

  • The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
  • Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face, following the instructions given under ‘Washing’.
  • Wash their hair next with water or a liquid soap or shampoo designed for babies and rinse carefully, supporting them over the bowl.
  • Once you’ve dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
  • Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders.
  • Keep your baby’s head clear of the water. Use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  • Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.
  • This is a good time to massage some oil or cream (not aqueous cream) into your baby’s skin. Don’t use anything that contains peanut oil as some babies are allergic to it. Lots of babies love being massaged and it can help them relax and sleep. It’s best if you lay your baby on a towel on the floor as both the baby and your hands can get slippery.
  • If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. It’s easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.


NHS Choices

Published Date 2011-03-28

Last Review Date 2009-07-28


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