Proper hygiene is important for everyone — especially for new babies. But, because they can’t bathe themselves yet, it will be up to you to keep them clean and happy.

Giving a baby a bath can seem simple at first, but there are actually some important things to know before starting. If you’ve never given an infant baby a bath before, it’s normal to be worried that you’ll do it wrong.

This article will provide all the information you need for giving a baby a bath in a safe and fun way for both of you. We know that becoming a new parent can be a stressful time, especially if your pregnancy is unplanned, but proper information and education can go a long way in helping you prepare for this new step in your life.

You can find answers to your most commonly asked questions about baby bathing here but, as always, we encourage you to speak with your own pediatrician for any personal questions you may have.

1. When can I give my baby a bath?

In most cases, the first time a baby will have a bath is during your hospital stay after delivery. While it used to be normal for newborns to be bathed right after birth, today, many doctors recommend waiting at least a few hours before giving a baby a bath for the first time. This allows for crucial bonding between mother and baby directly after birth, as well as a newborn’s better adjustment to their new surroundings.

However, after your child is first bathed in the hospital, you will probably wonder when to give a baby their first bath at home. Like with many aspects of parenthood, when to bathe a baby at home will be mostly up to the parents’ and the baby’s unique situation. There is no magic number when it comes to how long to wait or when the best time to bathe baby is. Most parents can wait a few days to give their baby a proper bath, as long as they are wiping off any blood from birth and properly wiping the baby’s diaper area.

2. What do I need to bathe a baby?

It’s important to have all the proper supplies for giving a baby a bath before beginning. Typically, those who are bathing a baby in a tub or sink will need to have a dry towel, clean diaper, washcloths and baby soap.

Many parents find that having a baby bathtub can make this process more convenient. These tubs can be placed within a sink or larger tub, and they can support a baby to let parents focus on giving a baby a bath. However, if you are going to sponge-bathe your baby (more on that below), you may not need a baby bathtub.

3. How do I bathe a newborn baby?

When you are bathing a newborn baby, you will take different steps than you will when bathing them later on. It’s important to know how to bathe a newborn baby with an umbilical cord to prevent infection and other complications.

Do not put a baby in the tub when you are bathing a newborn baby. Instead, you will want to prepare yourself for giving your baby a sponge bath. You do not necessarily need a sponge for this kind of bath; soft washcloths, clean towels and cotton balls can do the trick. Only when you have gathered all supplies should you begin giving a first bath to your newborn baby.

Remember, you must always keep a hand on your baby while bathing them. Consider recruiting someone to help you the first couple of times you give your baby a bath.

4. How do I give my baby a sponge bath?

Often, new parents wonder how to give a baby a sponge bath. They may worry about being too forceful when cleaning, but they also want to make sure they are cleaning their baby properly. Remember this: Your baby is not as fragile as he or she may seem. When you take steps to keep your baby warm and safe during this process, giving them a bath can be a fun experience for you both.

When you are bathing a newborn baby, you will want to start filling a small bowl with lukewarm water. You will not place your baby in this but place this next to wherever your baby is safe and supported. If you need to, expose one section of skin at a time to keep your baby warm. Start with their eyes; use a cotton ball dipped in water to wipe their eyes from the bridge of their nose outward. Use a clean cotton ball for each eye, and use a washcloth (only damp, not soaking) to wipe off the rest of their face. Do not use soap on a baby’s face.

Once his or her face is clean, you can lightly soap your washcloth and wash his or her neck, scalp, and the front of the body. Use a second damp cloth to wipe off the soap and water. Don’t wash your baby’s umbilical stump, and always wash his or her bottom and genitals last. When you’re done, pat your baby dry, and put on clean clothes and a clean diaper.

5. How do I bathe a baby?

You should only sponge bathe your baby until their umbilical stump falls off, usually within three or four weeks. At that point, you can start bathing your baby in a tub, in which they lay in the water.

In many ways, this process is the same as sponge-bathing a baby. You’ll want to fill up the tub with two to three inches of water. After undressing your baby, you’ll put them gently and slowly into the water, so they can adjust to the changing temperature. Start with their feet first.

You’ll want to pour cups of water over your child during the bath to ensure they are staying warm. Other than that, the process of bathing them will be the same. Use mild soap and use it sparingly, wash from top to bottom, rinse the baby with water, and finish with a clean washcloth. Wrap your baby in a towel and then put on clean clothes and a clean diaper.

If your baby cries during their bath, this is normal. Getting a bath is a cold and wet experience, and it can shock babies. As long as you focus on keeping your child warm and properly bathing them, you will not be doing anything wrong.

6. What temperature should a baby bath be?

A baby’s skin is very sensitive, so you’ll want to keep the bath water between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can test the water with a thermometer, or you can dip the inside of your wrist in the water to test the sensitive part of your own skin.

7. How often should I bathe my baby?

New parents often wonder how often to bathe a baby. The answer may surprise you.

Because newborns do not get that dirty, they often don’t need to bathed more than three times a week. Some parents do less, some do more — it’s all about what is best for your family. As long as your child is clean and smells so, you should be okay. Just make sure to continually clean the diaper area and little crevices and rolls in your baby’s skin, and they should remain pretty clean.

If you still have questions about how to bathe a baby, you can often learn more from local parenting classes. Remember, like many aspects of being a parent, learning how to give a baby a bath is a process. The more you practice it, the more efficient your process will become.