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How to Give a Baby a Sponge Bath

Your newborn can't have a tub bath until her belly button heals. Until then, a thorough once-over with a washcloth every two or three days will keep her plenty clean.


  • Step 1: Gather supplies Gather all your supplies before you start. It won't be fun for you or baby if you have to hunt something down in the middle of bath time.
  • Step 2: Spread out towel Spread out one of the towel—not the hooded towel, if you're using one—on the changing pad or bed.
  • TIP: If you have room on the counter beside your kitchen or bathroom sink, you can give your baby a sponge bath there. Set an infant bathtub on the counter and line it with a towel.
  • Step 3: Fill bowl with water Fill the bowl with warm water. Use the inside of your wrist or your elbow to test the temperature—it should feel warm, not hot.
  • Step 4: Undress baby Undress your baby down to her diaper and wrap her in the other towel. Place her face-up on the first towel. Talk to her as you go, describing what you're doing, telling her what a good baby she is and how much better she's going to feel being clean.
  • Step 5: Wet washcloth Wet the washcloth with the water in the bowl, then wring it out until it's just damp.
  • Step 6: Clean baby's face With the cloth, gently clean your baby's face. Wipe away any crustiness in the corner of her eyes or around her nose, and be sure to clean around her mouth and chin where milk may have dribbled. Use the washcloth to clean outside and behind her ears.
  • Step 7: Clean baby's body Re-wet the cloth and clean the rest of your baby's body except her diaper area. Save that for last. Work the washcloth gently between each finger and toe, and into the adorable little folds of her chubby arms and legs. Keep her as covered as possible as you go. Turn her over to wash her back, or simply slip the washcloth under her.
  • TIP: You can use soap from the neck down—just don't use a lot, and be sure to rinse any residue off your baby's hands with a second washcloth before she can get them into her mouth.
  • Step 8: Remove diaper Remove the baby's diaper. Gently wash from front to back, being sure to clean all folds and crevices.
  • : If your baby boy has been circumcised, don't use soap or water on the area until it's healed.
  • Step 9: Dry & apply cream Use the towel to dry your baby thoroughly. Apply diaper cream if you're using it and put on a fresh diaper before she has a chance to soil herself.
  • Step 10: Swab stump To clean the stump of your baby's umbilical cord, dip a cotton swab in the alcohol and gently swab around its base.
  • TIP: Some studies suggest swabbing an umbilical stump with alcohol isn't necessary. However, alcohol will help keep the area smelling and looking clean while it heals. Ask your pediatrician what he or she advises.
  • Step 11: Wash hair If you want to wash your baby's hair, hold her over the sink or bowl face up, with her body tucked under one arm and her head and neck supported with your hand. This is called the football hold. With your other hand, apply baby shampoo to her head, gently lather but don't scrub, then rinse by pouring warm water over her head with a cup.
  • Step 12: Dress baby Finally, make sure your baby is dry all over, then get her dressed. As babies draw nearer to their third month, it's good to get them into a bedtime routine. The warmth of the bath, followed by a change into cozy pajamas, naturally induces sleep, making a bath the logical first step. So don't waste precious time cleaning up after the bath.
  • FACT: It can take anywhere from 1 to 5 weeks for a baby's umbilical cord to fall off.

You Will Need

  • A baby in need of a sponge bath
  • A safe
  • padded surface such as a changing pad or the middle of a bed
  • Two bath towels
  • one of which can be a hooded towel
  • One or two soft washcloths
  • A large plastic bowl or basin
  • Some warm water
  • A fresh diaper
  • And a clean outfit or pajamas
  • An infant bathtub (optional)
  • A mild
  • unscented baby-safe soap (optional)
  • A mild
  • unscented baby-safe shampoo (optional)
  • Diaper cream (optional)
  • Cotton swabs (optional)
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • And a plastic cup (optional)

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