How to prepare for your baby’s first bath

newborn baby bath time and how to prepare your baby's first bath

Bath time is one of those uniquely special moments as a parent with your newborn baby. It’s a moment you’ll want to document and cherish. There’s something about it that’s just a little bit magical, that helps you bond with your baby away from what feels like constant anxiety in those early weeks and months. Whether it’s the aroma of the skincare, the warm serenity of the bathroom or just the novelty of it all, it’s a moment you’ll want to be prepared for as a new parent.

But bath time can also be tricky and certainly one of those moments where you’re not quite sure how you’ve been granted your parenting license with such little experience. While you’re desperately trying to stay calm, keep things relaxed and take the perfect photo of the occasion, the chances are you’ve got a crying, slippery baby on your hands who is slowly getting cold.  

A little preparation therefore goes a long way to making sure it really is the moment of connection and bonding that you had hoped for. This is the guide for how to prepare your baby, your bathroom and you for great memory-worthy baths for your baby. 

First bath vs Topping and Tailing: When to make the switch?

When your baby is first born there’s no need to rush into bathing them. Official advice recommends bathing them – full body in the water– only after their umbilical cord has fallen off. This can take 1-3 weeks on average so you might find you spend much of the early weeks just giving them a sponge bath – a bath with a wet sponge or cotton wool, rather than immersing them in water in a proper bath.

Sometimes called topping and tailing, this sponge bath does the job of getting your baby clean, particularly in the nooks and creases of their skin (especially their neck!) without having to go through the whole exercise of bathing them.

By taking some pieces of cotton water and two separate bowls of water, you can give your baby a great clean by wiping their bottom half (below the waist) and upper half with separate water to prevent contamination and the spread of germs. It’s a great way to wash them without too much fuss and certainly in those early days when they feel so fragile, it can be a relief not to go through the whole bath routine straight away.

It's also important to note that even when you switch to bathing your baby fully, this doesn’t need to be as often as we can sometimes think. While we might shower or bath daily as adults, your baby doesn’t need bathing more than 2-3 times a week. In fact over bathing them can actually be damaging to their skin. Bathing your baby less and moisturising them more is a much better way to look after your baby’s skin as they grow up.

What do you need to buy for your baby’s bath?

The shopping list for your first baby can feel long, overwhelming and totally unaffordable. There are certainly staples you’ll want or need to buy for yourself to give your baby the best or because it’s just enjoyable to do that. But where possible with bathing gear, beg, borrow and steal is the order of the day.

A lot of bath time equipment – from tubs to toys – is easily cleaned, durable and robust – so you can get a lot of use out of it. If you’re able to buy second-hand or just borrow for the short period some of these toys or equipment are needed when your baby is little, do that.

But there are always considerations to make about your particular set up – size of your home, other children you might want to have, priorities about what different  things are  important for your kid(s) etc. It means sometimes you will be left needing to shop for your baby’s, toddlers and then young kids’ bath times. Knowing this with three kids of our own, we’ve put together the ultimate guide of what to consider when it comes to making baby bathtime purchases. 

Choosing the right baby bath tub

A bath tub for your baby is critical to the whole process. You might bath your kids in the sink, but often new parents are looking for a separate bath tub they can use that’s portable and can be set up easily on the floor of their bathroom (well that’s what we did at least).

Either way, you’re not getting far without a bathtub of some sort to put your baby in and it can be tricky to know what you need to look out for. Our guide to choosing the right baby bathtub helps you think through everything you might consider from how much space you have to how easy it is to use without giving yourself a back ache.

What should you use to wash your baby with?

With a newborn baby, your instinct will be for a cloth or sponge that’s super soft and gentle, but that still provides enough very gentle exfoliation to remove any dirt and dead skin.

What can be more important though, is something that’s convenient to use and have on hand all the time. That means easy to wash and re-use and that doesn’t go moldy or musty easily. Related to that is how hygienic your sponge, brush or cloth is. It’s become more common-place to pay attention to the skincare you’re using on your baby (see below) and rightly so. But we don’t pay much attention to what’s applying that skincare even though we keep bath sponges and loofahs far too long and they accumulate all sorts of bacteria.  

That’s why we created the Pebbl bath time brush as the perfect hygienic, gently exfoliating and oh so cute bath brush for washing your baby. If you want the full list of options you can check our guide for bath sponges and cloths and our recommendations for choosing what to wash your newborn baby with from the beginning and beyond.

What skincare should I use on my baby? 

Parents typically use too much skincare and don’t pay enough attention to what they’re putting on their baby’s skin. That’s probably because we think of it like we do our own adult skin – shower often and don’t worry too much about what’s on the label. But baby skin is enormously different and far more vulnerable – so what you put on their skin really does matter.

These are the skincare essentials to think about that covers head-to-toe skin and hair care for you little ones. But more importantly we’ve got our moisturiser recommendations. Moisturiser is the much overlooked part of your newborn baby’s bathtime routine when in fact it’s much more important than the washing at this young age. That’s because baby skin needs all the additional protection it can get. Choose the right moisturiser for your baby’s skin and you’ll be in a great place even if you don’t get round to bathing your baby or young child very often. 

What bath time accessories do I need for my baby?

