DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS INTENDED AS A GENERAL GUIDE ONLY. FOR TAILORED SKIN CARE ADVICE SPECIFIC TO YOUR BABY’S SITUATION, CONSULT WITH YOUR PAEDIATRICIAN AND/OR DERMATOLOGIST.
Bathtime is not only important to keep your baby’s skin clean and comfortable, it’s a special bonding time for any parent and child. However, it can be a daunting prospect at first, with many new parents unsure exactly how to bathe a baby – and when, where and how often they should do it.
From getting the water temperature right, to choosing the best baby wash for sensitive, dry or very dry skin, there are a number of things to consider. To help, we’ve created this go-to guide to answer the most common questions and provide simple step-by-step guide for bathing your newborn or baby. So, to learn how to make bath time less stressful and more beneficial for you both, read on.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU BATHE A BABY?
As babies are born with thinner, delicate skin, it’s important to avoid over-bathing as this may result in dryness and irritation. This is even more important if your infant has a visibly impaired skin barrier or there is a family history of eczema or dermatitis.
While there’s no definitive answer for how often you should bathe a baby, 2-3 times a week is typically recommended. Climate and seasons also come into play, however, and daily bathing may be required with warmer weather. You can bathe your child more often as they grow, or if they tolerate or enjoy daily bathing from a young age.
Regardless of frequency, it’s important to always use a mild, pH neutral baby body wash or baby bath oil to keep your little one’s skin hydrated and comfortable. In between baths, the nappy area in particular must be kept clean, and sponge baths can be used as needed. It’s recommended that sponge baths are the only type of bathing bathing recommended for the first few weeks until the umbilical cord falls off 1.
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD A BABY'S BATH BE?
A baby’s bath should be warm but never hot. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne recommends a temperature of 37°C to 38°C for babies, and 36°C for newborns. If you don’t have a bath thermometer, always test the water with your elbow or wrist to ensure it feels comfortable before bathing your child.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN BABY BATH PRODUCTS?
Dermatologist Dr Alice Rudd recommends that a gentle baby body wash should always be used as water alone is dehydrating to your baby’s skin. She recommends using a fragrance-free mild soap substitute, such as La Roche-Posay Lipikar Syndet Ap+ Wash Cream, even if your child does not have very sensitive skin.
“At this age, they are building up their natural skin barrier, and so it is best to avoid harsh soaps and abrasive agents that will strip the skin and impair that barrier they are trying to cultivate,” she tells us.
In terms of beneficial ingredients, Dr Alice Rudd names glycerin – found in the La Roche-Posay Lipikar Syndet Ap+ Wash Cream and Cleansing Oil – as a powerful hydrator. “Glycerin is a beneficial ingredient that can be included in a wash or cleanser to create a hydrating film over the child’s skin”. This helps to prevent water loss and keep your child’s skin feeling comfortable.
Alongside a mild baby wash, there are several other products that will help make bathtime easier and stress-free – for both mum and bub. We’ve outlined the most useful of these in our bath time checklist and step-by-step guide, below.
BABY BATHTIME CHECKLIST
When bathing a newborn or infant, you will ideally have the following items at your disposal. Make sure they’re within reach before getting started, as it’s crucial you give your baby your undivided attention in the bath.
- Baby bath
- Gentle, soap-free baby wash
- Bath thermometer (optional)
- Soft washcloth
- Cotton wool balls (optional)
- Plastic cup
- Soft baby towel
- Fragrance-free moisturising cream
- Fresh nappy
- Clean clothes
If you don’t have a plastic baby bath to place in a regular bath, you can bathe a young infant in a clean sink, with an insert or towels for padding. Once your child can sit up, you can carefully move bath time into a full-sized tub.
WHEN SHOULD YOU BATHE YOUR BABY?
To ensure your baby is comfortable, it’s best to avoid bathing them when they are hungry, or immediately after feeding2. Instead, choose a time when you’re relaxed and free from distractions so you can spend some quality time bonding with bub. Ideally, that time should be at the end of the day.
