If you’re reading this, you may be thinking, “I really thought bathing a baby would seem like a natural, very unmysterious task,” or “Why do I not know how to give my newborn a bath?” But guess what? It’s OK to be a newbie. It’s OK to realize, mid-task, that you actually have no idea if you’re doing this correctly. It’s OK to be so deliriously tired as a new parent that before you engage in any single activity with your baby, you want to double-check that you’re performing it in a way that makes sense, is safe and is simple. Here are expert tips and a step-by-step guide on how to give a baby a bath.

How to give baby a bath in 5 steps, according to a pediatrician

Who doesn’t love a simple how-to guide? Neela Sethi, MD, a MAM Baby ambassador and practicing pediatrician, offers the following straightforward tips for giving your baby that first or second or 100th bath.

1. Keep them cozy

To start, Dr. Sethi recommends undressing baby in a cozy place somewhere near the bath.

2. Wash their face first

Before placing baby in the tub, cover them with a towel to keep them nice and warm and prewash baby’s face to avoid water in their face during bathtime.  Use a soft, warm cloth to get this done. 

Related: 11 best baby bathtubs that don’t require a second set of hands

3. Place them into the bath feet-first

You know that classic baby-hold with baby’s head in the crook of your arm and your hand free to hold their little hand or arm that’s farthest from your body?  Adapt that a bit to place baby into the tub slowly, feet first. Let baby’s head rest on your forearm with the hand from that same arm gently but firmly holding baby’s arm on one side.  Your other arm can support baby’s bottom and legs as you gently adjust them to the feel of the water.

4. Skip the soap

With young babies (even up to 6 months of age), clean, warm water is all you need—no soap or bubbles necessary. Dr. Sethi recommends gently cleaning baby’s head and hair, then moving to the belly and back, underarms, genital area, and bottom. Sweet little baby rolls are susceptible to inflammation and rashes if they are not kept clean, so don’t forget to focus on the creases! 

Related: 3 genius products that make bathtime with baby *so* much easier

5. Gently but firmly pick them up

When bath time is over, lift baby slowly out of the tub with a gentle but firm grip on an arm and the legs/feet, transferring them to a fresh, cozy towel. 

Best Baby Bath Tubs

blooming bath lotus baby bath seat

Best for Infant Sink Baths

$39.99

Blooming Bath Lotus Baby Bath

Sink baths have never been more cozy or adorable! The Blooming Bath Lotus sits comfortably into most sinks to create a snuggly, spa-like bathtime for babies up to six months old. It’s made from antimicrobial foam that won’t mold or mildew and is covered in a luxe minky fabric that’s oh-so-gentle against baby’s skin. When bathtime is over, ring it out and pop it in the dryer before storing it for next time.

Reviewers say: “This item should be a must for all baby registries. This is our sixth child and we have done everything from the infant tub to the net lounge seat ..this is by far the most amazing bathing item.. our son gets in it and instantly relaxes, it is so soft he just sinks into it. we can use it in the smallest sink in our bathroom to the biggest sink in our kitchen! absolutely the best purchase!!!”— Stephanie

Boon Soak 3-stage bathtub

Best Non-Slip Baby Bath

$27.99

Boon Soak 3-Stage Baby Bath

Boon makes some of the most innovative and ingenious baby gear on the market. Their simple designs and modern aesthetic make everything from mealtime to bath time easier and more enjoyable, so it’s no surprise their Soak 3-Stage Bathtub makes the list. This long-lasting style grows with your little one from the newborn stage through toddlerhood by flipping (and ultimately removing) the center insert. A contoured back and non-slip, spongy pad keeps slippery babes happy and upright with a depth that allows them to be comfortably submerged and warm. It’s made from a durable but lightweight plastic that’s super easy to keep clean while the overall footprint is streamlined enough that it can fit in some sinks in addition to the regular bathtub. And if you’re worried about getting the water temp just right, consult the color-changing drain plug which fades from dark to light gray when the ideal temperature is reached.