For a newborn you don’t need any bathtime accessories. You’ll be less worried about them having their toys than you are about trying to soothe their crying or making sure they don’t slip under the water. That said, if you’re capturing them perfect baby photos for sentiment’s sake you might want to think about some aesthetic toys that your baby will find entertaining as they get older.  Our recommendation is to choose sensory toys that help your baby develop their understanding of different sounds, textures and sights. This can be as simple as pouring cups or can combine play with active cleaning like our Pebbl bath time brush.

What baby bath towel should you buy?

The most vulnerable part of bathtime for your baby is getting them out of the bath. They’re slippery, easy to drop and are prone to getting cold very quickly. Their skin surface area relative to their size is much greater than adults so they lose heat relatively easy in comparison. It means getting them safely our of the bath and wrapped up quickly is important. And that means choosing the right towel that will cover them fully, dry them effectively and be soft and irritant free on their skin. There are different options in this regard, but the best towels are plush, use natural fibres, have a hood and properly cover your baby for cuddling and drying.

How to set up the room for your baby’s bath

Setting up the room for your baby’s bath can be quick and straightforward with some keep tips on how to do it. Most important is getting the temperature in the room right. We often think about the temperature of the water, but a warm, cosy room will make everything a lot easier to begin with. The key then is to just make sure you have everything you’ll need to hand. You can’t leave your baby alone (especially when they’re newborn) so don’t get caught short. Prepare upfront for a stress-free bathtime routine. 

How to get your baby’s bath water temperature right 

The ‘put your elbow in it’ tip is pretty well known and that’s definitely one way to check the temperature of your baby’s water. But there are a few other things to get right. First, make sure that you’re running the bath to the right temperature before putting your baby in. Never put your baby in and then start running the water. Make any adjustments to the temperature before your baby’s in the water. Mixing the water thoroughly (bubble bath can be a great reminder to do this), asking a partner to check the water and generally just erring on the side of the water being too cool (especially if you’ve got the room set up nice and warm) is the way to go.

How to wash your newborn baby’s skin

Your baby’s skin is very different to your own skin. It’s thinner, less naturally moisturising and more easily dries out. Keeping baths quick and the amount of skincare product you use to a minimum is important in protecting the natural barriers your baby’s skin already relies on. Use a gentle, clean cloth, sponge or brush – something like our Pebbl silicone brush can work as a hygienic alternative – and start with soaping hair, body and legs before lastly cleaning private parts. Focus on cleaning nooks and folds of skin where dirt collects. In neck folds especially, try using a cloth or even your own fingers to gently rinse and clean dirt away.

How to wash your newborn baby’s hair

Most newborn baby’s don’t have a ton of hair so really it’s about washing your baby’s scalp. Starting a bath by soaping your baby’s head a little and allowing it to stay on before rinsing is a good way to begin. Make sure you’re using a tear free formula (which mainly just means a formula with long chain, more gentle surfactants) and figure out your own jug or cup for rinsing that helps keep water out of your baby’s eyes. Gently exfoliate your baby’s hair with our own Pebbl bath time brush, but be careful to not over exfoliate cradle cap patches. 

How to get your newborn baby out of the bath 

This is the slippery part of the whole routine. Grab your towel and lay it out on your lap or on a soft, but firm surface where you want to put your baby down. If it’s a square towel you’re using without a hood, lay the towel out so you have a corner at the top where you are going to put the baby’s head.  Make sure the towel is big enough to put them on and swaddle them.

Pick your newborn up by placing your hands underneath their arm pits and using the rest of your spread fingers to support them behind the neck and head. You can then carefully place them down – legs, then bum, then back then lastly head – removing your hands right at the end. Once they’re laying on their back (and likely crying at this point), pull any hood on the towel up over their head and cover the rest of them with the towel. If there’s no hood, you can bring the top corner up over the baby to dry their head quickly.

How to dry your newborn baby after the bath

Once your baby is out of the bath and laying on the towel, you can swaddle them by folding in each corner of the towel until they are totally covered. Before you begin drying specific parts of them, you might want to pick them up to soothe them if they’re crying. That might also involve giving them a short feed.

Once they’re a little calmer, massage them gently around the larger surfaces of their skin while they’re still wrapped in the towel – back, arms, legs front. Once you’re confident they’ve largely warmed up and are mostly dry, you can start unfolding parts of the towel and drying around specific nooks and folds – places like the crotch and general nappy area for example, should be nice and dry before you put a new nappy on.

Once the nappy area is dry, put the nappy on before you carry on drying them. That way you avoid undoing the work you’ve just done cleaning them up! Once the nappy is on, move on to drying their legs and then body. Finish by place them on their front to dry their back. You can keep the towel covering parts of their body that you haven’t dried yet so they stay warm. You can also moisturise parts of their body as you dry them so that they don’t have to spend additional without clothing on and potentially getting too cold.

How to moisturise your baby 

There’s plenty of good reasons to make sure moisturising your baby is a must have part of your baby’s bath time routine. Newborns in particular need lots of extra skin protection as they adjust to life outside the womb. To moisturise your baby, use the time immediately after the bath (or when you’re getting them dressed each day) to apply a teaspoon (1 pump) of moisturiser lotion or cream to each of face, torso, legs and arms. Work section by section starting with the torso so you can get your baby into a vest as quickly as possible and stop them from getting cold. Then moisturise legs and arms and finish by moisturising their face.

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Pebbl bathtime silicone body scrub makes bath time fun for toddlers and young children
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