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Washing and bathing your baby

You don't need to bathe your baby every day, but if you both enjoy it there’s no reason not to.

Or you can wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully instead.

We this call this topping and tailing.

The best time to wash your baby is when they’re awake and content.

Talk to your baby

Keep talking to your baby while you wash them: it'll help them relax.

The more your baby hears your voice, the more they'll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you're saying.

Get everything ready to bathe

Avoid bathing your baby straight after they’ve fed or when they’re hungry or tired. The best time is when they’re awake and content.

Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.

Just like when you have a bath, make sure the room is warm, and everything you need is ready.

You’ll need:

  • a baby bath or clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water (not hot)
  • cotton wool.
  • two towels
  • a clean nappy
  • clean clothes

Don't add any soap or liquid cleaners to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.

Before you start, make sure the water is warm, but not hot. Give the water a good mix so there are no hot patches, and check the temperature with your elbow or wrist.

How to bathe your baby

This is how we recommend you bathe your baby:

  • Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face, as described above
  • Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting their head over the bowl.
  • When you've dried their hair gently, you can take off their clothes and nappy, and wipe away any mess.
  • Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath
  • use 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.
  • Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.

This is a good time to massage your baby. Massage can help them relax and sleep, but don’t use any oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.

Get everything ready to top and tail

Just like when you have a wash, make sure the room is warm, and everything you need is ready.

You’ll need:

  • a bowl of warm water
  • a towel
  • cotton wool
  • a fresh nappy
  • clean clothes if necessary

How to top and tail

This is how we recommend you top and tail.

First, the top

  • hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Whichever way you have them, make sure they’re secure and comfortable
  • 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.
  • always use a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye so 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 a towel.

And now the tail

  • take off their nappy and wash their bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water.
  • remember to dry your baby very carefully, including between the skin folds
  • put on a clean nappy.