Once you’re confident and adept at bathing your baby, the process can become a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual that you’ll both love. Babies thrive on routine, and many experts agree that bathing at the same time each evening creates a lovely ‘getting ready for bed’ routine that sets your little one up for a good night’s sleep.
HOW TO BATHE A BABY STEP-BY-STEP
Now you know the basics, it’s time to get into the specifics. Here’s how to bathe your baby in 5 simple steps.
STEP 1 – PREPARE THE BATHING AREA
Gather all your baby bathtime essentials together, and make sure the room you’re using is nice and warm.
STEP 2 – ADD WATER TO YOUR BABY’S BATH
Before placing your baby in the bath, fill the tub with around 2-3 inches of water. Test the temperature with your wrist, elbow or thermometer, and mix the water around to make sure there are no hot spots.
At this point, you can also add a nourishing bath oil to the bath. In the La Roche-Posay range, the Lipikar Huile Lavante Ap+ Body Cleansing Oil can be added to a baby’s bath to gently cleanse dry to very dry sensitive skin. With soothing niacinamide and lipid-replenishing shea butter, the non-eye stinging formula gently removes impurities, while helping to balance the skin microbiome with prebiotic Aqua Posae Filiformis. Suitable for all age, from newborns, to children and adults, it helps protect against dryness caused by hard water, and can be used on the body and scalp. Add 5 pumps to your baby’s bath if using.
STEP 3 – PLACE YOUR BABY IN THE BATH AND GENTLY WASH
Undress your baby, and place them in the bath, ensuring their back, head and neck are supported by your arm. Keep your baby’s head well clear of the water as you use your other arm to bathe them.
Clean your baby’s head and face first, using a soft washcloth soaked in clean, lukewarm water. Cotton wool can also be used for the eyes. (You can also complete this step before placing your baby in the bath).
Then wash your baby from the top down, using a gentle, soap-free cleanser. Suitable for newborns through to adults, Lipikar Syndet Ap+ Body Wash Shower Cream is a fragrance-free, dermatologically-tested cleanser with soothing La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water and niacinamide. Formulated with shea butter to nourish, it also contains prebiotic Aqua Posae Filiformis to rebalance the skin microbiome.
Massage a small amount into moistened skin, then rinse thoroughly without splashing your little one. To keep bub cosy throughout, you can pour warm water over them using a cup or by cupping your free hand with water.
Finally, finish by washing your baby’s hair and scalp with the same mild body wash, or a tear-free baby shampoo for older children. Rinse gently.
STEP 4 – CAREFULLY DRY YOUR BABY
Once you’ve carefully lifted your baby out of the bath, gently dry them all over with a soft towel. Pay particular attention to any skin creases as lingering dampness can cause irritation.
STEP 5 – APPLY A RICH, FRAGRANCE-FREE BABY CREAM OR BALM
With skin that is thinner and lower in Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) than adults, babies often experience dryness. They can also be prone to dryness and eczema, particularly if there is a family history of the skin condition. In these instances it’s therefore a good idea to apply a hydrating, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free cream such as the La Roche-Posay Lipikar Ap+M Body Balm to your child after bathing.
Or, for areas of intense dryness, try Cicaplast Baume B5 – a multi-repairing balm formulated with soothing, skin strengthening panthenol (Vitamin B5), suitable for babies aged 3 months and over, this multi-purpose balm is also suitable for children and adults.
Want to know more about moisturising your baby’s sensitive skin? Our article ‘How to choose a moisturiser for babies & children’ covers everything you need to know. Or visit the website for more information on La Roche-Posay’s body moisturiser.
1.J Chertoff. How to give your newborn baby a bath. Healthline. 2018.
2.Bathing a newborn. Raising Children Network. Reviewed December 2020.
Washing your baby. Pregnancy Birth and Baby. Reviewed July 2020.
Safety: Bath time. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Reviewed October 2018.