How to Give Newborn a Sponge Bath in 10 easy steps

Splish Splash it is Time for Baby’s First Bath!

As with all new parents, there is a great deal of excitement and anxiety when arriving home with your new bundle of joy. You’ve planned for months, but are you really ready to take care of a baby on your own? Of course! And, like all parents, you too will find each new experience delightful, exciting, frustrating and scary all in the same breath.

As quickly as you are getting the hang of all the responsibilities a new parent must take on—diaper changes, swaddling and wiping spit-up off your clothes without even giving it a second thought, bathing your newborn baby will also become easier with a little time. You may feel a bit apprehensive, and this is normal. Rest assured, however, you can do this too.

In most cases during the first 9-12 months of baby’s life, a bath is only necessary every two to three days a week. If during diaper changes, this area is well cleaned, and a wet rag is used to thoroughly wipe down her mouth, chin and neck, as well as behind her ears, little more is needed. Skin is highly sensitive during the first year, and too much water and soap can cause dryness and irritation.

A newborn’s umbilical cord stump usually takes about one to three weeks before healing. During this time a sponge bath is recommended. Once healed, you can start bathing a baby in a sink or baby tub.

To set you up for success, follow these simple ten steps.


1. Document the process

Just as with all of your baby’s “firsts”, you will want to get your camera so you can document the experience. It can be a wonderful time, unsure of how your little one may respond, and catching a sweet, surprised look of excitement. If not as ideal as you hoped, you will look back and laugh at these photos too. Perhaps you didn’t get any photos of a calm, happy and cooing baby, but instead there are plenty of a red-faced, screaming newborn, with water all over mom’s clothes, and an unpleasant expression on her face. Yes, it will be tough not too look back and giggle.


2. Deciding on bath time

Timing can make a big difference in the experience both you and your baby have as bath time becomes a more regular part of your routines. It may be worth trying a morning and night bath to see if your baby responds better to one or the other. Many babies prefer morning baths when she is feeling more alert and ready to take on the day. However, others enjoy an evening bath, to aid in calming and soothing baby before it is time to sleep. Whichever option seems to work best, be certain to select a time you are not rushed. This could add stress and anxiety, which is not necessary.


3. Choose a comfortable area

Select a room that is warm (about 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and has a flat surface such as a kitchen or bathroom counter, in which case you’ll need to place a thick towel down for padding, to cover the area. Other options include a bed or changing table. There is no right or wrong location, just be sure the area is comfortable, clean and items to be used during bath time are easily accessible.


4. Gather and arrange baby bath supplies

Next, gather baby bath items and place them within your reach. You should always keep one hand on your baby, and arranging all you may need within close proximity, will allow this to be possible. Bath items should include a bath sponge or wash cloth, lukewarm water (not hot) in a basin or nearby sink, and a clean towel (with an attached hood is most ideal), diaper, and clothes. Because your baby’s skin is so sensitive, it is not necessary to use soap. However, if you really enjoy that clean soap/shampoo scent, you may occasionally use a small amount of mild baby soap.


5. Undress your baby

Once you’ve organized the bath location and gathered your necessities, it is time to prepare baby. Undress her, leaving the diaper on (you’ll wash this area later), and wrap her up gently in a towel to keep warm. Lay her flat on her back on the surface you have prepared with the padded towel.


6. Sponge bathing newborn baby

Dip your bath sponge or a corner of the washcloth into the bath water, rinsing out excess water. Beginning with baby’s face, gently start behind the ears, continuing to the front of the neck, chin, and mouth. Because these are areas where milk or spit-up may trickle down, be sure to pay close attention to thoroughly wiping them clean. No need to wash your newborn’s hair yet. Rinsing her head can be saved for last, as it could cause a chill.


7. Umbilical cord cleaning

Unwrap the towel and expose only those areas being washed to keep baby from getting cold. Work your way down the torso and be cautious of the umbilical cord stump, lightly wiping away any crust around this area. Gently dap on the umbilical cord with a semi-dry cloth with the aim to keep it clean. Wash arms, elbows and hands, even getting in between those little fingers. Then softly wipe legs, knees, and feet. It is particularly important when washing your baby to carefully clean inside any creases of the skin, such as under the arms or on the backside of the neck.


8. Time to clean baby’s buttocks!

Remove the diaper and with your clean cloth or sponge, wash baby’s bottom well, from back to front. Just as with other parts of the body, it is important to pay close attention when washing between any folds of the skin to cleanse these areas thoroughly. If you have a girl, it is not necessary to wipe in between the labia. If your baby is circumcised newborn boy, gently blot the scrotum and penis with the wet cloth and avoid wiping the head of the penis until it has healed. However, if your son is not circumcised, washing this area with water will cleanse it properly. There is no need to lift the foreskin to wipe under the flap.


9. Washing newborn hair

You are doing great, and believe it or not, you are nearly finished. To wash your newborn’s hair, hold her in your arms while supporting her neck. Slightly tilt her head back to avoid getting water in her eyes. Lightly squeeze water from your sponge or washcloth over the top of the head. Just like the rest of the body, using a soap product is not necessary. But if you feel a little something extra is needed, a small amount of shampoo should be fine every so often, as long as the product is extremely mild and no shampoo residue is left on the head. Once complete, gently pat down your baby with a clean towel and wrap her up to keep her cozy and warm.


10. Wrapping up (your baby)

Bath time is done and your newborn is ready for a clean diaper and a fresh set of clothes. To continue allowing the umbilical cord stump to heal and stay clean, fold over the top of the diaper away from the stump, allowing it to be exposed to air and so it will not come in contact with urine. There is no need to treat the area with any product, as this minimizes the risk of infection.

Feel free to enjoy a few extra special minutes cuddling with your newborn once bath time is over. While it could take some time for everyone to get the hang of it, this is one of the best opportunities for bonding with your new baby!

Anna C

Anna is the main author of this website. Like many of you, she is a mother who is continuously searching for the best parenting tips in order to learn more about child development.