Baby Bath: How To Wash And Dry Your Baby With Confidence

Go head to butt. Not the other way round.

baby bath
Flickr / GerryT

New baby smell is intoxicating with its sweet tones of late night white Russians and Labrador puppy kisses (note: not all babies smell like this). A fresh baby’s scent is part of what makes us want to bond with them, but sometimes a baby can smell a little less than fresh. More like Jager bombs and cigar breath. That’s when you know your kid probably needs a bath.

Quick! To the totally baby-safe bath receptacle in the appropriately warm room with all the essential supplies! It’s time to learn how to wash your baby. (Bath toys are optional at this point, but a few simple ones can’t hurt.)

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When To Wash

Real talk: your baby doesn’t need to be bathed daily. In fact, it can be super bad for their skin if you bathe them more than a couple of times in a week. Consider this: each time they crap or eat (which is all the damn time, right?) you’re basically cleaning all the parts that really need to be cleaned.

flickr / Kelly Sue DeConnick

This is particularly true in the first few weeks when they have that freaky deteriorating umbilical stump drying up on their abdomen. You don’t really want to get it wet or wash it because it could become untied and your baby could deflate. Just kidding, that wouldn’t happen. Probably. You’ll want to do a sponge bath before the umbilical cord detaches, just in case.

What Time Is Bath Time?

Babies, like adorable little cranky-pants drill sergeants, absolutely adore routine. So whenever you decide to bathe, pick a time when you’ll be unhurried and attentive. A lot of parents prefer to give baths in the evening before bed, because all that nice warm water will most likely make your kid relaxed and sleepy. Like a good cocktail.

But maybe wash your kid before your own evening cocktails. You should be alert and attentive when bathing a kid. Fun fact: Keith Richards has never bathed a baby.

flickr / Jerry Lai

Be Prepared For the Baby Bath

You should just go ahead and throw together a super-mini Snap-On rolling baby bath tool chest with the following:

  • Wash cloths
  • Towels
  • An infant safe body wash/ shampoo combo
  • A blanket
  • Some kind of bathing basin

Wash N’ Go

A couple of important points should occupy your mind before you begin. First, your kid is not great at keeping warm, so make sure you heat up the room nicely before bath time. Second, wet kids are stupidly slippery, so you’ll want to have a hand on them at all times.

Keep in mind that kids should not be in a full-on tub until they’re able to sit up on their own. Here’s how it should all go down:


It should only be high enough to cover their lower extremities when you’re holding them upright and it should be warm. Between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit is totally fine. To be safe, you should crank down your hot water heater to below 120 degrees to avoid accidental scalding. And you should never fill the tub with the baby in it, or throw the baby out with the bathwater, which would proverb-ly get you arrested.

flickr / Julie Dave & Family

Hold On Tight

Think about how you drape your arm lovingly around your partner’s shoulders as you walk side by side. Now imagine you suddenly tried to tickle her armpit with your draping arm. That’s how you want to hold your kid: an arm around their back to support the head and hand firmly gripping their pit. You’ll need your other hand free for washing and texting someone for help.

The Bathing Beauty

Holding them as described, put them into the bath basin feet first. Wet your washcloth and wash head to privates, because just like you, your baby does not want her cheeks to be washed with junk-funk. You can use a small drop of soap, but it’s not necessary. Neither is washing your kids hair. Unless it starts to dread. At which point nip that little ones cultural appropriation in the bud right now.

Start at the face. Clean the eyes by gently wiping them from the inner corner outward. Then swipe the corners of the mouth, behind the ears and any neck folds that might be present.

MORE: 6 Myths About Bath Time That Every Parent Should Disregard

From there, wash down the body to the booty. It always helps to give a running commentary about what you’re doing to keep the kid stimulated and interested.

flickr / Dean Wissing

A Note On Genitals

For Girls: You’ll want to wash matter-of-factly, but gently, from front to back. No need to get between the labial folds. If you don’t know what those are, ask your partner to show you … on herself. Wink wink.

For Boys: Just wipe a circumcised penis gently, as long as it is well healed and doesn’t appear irritated. If your kid is uncircumcised do not pull back the skin. Wash it as it is. Otherwise you could cause serious damage. Yeah, makes you wince, doesn’t it?

Finish Up

Once removed from the bath, cover your baby up quick to keep them from getting cold. Now pat them dry like a fine raw steak you’ve just rinsed. Don’t rub. That could hurt their skin.

Now your baby should be smelling fresh, so fresh, and clean once more. Take a big whiff of that perfect scent of fresh axle grease and new leather. Or whatever they smell like to you. To each his own.