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Secrets to the perfect Newborn baby bath (in a tub!)

guide to newborn baby bath

Bathing your newborn baby essentially means removing your baby’s vernix. Generally, some mothers will delay a first bath in order to gain the benefits of vernix for baby’s skin. Delaying the first bath is sometimes also done to prolong newborn bonding time in the hospital immediately after birth. Your newborn baby bath set is one that deserves some consideration as you have to ensure it is a comfortable set up for both yourself and your baby. 

It took me several tries with different kinds of baths and products to get it right so I feel like I can give some pretty good advice on this! However, bear in mind that different things might work for you. A bit of trial and error may be in order. 

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Deciding when exactly to give your baby their first bath might be a debate in your household. 

The best time to give baby a bath

The best time to give a newborn baby a bath is debatable. However, research indicates that bathing a premature or sick baby can be detrimental to their health. It can lead to anything from hypothermia to skin irritations. 

As long as your baby is healthy, there is no need to worry too much about when to give them their first bath. Going forward though, it is worth considering the state of their health before bathing them. You do not want to bathe them when they are unwell and you know that a bath could make them feel cold or more ill. You could top and tail them instead. 

How often should you bathe a newborn? 

You should try not to bathe a newborn too frequently. Frequent baths have been shown to increase the likelihood of dry skin and some skin irritations. 2 – 3 times a week maximum is ideal. 

For example, some experts suggest that the optimal frequency of bathing for a preterm baby is every four days. This is optimal because it lowers the risk of infection.

Do babies like baths?

It depends on the baby. Some babies enjoy the feeling of being in water. They might find it soothing and some could even fall asleep while being bathed. 

Others, however, will let you know just how much they hate being bathed. They will cry and scream throughout the bathing process and you will know without a doubt that they do not like baths. 

It sometimes makes a difference having a good bathing process and environment setup for your baby. They may like having baths if the bathing process is ideal for both of you. 

How to bathe a newborn baby in a tub 

Other people may do this differently. This is how I bathe my newborn. I try to keep things as simple as possible. My main concerns are that the bath is finished quickly and both myself and baby are comfortable. The baby must be held in a comfortable position and my back and waist should also be intact at the end of each bathing session! 

See the next section for the full list of products used.

I use a baby bath and changing unit as this provides the comfort and convenience that I need. The exact one I use is linked below. 

  1. Make sure all your bathing items are set aside and ready for use. Once your baby is naked, you will not want to be missing anything! 
  1. Fill the bath with 4 inches of water. I fill up the bath enough that it covers my baby’s tummy at least when I lay them back slightly in the water. It helps to keep them warm throughout the bathing session. 
  1. Also keep a small bucket or large pail or jug of water on the side for a quick rinse off when you are done washing baby. 
  1. Newborns are tiny and can be slippery little things. I lay a muslin cloth on the bottom of the bath to make it less slippery for babies once they get in. 
  1. Check the water temperature to make sure it is not too hot or too cool. I use a bath thermometer for this as I do not always trust my wrist or elbow. 
  1. Only when everything is ready do you undress your baby. 
  1. Lower your baby into the tub once you are satisfied with the water temperature. 
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  1. Use the middle of one arm to support your baby’s neck while using the hand of the same arm to hold your baby’s shoulder. 

Intermittently pour water over your baby to keep them warm. 

  1. Avoiding baby’s face, use a soft wash cloth or baby sponge to clean them from the neck downwards. 
  1. If shampooing your baby’s hair as well, squeeze a small amount of soap into your hand and gently massage onto the entire head of hair. 
  1. Now rinse off both hair and body gently using your jug or some of the water in your bucket. 

Remember that at no point should you leave the baby alone in the tub. 

  1. Transfer them quickly to a soft towel large enough to wrap them up fully. I use an apron towel as it means you can lift the baby straight from the water onto the towel which is on your body. You can quickly wrap the baby up and keep them warm. Make sure you dry all the creases on their body. 
  1. Once they are fully wrapped up in a towel, use a couple of cotton pads and clean water to wipe their face. I like to use boiled and cooled water as I also gently wipe the pads over their eyes. I do not want them to catch an infection. 

This step can also be done before you bath your baby. 

  1. Now it is time to moisturise them and dress them. 

Newborn baby bath temperature

All babies’ bath temperature should be around 37 degrees Celsius. This ensures that they do not get cold and put them at risk of hypothermia. Having a trustworthy bath thermometer is important. See below for the one I have used for years now.

What kind of baths should newborns be given?

Research has found that babies who receive tub baths experience less temperature loss than those who get sponge baths. The mothers of tub bathed babies are also more satisfied with the result of the bath for their babies.

The Best newborn baby bath products 

Avoid baby bath products that are not made from natural ingredients. Infact, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that all cleansing products should be avoided in the first month of a baby’s life. I certainly use a cleansing product for my newborn. I just make sure it is as mild as possible. 

Here is everything I use for my newborn baby bath this second time around. Some of the items have changed since I had my first child. For example, with my first child, I used a combination of the Shnuggle baby bath and bathing baby on my lap while I sat in the adult bath tub. While one of these might be a preferable method for you, I found that neither was working for me as I was getting back pain. My current newborn baby bath set is all about protecting my back while keeping the baby safe. 

I also used a different baby soap the first time around. 

Aveeno Baby Hair and Body soap

Baby sponge

Bath and changing unit 

Bath thermometer

Plastic pail 

Natural Shea butter

Aqueous cream


Apron towel

Coconut oil

Cotton pads

So there you have it. A simple guide to bathing your newborn baby.

If you have any questions about how I bathe my newborn, feel free to ask in the comments below. 

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