How Often Should You Bathe a Newborn?

Baby bathing

Verywell / Caitlin Rogers

Bathing a newborn is something many new parents eagerly look forward to. After all, there is nothing sweeter than a tiny baby getting gently soaped up and cleaned, while splashing around.

But the reality of bathing our babies may be different than expected and you may also be concerned about how to bathe your baby safely.

Maybe you have a baby who seems to really dislike baths. Or you feel unsure of how often to bathe them. Too much to bathe them daily? What if you can’t get in a decent bath more than once or twice a week?

Rest assured, bathing your baby doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. A few basic tips can go a long way.

As for how often you need to bathe your baby? There aren’t too many rules. If your baby can only get in a good bath a few times a week, you are actually totally on track. It’s also usually OK if you want to bathe your baby more frequently, too.

Bathing Your Baby in the First 2 Weeks

Before we discuss how often to bathe a newborn, and how to go about doing it, let's talk about bathing your baby in their first few weeks of life, as that looks different than it will once they are older.

At Birth

The first few hours and day after birth is a unique time in your baby’s life. They are just learning about the world around them, adjusting to life outside the womb, and perhaps learning how to breastfeed.

To make this transition smoother on your baby, most experts recommend that your baby’s first bath actually be delayed. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends you delay your baby’s first bath for 24 hours, if possible. If 24 hours is not possible, WHO recommend you delay it by six hours.

The Academy Of American Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends that the first bath be delayed. The reasons include:

  • Body temperature: Babies who aren’t bathed right away may be better able to regulate their body temperatures.
  • Blood sugar: Delaying the first bath can reduce hypoglycemia (drops in blood sugar).
  • Bonding: Skin-to-skin time and bonding are more likely to happen if babies are kept with their parents and have their first baths delayed.
  • Breastfeeding: Studies have shown that delaying the first bath increases the rate at which babies initiate breastfeeding after birth, and increases their chances of continued breastfeeding success.
  • Dry skin: Your baby is born with a waxy coating called vernix, which is a natural moisturizer and also has antibacterial qualities. Delaying the first bath allows your baby’s skin to stay soft, healthy, and prevents it from drying out.

Before the Umbilical Cord Falls Off

For the first few weeks of your baby’s life, before their umbilical cord stump falls off, you shouldn’t fully immerse your baby in water. Instead, it’s recommended that you give your baby a sponge bath, or bathe your baby with a washcloth.

How to Give Your Baby a Sponge Bath

  • Keep things simple, but make sure you are prepared beforehand with supplies, such as a washcloth or baby sponge, a basin of water, and a towel.
  • Clean your baby on a secure surface such as a changing table or bed. You can also lay a towel or blanket on the floor to soften it, or place your baby in your lap. If your baby is on an elevated surface, you must keep on hand on your baby at all times so they don’t fall.
  • Be careful not to get water in your baby’s eyes, and don’t directly sponge their healing umbilical cord stump.
  • Make sure you keep your baby warm during this process. You may consider wrapping your baby with a towel and only uncovering your baby’s different body parts when they are ready to be washed.

Your baby’s umbilical cord stump should fall off within the first one to two weeks of life, at which point you can immerse your baby in water.

How Often Does a Newborn Need a Bath? 

Growing up, you may have heard that babies and children must be bathed daily for optimum cleanliness. However, this isn’t the case. Especially with a newborn, bathing daily can actually dry the skin, and irritate it.

Additionally, most newborns do not get very dirty, so it’s not necessary to fully immerse them in a bath each day or night. You can spot clean any areas of concern in between baths.

For these reasons, most doctors recommend only bathing your newborn baby a few days per week.

AAP recommends bathing your baby no more than three days per week. Of course, even that is not a hard and fast rule.

If you want to bathe your baby more often, that’s fine, and if you only bathe your baby one or two days per week (but spot clean any other messes and keep their diaper area clean), that’s fine too!

As your baby gets older and ventures into the toddler years, they are going to get dirtier, because they will be exploring everything and playing outside. Your bathing frequency will likely naturally increase during this time.

Best Time of Day for a Bath

Similar to the question of how often to bathe your baby, what time of day to bathe your baby is really up to you!

Many families adopt the “bath before bed” routine, as baths can help your child relax before bedtime, and can become part of a routine that signals to them that sleep is coming.

Evening is also when parents usually have the time to dedicate to bathing their baby. However, if you prefer bathing your baby in the morning or during the day, that’s perfectly OK.

When considering what time of day to bathe your baby, also consider when you are going to be most alert. Bathing babies, and especially newborns, takes good hand-eye coordination, patience, and must involve vigilance on the part of the parent.

If you think you will be distracted with other responsibilities, or with your other children, choose another time to bathe your baby.

