Bathing Your Newborn

Newborn |

There’s no denying, the thought of bathing a newborn can be rather daunting... What if the water’s too hot? Or too cold? Or worse still, you drop them? Newborns are tiny, squirmy and quite slippery when wet, so it’s no wonder many parents worry about their baby’s first bath.

However, a little bit of prior knowledge (and planning) can make a big difference when the time comes to introduce your little one to the water for the first time. Here are some tips to help you get the hang of it – and put your mind at ease.

Their very first bath 

Don’t worry, newborns aren’t usually bathed straight after the birth; it’s more important to keep them warm and, of course, welcome them to the world with a cuddle! 

Delaying that first wash also gives the natural anti-germ barrier on their skin, called vernix, time to sink in. This helps to moisturise their delicate skin and protect them from bacterial infections. [1] 

But sometime, during the first 24 hours or so, you’ll probably want to clean your little one up. And there are two ways to do this.

Topping and tailing

This is a bit like a flannel wash. You sponge your little one down with cotton wool and warm water, starting with the top half of their body, followed by the bottom half (hence top and tail). This is done without placing them in the water, making it a great option for newborns – and nervous parents!

Here’s how it works:

  • First, make sure the room is nice and warm, and lay out what you’ll need: a clean nappy, clean clothes, a couple of towels, a bowl or sink filled with warm water, and some cotton wool. Use your elbow to test the temperature of the water. It should feel the same as your body temperature.
  • Undress your baby on top of a clean towel.
  • Dip a piece of cotton wool in the water and squeeze it out. Gently wipe each of your baby’s eyes, starting from the nose and wiping toward the ears. Use a new piece of cotton for the other eye to avoid spreading germs.
  • Use fresh cotton to wipe the rest of your baby’s face, the ears, the neck creases, and the hands.
  • Now for the tailing – cleaning the bottom part that’s covered by the nappy. If things are a bit too messy down there for plain cotton wool and water, you can try using some mild baby cleansing lotion, like our HiPP Head to Toe baby wash, or unperfumed baby wipes.
  • Afterwards, pat your baby all over with a clean towel, making sure you dry any skin creases too. Then dress them in warm clothes and give them a cuddle – phew! You both deserve it!


Where you bath your baby is entirely up to you. When they’re really tiny, you might feel more confident using a plastic baby bath, placed on the kitchen work surface or the bathroom floor (wherever is most comfortable for your back!) Or you might prefer to use a small amount of water in your regular bath. Whichever you choose, get everything ready before you start – and if you’re nervous, recruit a second pair of hands to help!

Here’s how it works:

  • Lay out a couple of towels, some warm clothes, a clean nappy, a soft flannel and some cotton wool or wipes.
  • Fill the bath with about 8-10cm of water. If you have a bath thermometer, check that the water is 37-38 C; if not, test it with your elbow. It should the same temperature as your body.
  • Undress your baby, then wrap them in a towel to keep warm. Clean their face, neck and eyes with cotton wool (like the ‘topping’ example above.)
  • Next, take off your baby’s nappy and clean the nappy area with cotton wool or wipes.
  • Now for the scary bit... Support their head with one hand and gently lower your little one into the warm water.
  • Use the flannel to gently clean their skin, paying special attention to those squidgy skin folds. To help moisturise their skin, you can use a bit of mild emollient cleanser in the water – but it will make things a bit more slippery! (There are all sorts of bath supports and seats that you can buy to help out.)
  • Never leave a baby or young child alone in the bath – not even for a moment.
  • Once or twice a week, you can wash your baby’s hair. To do this, support their head and massage their scalp with water or some extra-mild baby shampoo, like our HiPP baby shampoo, then rinse it thoroughly. (Having an extra pair of hands definitely helps with this!)
  • Lift your baby out and wrap them in a towel straightaway to keep warm.
  • Smooth on some baby moisturising lotion if their skin tends to be dry, and a bit of barrier cream if there’s any sign of nappy rash.
  • Pop on a clean nappy and some warm clothes – bath time complete. Now for a congratulatory cuddle!

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