Baby bath time techniques

Baby bath time techniques

Bathing a baby can be daunting for some new mums. Follow our step-by-step guide of baby bath time techniques that will help take the fear out of bathing your baby.

Asides from keeping your baby clean, bathing your baby can be a great bonding experience between you and your child.

However, for first time parents, bathing your delicate newborn can seem like a scary experience. This is why some parents choose to bathe their baby without using a bath for the first few weeks. This is called ‘top and tailing’.

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How to top and tail

This method entails washing your baby from head to toe with a warm sponge or else pieces of cotton wool.

When bathing your baby this way, always make sure the room you are doing it in is set to a warm temperature. Have a clean nappy, clothes, and any baby cleanser or nappy cream that you may be using beside you.

1. Fill a bowl or sink with warm water and place your baby on a clean towel near the water so you are ready to dry them quickly after you have bathed them.

2. Start by dipping a piece of cotton wool into the warm water and squeezing it out. Use this to gently wipe your baby’s eyes. Use a clean piece for each eye.

3. Take another clean piece of damp cotton wool and clean around your baby’s ears. However, do not clean inside your baby’s ears as this could damage their eardrum.

4. Using a fresh piece of cotton wool each time, wipe your baby’s face, neck and hands. Do not scrub off any of the white vernix that may be left on your baby’s skin as this is their natural cleanser and is very good for their skin. It will come off naturally in time.

5. Then take special care to clean your baby’s bottom. This must also be done after every nappy change. Use a barrier cream to lock moisture in.

6. After washing your baby, gently pat them dry with the clean towel. Make sure that there is no dampness left in any creases on their body. If your baby has dry skin, apply a light layer of mild moisturiser or emollient to their skin. Wrap your baby in their towel and give them a cuddle!

Baby bath time techniques

Using a tub

Whether you are transitioning from top and tailing to putting your baby in a tub, or going for the tub from the get-go, the same routine applies.

To bathe your newborn baby, it is recommended that you use small plastic baby bath. It is not advised to use a normal bathtub as holding your baby with your arms stretched over the sides of the bathtub may make holding them safely more difficult.

Fill the bath with just a few inches of warm water. Never fill the bath more than waist-high (in a sitting position) for older babies and children.

Do not put your baby into a bath when the water is still running. The depth could rise too high very quickly.

The ideal temperature is around 37º-38ºC, 36ºC for a newborn. Some parents find it useful to use a bath thermometer to get the temperature just right.

Make sure there are no hot spots in the water by swirling it around with your hand.

1. Always keep one arm supporting your baby’s back, head, and neck. Keep it there when you are putting your baby into the bath and while you are bathing them. Use your other arm to wash them gently.

2. The process of bathing your baby in the tub is very similar to topping and tailing. Repeat the whole process of top and tailing, paying particular attention to the ears and creases in the neck.

3. Take care when you are lifting your baby out of the bath. Wrap both your hands around your baby’s chest under their arms. Be careful to ensure your baby’s head is also supported. When you have lifted your baby out of the bath, wrap them quickly in a clean, dry towel. Gently dry them off and smooth on a mild moisturising lotion, oil or emollient if their skin is dry.

Mum’s tip

Use a bath thermometer for checking the water is right. I use the Clevamama towel, which gives you two free hands for lifting the baby. Make sure the room, towels and clean clothes are nice and warm. Have a bottle ready or breastfeed the baby afterwards. Babies love lots of cuddles after a bath too.

  • Gillian Burke

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Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….