How Often to Wash a Newborn, According to a Pediatrician

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Babies are so cute...but they’re also small and fragile and strange, which is why every aspect of caring for them can feel a bit intimidating, especially if you’re a first-time parent. Naturally, you know the basics: Make sure the baby is fed, well-rested, cuddled and clean. But when it comes to that last part, you might have a couple questions. After all, there's been a big personal hygiene debate going on ever since celebs like Ashton Kutcher and Kristin Bell started weighing in on how often (or rather how infrequently) they wash their kids. As such, you might be wondering how often to wash a newborn and, um, how to do it too. Good news: We spoke to Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, pediatrician and medical consultant for Mom Loves Best, and got the lowdown on what to do and how frequently you ought to do it.

When do you give a baby their first bath?

Your baby’s first bath actually isn’t a soak in the tub—it’s a sponge bath. Per Dr. Poinsett, “newborns with the umbilical stump still attached should be sponge bathed instead of being submerged in water.” In other words, until the stump is gone, a proper soak isn’t in the picture. As for how long you can expect to be doing the sponge bath routine—that really depends on the baby. The umbilical cord may fall off within the first week, or it might hang on for a little longer—but it will be pretty clear when it happens because, well, your baby will have a belly button.

How often should you wash a newborn?

The answer to this question is the same regardless of whether you’re in the sponge bathing phase or have started giving your baby full-blown baths. Per Dr. Poinsett, “a baby doesn’t need to be bathed daily—three times a week will suffice.” In other words, daily bathing is unnecessary as long as you’re thoroughly cleaning the bum and diaper area with every diaper change. (But if your babe has a diaper blow-out that wipes can’t handle, then by all means—give them a quick soak in the tub.)

How do you give a baby a sponge bath?

Chances are you’ve never given yourself a sponge bath, and thus, are a little nervous to give one to your baby. Fear not: Sponge baths are very simple. According to the pediatrician, all you have to do is put a little soap on a wet baby washcloth (i.e., something very soft) and wipe your baby all over, starting at the head and working your way down. Next, repeat the process with a wet but soap-free washcloth to remove the soap from your baby’s skin. Voila, you’re done.

How do you give a baby a regular bath?

If you’re ready to take the plunge and start giving your baby regular baths, the expert has some advice to see you through. One of the most important things to keep in mind when your baby has graduated from sponge baths to regular baths is that you only need to fill the tub or sink with a couple of inches of lukewarm water; the more water, the more risk—so don’t overdo it. Dr. Poinsett also recommends testing the temperature of the water on the inside of your arm to ensure it’s not too hot for your baby’s delicate skin. (You might prefer an extra steamy soak, but your thin-skinned newborn definitely does not.) Finally, it’s incredibly important that you never leave your baby unattended in a tub or sink...not even for a second.

How often should kids wash up?

I mean, as long as everyone’s talking about it...what about your toddler’s stink? Per the Cleveland Health Clinic, toddlers and little kids only need a soak in the tub two to three times per week. Older kids ages six to 11 should hit the bath two to three times per week at a minimum, and tweens and teens should shower daily. But the experts note that these aren’t exactly hard-and-fast rules. If your toddler is throwing a temper tantrum and doesn’t want to get in the bath, it’s no biggie. And if your big kid spent the day playing in the mud, then they’ll need to hop in the tub even if it’s not their bath day.

Newborn Bath Items You’ll Need

Now that you know what to do, it’s time to get started. Here are the key items you’ll need to have on hand before you give your baby his or her first bath.

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1. Bamboo Organics Best Baby Washcloths

These washcloths are as soft as a baby’s bottom (i.e., ideal for washing one) and the 100 percent bamboo viscose material means that this product is eco-friendly to boot. Plus, rave reviews suggest these guys are durable and will hold up well after many washings, both of your baby and in the machine.

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2. Boon Soak 3-stage Bathtub

This award-winning bathtub can fit in a double sink, doesn’t take up too much space when it’s not in use and is just the right size for a newborn. Best of all, you won’t have to bid this one adieu as soon as your new addition starts to put on some baby fat, since the three-stage design is made to accommodate older babies and small toddlers, too.

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3. Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Wash & Shampoo

Aveeno has a cult following among those with sensitive skin and babies certainly fall into that category. This pediatrician-approved soap is pH-balanced, hypoallergenic and gentle enough for use on a newborn. It also gets the job done.

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4. Bamboo Queen 2-pack Premium Bamboo Baby Bath Towels

Much like the washcloths, these eco-friendly bath towels are made from the softest and most absorbent bamboo material. In other words, they’ll dry your baby off in the blink of an eye without feeling too abrasive on that sensitive skin.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...