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How to Give a Newborn a Sponge Bath

Feb 22, 2022 | 1 minute Read

Young babies don’t need a full bath very often; 3 times a week is typically sufficient. They just don’t get as dirty as older, crawling babies do, except, of course, in the diaper area. You can keep your baby clean and fresh with a sponge bath. It’s also handy for older babies if you are short on time or just have a few sticky or dirty areas. You can do a full sponge bath or a partial bath, depending on the need.

Preparing for a newborn sponge bath

What you will need will depend on how detailed a bath you want to give. Consider getting these things and having them close by to start:
  • Washcloths.
  • A commercial baby bathtub or a changing mat or other warm place to lay the baby, with a basin of water close by.
  • You can also sit in a comfy chair with baby in your lap, with a basin of water close by.
  • A room that is comfortably warm.
  • A gentle baby cleanser made for a baby’s skin.
  • Warm water that is around 98-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • A towel for underneath the baby to protect yourself from water.
  • A towel to cover the baby during the bath.
  • A towel for drying your baby.
  • A clean diaper and fresh clothes.

Steps to give your newborn baby a sponge bath

Now that you have everything close by, here’s how to give your newborn baby a bath:
  • Wash your hands.
  • Lay your baby on their back.
  • Undress baby, laying a washcloth over baby’s body to hold in warmth.
  • Wipe baby’s face and ears with the clean washcloth with plain water. No cleanser needed here!
  • If your baby’s eyes have dried mucus or are sticky, wipe each eye with plain water from the inside corner to the outside, using a fresh part of the washcloth with each eye.
  • Wash their neck, getting under the chin where milk or formula often drips. If cleanser is needed, use only a small amount, and rinse well with a second washcloth saturated with plain water.
  • Dry each area as you go.
  • Now wipe under each arm and each hand with a washcloth and dry. Get in the all the creases! Don’t be surprised if their little hands stay tightly clenched. This is a natural reflex in newborns and young babies.
  • Next, wash the chest and tummy, wiping gently the skin around the umbilical cord if it is still present. Pat dry.
  • Now wash each leg and each foot. To wash the back, tip the baby to the side or lift them into a sitting position. These areas do not get very dirty unless it has been warm, and the baby has gotten sweaty. Pat dry.
  • Finally, take off the diaper. Wash the bottom and the genitals well. For girls, wash from the front to back. Pat dry. For boys, clean well under the scrotum. Do not retract the foreskin. If the baby has been circumcised, keep the area clean as instructed by your healthcare provider
  • You’re done! Lay your baby on a dry towel and pat dry. Place a clean diaper on your baby and dress them.
  • Consider giving your baby a massage after the bath to further relax your little one. A bath and massage before bedtime are excellent components of a bedtime routine.

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.