Tips for Safely Bathing Your Newborn

Besides keeping your baby happy and getting them clean, safety should be a top concern when it comes to bathing your baby. Unfortunately, drowning is something all parents of newborns need to be aware of.

As the AAP notes, “[m]ost child drownings inside the home occur in bathtubs, and more than half of bathtub deaths involve children under 1 year of age.” These are sobering statistics, but they are not meant to scare you; instead, they are reminders to take safety very seriously when it comes to bathing your baby.

Here are some other safety recommendations to keep in mind:

  • AAP recommends against using infant bath seats for your baby. These are seats that allow your infant to sit upright in a bath. The problem is that these can tip over and your baby can drown. Parents tend to become overly reliant on these types of seats and may not watch their babies as carefully.
  • AAP recommends using a manufactured baby tub with a slip proof surface. Make sure the tub has not been recalled and was manufactured to meet current safety standards. You can also make a simple basin less slippery by lining it with a towel. Alternatively, you can bathe your baby in a sink. If you are doing this, make sure to keep your baby away from the faucet and consider lining the faucet with a towel as well, to prevent slips.
  • Always have one hand on your baby when they are bathing. In addition, you should never avert your eyes from your baby, even briefly. If you need to leave the bath, just bring your baby along with you. Never leave them unattended.
  • Keep a towel nearby. That way it’s always ready for you when your baby gets out of the bath.

Best Temperature for a Bath

You can experiment to see what temperature your baby likes their bath best. In general, lukewarm temperatures are ideal. You don’t want the bath to be too cold, but you certainly don’t want it too hot.

Some parents err on the side of heating the bath up too much, and risk scalding their babies. The AAP recommends that your baby’s bath be no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s helpful to fill the baby tub or sink with a few inches of water before immersing your baby in it. Test the water first to see if it is an appropriate temperature for your baby.

Best Kind of Soap for Babies

Newborns don’t need a ton of soap, and baby shampoo isn’t strictly necessary.

Doctors recommend using the most mild soap you can find, as baby skin tends to be very sensitive. Unscented soaps are usually your best bet, and you can stay away from antibacterial soap or soap with many additives.

Read labels: If the soap has a long list of ingredients, it’s probably best to try something simpler. After bathing your baby, it can be helpful to follow up with some baby-friendly moisturizer, especially if your baby tends to have dry skin.

If Your Newborn Hates the Bath

It’s actually very common for newborns to dislike bath time, especially at first. You may be surprised to learn this, and even think you are doing something wrong or that there is something wrong with your baby if they cry or fuss during bathtime.

One reason some babies resist bathtime is that they don’t like the sudden temperature changes that happen. You can mitigate this by gently transitioning your baby into the water. Wrap them in a towel at first and gradually immerse them in the water, keeping the towel on until they are all the way in.

You can also experiment with bath temperatures to see what your baby likes best. And always have a warm towel ready when they come out so that transition isn’t too jarring.

Some newborn prefer bathtime if you are holding them completely. As such, many parents decide to bathe with their babies in their arms. This can be a wonderful bonding experience. However, you must consider safety here. Only bathe with your baby when you are fully alert. Make sure you have a towel ready, and possibly another grown-up to hand your baby to when you are done. Don’t use soaps and other bath products geared toward adult skin.

Finally, keep bathtime fun for your baby! Newborns can’t play with bath toys yet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be entertained by them. Funny faces and games of peek-a-boo can be very helpful as well.

If bathtime continues to be difficult for your baby, speak to your pediatrician for tips and advice specific to your child. Remember, too, that if you need to pare down on bathing frequency for your baby because they are too cranky at bathtime, that’s fine too.

You can “spot clean” your baby in the meantime. And most babies will eventually enjoy bath time—all in good time.

 A Word from Verywell

Caring for a newborn comes with many stresses and worries—some of which may surprise you. Who would have thought that you’d be pondering how often to bath your baby and the best way to do so?

The good news is that there are no strict rules when it comes to bathing your baby. Yes, it’s probably best not to bathe your newborn more than three times per week, but there’s no harm in doing it a little more or a little less. If you find that bathing too much causes your baby's skin to become dry or irritated, that can be your signal to adjust your schedule.

More than anything, you should pay attention to safety when it comes to bathing your baby. Choose a safe bathing location, use a mild soap, keep the water toasty but not too cold, and most importantly, never take your eyes off your baby—even for one second.

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Navsaria D. Bathing Your Baby. Healthy Children. Updated March 3, 2020.

  3. Gözen D, Çaka SY, Beşirik SA, Perk Y. First bathing time of newborn infants after birth: A comparative analysis. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. 2019;24(2):e12239.

  4. Ady C, Albert N, Bena J, DiCioccio H. Initiative to Improve Exclusive Breastfeeding by Delaying the Newborn Bath. Health Care Improvement and Evaluation. 2019;48(2):P189-196. doi:10.1016/j.jogn.2018.12.008.

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