Bath Time

  • Bath time can be fun for both you and your baby. It’s a great opportunity to bond and interact with each other. Your baby will enjoy your gentle touch and a chance to splash and play.
  • A little planning can simplify bath time for you. Getting everything you need ready and in one place before you get your baby in place is a good way to start.
  • If you give your baby a bath before (rather than after) feeding, this can help prevent spitting up during the bath.
  • Babies do not need to be bathed every day. Bathing too often can cause your baby’s skin to dry out. In between baths, clean your baby’s face after each feeding, and clean the diaper area after every changing.

Getting Ready for the Bath

  • Make sure the room is warm (about 24° C or 75° F). Babies lose heat from their bodies very quickly.
  • NEVER leave the baby alone in the bath or on a changing table. If you’ve forgotten something, take the baby with you to get it!
  • Check the temperature of the water before putting the baby in the bath. The water should feel warm but not hot on the inside of your wrist or elbow.
  • Be sure to clean and disinfect the tub after each bath.

Sponge Baths

  • You can give your baby a sponge bath in the first week or two, until you have gotten more comfortable handling your baby.
  • Give a sponge bath to baby boys who have a circumcision that has not yet healed.

Sponge baths can be less stressful for parents than a tub bath, because it is easier to hold the baby without worrying about slippery bathwater. Here are some tips for giving a sponge bath:

Pay special attention to the stump of the umbilical cord as it heals.

  • Keep the skin around the cord clean and dry.
  • Keep the diaper folded under the cord to allow it to dry.
  • Clean the cord area with water if it becomes soiled.
  • Keep your baby wrapped in a towel, and uncover one area at a time to sponge it.
  • Start from the top and work down, cleaning the diaper area last.
  • Holding the baby’s head, use a fresh cotton ball or square moistened with water for each eye. Wipe gently from the inside corner of the eye out.
  • Be careful with the soft spot on the baby’s head, but don’t be afraid to touch it.
  • Use a soft washcloth and plain, warm water to gently wipe your baby’s entire face. Pay attention to the skin behind the ears and to creases in the neck, which can easily be overlooked.
  • Clean the outside of the baby’s nostrils and ears by gently wiping with a damp washcloth. Be careful not to drip water into the baby’s nose or ears and do not use cotton swabs. Gently pat dry with a soft towel before moving on.
  • Unwrap and remove the baby’s diaper. Use a mild, moisturizing soap only if your baby is smelly or dirty. Be sure to rinse well.
  • Wet your hand or a washcloth and wash the rest of your baby’s body
  • To clean the genital area, always wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the bowel.
  • Rinse and gently pat dry. The best way to avoid rashes is to gently dry the folds of your baby’s skin with a soft towel after cleaning.
  • Cotton swabs, powders, and lotions are not recommended.


  • In general, shampoo your baby’s hair once or twice a week. If giving a tub bath, wash your baby’s hair last. A wet head loses body heat quickly.
  • Hold your baby at your side in a towel, supporting the head with your hand. With the baby’s head over a basin, use your free hand to wet the baby’s hair and then lather with a very small amount of mild soap or shampoo. Rinse completely and rub dry.

Cradle Cap

  • Waxy scales or greasy skin with flaky white or yellow scales on a baby’s scalp are called cradle cap. This is a common condition in newborns. Cradle cap is not harmful and it usually goes away on its own in a few months.
  • If your baby has cradle cap, you can shampoo more often. Rub a small amount of nonperfumed oil, such as mineral oil, into the baby’s scalp before shampooing. Rub gently to loosen the scales, then shampoo as described above.

Tub Baths: When Is Baby Ready?

  • Sponge-bathe your baby until the stump of the umbilical cord and the circumcision have healed.
  • When baby is ready, you can use a plastic tub or basin in the sink or bathtub, or line a clean kitchen or bathroom sink with a towel or rubber mat.
  • Babies are not ready for the big bathtub until they are able to hold their heads up and keep their backs straight.

Bath-Time Safety

  • Gather all your supplies, including a clean towel, diaper, and fresh clothes.
  • Fill the tub or basin with a few inches of warm water. Always test the water temperature yourself before putting the baby in.
  • Carefully watch babies and young children in the bath at all times. Always keep them within arm’s reach. And if the phone rings during bath time—ignore it!
  • Put a non-slip rubber mat on the bottom of the tub.
  • Health Canada recommends that you NOT use baby bath seats. Because they give adults a false sense of security, bath seats can lead to drowning.
  • Cover the bathroom floor with non-slip rugs.
  • For older children, never fill the bath more than waist-high (in the sitting position).
  • Take care with the taps to prevent bumps and burns.
  • Clean and disinfect the tub after every bath.

Bath-time Supplies

  • mild soap
  • clean washcloths
  • diaper and diapering supplies
  • large soft towels
  • cotton balls
  • a change of clothing
  • a pad or cloth diaper to lay the baby on after the bath.

To Learn More…

Best start: