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Ready, Set, Bath!

Whether you choose to bathe your baby in an infant tub, bathtub, shower, or sink, here are some practical principles common to all.

  • Full support. Once you’ve gotten yourself and your baby situated and your supplies ready, you’ll likely find it easiest to use your nondominant arm and hand to support your baby’s head and back as needed (eg, use your left hand for support if you’re right-handed). By reaching behind/under your baby and then holding on to his opposite arm throughout the bath, you will help to ensure that he will have your unwavering support, while you will still have your preferred/more functional hand free for cleaning. Using a plastic cup, washcloth, tub sprayer, or your free hand, you can then wet your baby’s body from the head down with clean warm water.
  • Heads down. When you work from the top down, it helps keep areas that were already rinsed clean from getting soapy again. 
  • Focus on the face. Wipe your baby’s face with a clean, wet washcloth, using the corner of it to also clean the outer part of the ear and behind the ear. 
  • Hair it is. If your baby has any hair and you think it actually warrants washing, then add a small amount of all-purpose baby wash or shampoo to your palm or a washcloth and rub it into your baby’s hair. When rinsing, simply tilt your baby’s head back slightly to avoid getting soap or shampoo into his eyes or ears.
  • Lift and separate. Remember to lift and separate as best you can any folds in your baby’s neck, armpits, and groin.
  • Soap talk. If you’re going to use a mild soap or baby wash, put a small amount on the washcloth or your hand and gently rub it onto your baby’s body from the neck down. For safety’s sake, we highly recommend keeping your holding hand soap-free to prevent a slippery situation. If you get soap on your baby’s hands, try to rinse them off fairly quickly before your baby decides he wants to rub his eyes or chew on his fingers.
  • Bend at the knees. As you finish up, carefully hoist your baby out of the tub or basin without putting too much strain on your back. By bending at the knees and hips, or situating yourself comfortably on a stool or chair (or toilet, depending on the configuration of your bathroom), you can avoid unnecessary aches and pains. 
  • No hands-free options. For safety’s sake, always keep at least one hand and both eyes on your baby.
Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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