The idea of giving your baby the first bath can be intimidating. It’s only natural at first to be worried about handling a slippery, squirming baby in water. But the process is not complicated, and many newborns enjoy a warm, calming bath.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a baby’s first bath should be a sponge bath, and sponge baths should continue until the umbilical stump falls off.

When it is time for tub baths, make it as easy as you can for both yourself and your baby. Baby tubs that fit inside sinks are ideal. The kitchen sink is a good place, as the counter space is a perfect place to swaddle your baby when bath time is over. Before the bath, lay out all the materials you’ll need: a washcloth, a hooded towel, a cup for rinsing, and a few cotton swabs, if desired. Arrange your materials as close to your reach as you can, because you’ll need to always keep one hand on your baby throughout the bath.

Make sure the room is warm enough, then add warm water to the tub before you place your baby in it. You only need to fill the tub 2-3 inches.

Carefully place baby in the water. Support your baby from behind, cradling the head. Working quickly, gently run a washcloth over baby’s face, cleaning the eyes, nostrils, and corners of the mouth. Wash behind the ears, and use your finger in the washcloth or a cotton swab to clean the outer shell of the ear. Do not use anything to clean inside the ear. Be sure to use a mild dye and fragrance free soap, or use none at all as your baby does not even need it.

As you move down the body, wash under the chin, arms, hands and fingers, torso, legs, and feet. Take care to gently clean between any rolls on your baby’s neck, arms and legs. Lastly, clean the private areas and bottom, washing front-to-back, never back-to-front. If you did use soap or baby wash, be sure to rinse thoroughly. Shampoo the scalp and rinse quickly, taking care not to get soap in the eyes.

After your baby is clean, wrap in a hooded towel. Carefully pat dry—don’t rub—between the fingers and the toes, as well as the larger areas. If you decide to use a lotion, make sure it is also dye and fragrance free.  Finally, use a blunt comb or soft brush on the hair to stimulate the scalp and prevent cradle cap.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, May 2020


  • To keep your baby calm, make baths quick and warm. No soap is necessary.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the tub.
  • Wash from top to bottom, and clean private areas front-to-back.
  • Take care with your baby’s skin, wash gently, pat it dry, and follow up with lotion if desired.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Bantam Books, June 1998.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Baby bath basics: A parent’s guide.


  1. We were scared of the tub bath at first! I think my son had sponge baths for the first month of this life, even though his umbilical stump fell off way before then! But once we got in the groove, we loved baths (and still do)!

  2. My baby LOVES bath time! She has one of those pink plastic tubs that was working just fine in the sink until recently. We just took the adjustable sling out, and now she splashes all over the place! We’ve moved the pink tub to the actual tub, which helps with the splashing- it just sucks bending over!
    I do have a kink in the process though when it comes to bulb aspirating her nose. She HATES this with a passion. You would think I was actively murdering her by the way she screams!! Is it just scary or is it painful for babies? How often do you need to clear out their noses??

  3. Bath time was one of my favorite times of the day when my boys were infants!

  4. My son’s umbilical stump fell off earlier! I am waiting to give him his first full bath until tomorrow though. Thank you for another great article. After almost five years a reminder is always nice and appreciated 😉


Tell us who you are! We use your name to make your comments, emails, and notifications more personal.

Tell us who you are! We use your name to make your comments, emails, and notifications more personal.