Reviewers say: “We highly recommend this bathtub. This was easily one of the best purchases we have ever made for our baby. It is versatile, adjustable, safe, easy to clean and very sturdy. A big selling point for us is that this tub is also free of dangerous plastics/plasticizers. We have been using this tub since our child was approx. 1 month old and it appears that it will likely work until she is at least 1.5 years old.”

primo euro bath

Best Bath for Bathing Baby Solo

$24.99

Primo Euro Bath

Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding swears by this brilliantly innovative baby bath which makes it easy to safely bathe your babe without worrying they’ll slip under or require an extra set of hands to manage. The anatomical ridges keep them cozied in a recline position with support under their arms and between their legs, and once they’re able to sit up, they can use the other end, holding on to the middle for support. Roomier (and larger overall) than the others on this list, both positions allow little ones to be warm and submerged which makes for a happier bathtime for everyone.

Reviewers say: “This bath changed our bath time! Our first kid hated baths – and we were on our way to the same experience with the second until we got this! Our baby loves baths now! This is easy to fill, he has a nice space for him to sit, we can have it on the counter to not kill our back… and his sister can even hop in and sit with him for a bath if she wants. It’s great! It is large- I was worried when we first got it, but we use it every day and I would recommend it for any new parent.”– Joan H.

Supplies for bathing baby

We’d like to stress that baby bath time does not need to be complicated. So what do you really need?  

  • A safe space to bathe your baby. Sometimes, that looks like a sling-style bath seat placed in the kitchen sink when your baby is tiny. For others, that looks like a separate tub that can sit on the bathroom floor or inside the larger tub in their bathroom and filled up to a level just deep enough to keep baby warm while they lay supported in the water.  
  • A few soft, clean towels and washcloths. These can be specifically made for babies or not, but the key is that they are particularly soft, because babies can have sensitive skin.  
  • A gentle, unscented baby soap, eventually. But note that using soap at bath time is not necessary in the early months. When babies are small and essentially immobile, soaps and cleansers are an unnecessary step that may irritate or over-dry baby’s skin by stripping away the natural oils. 

A few of our favorite baby bath time supplies

hooded baby bath towels

buybuy BABY

$26.99

Hooded 2-Pack Terry Cloth Towels

These cozy towels are perfect for bundling your baby up after bathtime. Trust us, the hood is a must-have! Made with 100% organic cotton, you can also be confident the towel material will feel soothing against even the most sensitive of baby skin.

Pipette Baby Shampoo and Wash

Pipette

$10

Baby Shampoo + Wash, Fragrance-Free

Cleaning your little one shouldn’t mean irritating their skin. Made with gentle ingredients like squalane and citric acid, this wash balances the natural moisture on your baby’s skin and in their hair.

5 baby bath time safety tips to keep in mind

As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I’m a big proponent of safety first. Here’s what else you need to know to keep bath time safe and easy for everyone involved.

1. Gather what you need before bringing baby to the bathing area

The temptation to leave baby unattended while you “just grab one thing” will be real.  Make sure you have what you need before you start the bathtime process to avoid that temptation all together, as leaving babies or toddlers unattended in water of any depth is unsafe.

2. Test the water first

While we as adults may love a nice hot bath, our skin is thicker and heartier, my friends, and can easily withstand temperatures that would burn our babies. Lukewarm water is fine for baby, and testing the water with a sensitive area of your own skin is best.  Think the inside of the wrist instead of a finger or other more weathered region of your skin. 

Related: How often do kids *really* need to take a bath?

3. Keep it short

Young babies are not great at regulating their body temperatures, so keeping baths brief is best. Five minutes is plenty while still giving baby a chance to become accustomed to the water and maybe even relax a bit. 

4. Always keep a hand on your baby

Countless newborns have surprised their parents with a sudden jerking movement that results in an otherwise avoidable fall, and the slippery nature of bath time increases that risk a bit. 

5. Don’t leave baby alone

Because it’s the cardinal rule of water time, I’ll say it one more time. Never leave baby alone in the bathtub.  

Bottom line? Bathtime does not need to be complex. A few simple supplies and a little preparation are all you need. You’re doing just fine, my friends. 

Featured experts

Neela Sethi, MD, is a MAM Baby ambassador and practicing pediatrician.