Daily Care

Bathing your newborn:

How to give your baby a bath

  • Wash your hands. Gather all necessary bath supplies and lay out at least one clean towel, a clean nappy and clothes.
  • Make sure the room is warm and the bath water is comfortably warm but not hot; about 38 degrees Centigrade / 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit has been shown to help babies to retain body heat. Do not use cold water to bathe your baby -- even in summer. Instead opt for lukewarm water.
  • For newborns, fill the bath with about five inches of water, or enough to allow your baby to settle in the water with his shoulders well covered.
  • Bring your baby to the bath area and undress him completely.
  • Gradually slip your baby into the bath feet first, using one hand to support his neck and head. However, if you or an older member of your family prefers bathing your baby the traditional way -- by putting him on one's outstretched legs while sitting down -- make sure that your baby's head is placed comfortably and he is held firmly.
  • Use soap sparingly as you wash him with your hand or a wash cloth or sponge from top to bottom, front to back. Wash his scalp with a wet, soapy cloth. Use moistened cotton balls to clean his eyes and face.

    As for your baby's genitals, a routine wash is all that's needed. If dried mucus has collected in the corners of your baby's nostrils or eyes, dab it several times with a small section of a moistened cotton wool to soften it before you wipe it out.
  • Rinse your baby thoroughly with a clean wash cloth or pour water gently with a small mug below the neck area. Do not pour water directly on the baby's face. Instead wipe the face gently with a wet wash cloth.
  • Lift him out of the bath with one hand supporting his neck and head, and your other hand supporting his bottom, with your thumb and forefinger around one thigh (babies are slippery when wet).
  • Wrap your baby in a towel and pat him dry. If his skin is dry, or if he has a bit of nappy rash, you may want to apply a mild moisturising lotion after his bath. However check with your doctor before using any lotions.

    If you are using a baby talcum powder, ensure that your baby's skin is absolutely dry before you gently dab the powder sparingly near his neck and diaper area. Rub it in well taking care that your baby does not inhale the talcum powder.
  • Finally, get him dressed and give him a cozy cuddle and feed him before he goes off to sleep.

Baby clothes:

The best fabric next to a baby's skin is 100% cotton (wool and acrylic can irritate). As your new baby is delightfully 'floppy', the easiest outfit is a cotton all-in-one suit – try one with snap fasteners down the front and legs so you can change nappies easily. Clothing with a wide neck and some stretch makes it easier to get tops on and off.

Try to avoid synthetic fabrics (except fleece material) for newborns. They might be less expensive, but they don't breathe well and can scratch your baby's very sensitive skin.

A hat is a great way to protect your baby from the sun. Look for a soft hat so he can still lie down comfortably while he's wearing it.

Babies can't regulate their temperature as well as adults, so you might need to add or remove layers to his basic outfit throughout the day. As a general guide, dress him in one layer more than you're wearing. At bedtime, choose pyjamas to suit the night room temperature. Try wrapping your baby to keep him safe and cosy in bed – it's better than using loose blankets.


Using cloth or disposable nappies is a matter of personal choice and your budget. Cloth nappies are now user-friendly with easy plastic fasteners. Disposable nappies are convenient but are expensive and might be less environmentally friendly than cloth nappies. However, disposables might be more practical if you live in a drought-affected area under tight water restrictions.

Expect 9-10 nappy changes a day. Lots of wet nappies are a good sign that your baby is getting enough fluid. Understanding and examining your baby's poo and wee isn't disgusting – it's actually one of the best ways you can regularly monitor her health.

Nappy rash cream can help prevent nappy rashTo avoid nappy rash, change your newborn's nappy as soon as possible after a poo (you may need to check with a sniff or quick peek). Poo is acidic and can actually 'burn' the skin – aside from other obvious reasons, this is why you want to change a 'number two' nappy straight away. You can apply a dollop of nappy rash cream or a barrier cream (for example, Sorbolene) right where it counts to prevent rashes. If her skin is raw with severe nappy rash, don't wipe – instead, rinse with water and gently pat dry. Apply lots of nappy rash cream to create a barrier, and check the rash to make sure it's healing. See your doctor if the rash seems to deteriorate and starts to weep.

It's important to thoroughly clean poo from your newborn's bottom. Always wipe girls from front to back to avoid urinary infections. You can use mild commercial baby wipes or cloth wipes with water and a drop of non-soap cleanser for messy bottoms.


Newborn nails are often so delicate that they simply soften in the bath and the ends then flake off. Eventually the nails will harden and need trimming. Arm yourself with a soothing nail trimming song (see Baby Karaoke for some ideas) and a small pair of ordinary nail scissors. Remember to clip straight across when trimming toenails – rounding the edges can lead to ingrown toenails.

If your baby protests or pulls her hand away when trimming, stop and try again later when she's in the mood or sleeping soundly. Teeth and gums.

Healthy teeth and gums are vital to children's general health. Dental care should start even before the first tooth appears in your baby's mouth.

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