How to give your newborn a sponge bath

In the first weeks after Baby’s birth, keeping your little one clean can seem like the least of your worries. But doctors recommend washing newborns two to three times per week, so knowing the best way to give Baby a sponge bath is important, especially because newborns shouldn’t go all the way in the tub until their umbilical cords fall off.


Before attempting to bathe Baby, make sure you’ve got all your supplies handy. Many parents choose to purchase a newborn bath, but an inflatable tub, a water basin, or even a well-prepared sink will do the trick. You will also need mild baby soap, cotton balls, washcloths, a towel, clean diapers, and clean clothes.

Giving the bath

  1. Since you’ll be bathing Baby outside the tub at first, simply fill a bowl or the sink with lukewarm water and wrap her in a towel, then place her lying down on her back.
  2. Dip a cotton ball in water and wipe Baby’s eyes, making sure to use a fresh ball for each eye.
  3. Next, dampen a washcloth and wipe her face and ears, without using soap. Don't forget her skin-folds, or behind her ears, but be sure not to wash or let water drip into Baby's inner ear canal.
  4. Place a little soap on the cloth and wash Baby’s neck, scalp, and the rest of her body. She probably doesn't have much in the way of hair yet, so rubbing a damp, soapy washcloth over her scalp should keep her squeaky-clean. Newborns who DO in fact arrive with a full head of hair could need a more thorough hair-wash, which you can read more about here.
  5. There's some divided opinion about washing Baby's umbilical stump, so check in with the doctor if you're unsure, but generally, as long as the stump is clean, keeping it clean and dry and untouched by the sponge bath is the way to go. If there's some crustiness, you can carefully wipe it clean with a clean, damp cloth, and then pat or air it dry.
  6. Rinse off the soap and dry, rewrapping Baby with a towel. Baby's head is likely to get cold after a bath, especially if she has a luscious head of hair, so covering her head with a dry towel is a great way to keep her from getting a chill.
  7. Some newborns come into the world with that fabled soft skin, but others are a little more sensitive, and bathing can dry sensitive newborn skin out even further. If Baby's skin is a little dry or peeling, if you want to, you can gently rub some mild baby moisturizer into her skin before popping her back into her onesie.
  8. Put on a clean diaper and clothes, and resume cuddling!

Tips and Tricks

Make sure you never take your hands off Baby while bathing her. This is a great time to bond with Baby, so make sure to use it as a fun play-time, not just cleaning. Try dropping a little water on her tummy and watch the laughs roll in. Some newborns have a hard time with the cold, so only expose skin for short periods of time. Remember that Baby does not need to be bathed every day, because this can dry out her skin. You only need to give her sponge baths until the umbilical stump comes off, and then you can transition to the baby bath.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Baby bath basics: A parent’s guide.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, October 25 2016. Web.
  • “Caring for your baby.” March of Dimes. March of Dimes, 2017. Web.
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