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Basic Baby Care

Picking Baby Up

  • Pick baby up by sliding one hand below the head and shoulders and one under the bottom.
  • Bring baby close keeping head and bottom supported.

Holding Baby

  • Your baby will love to be held.
  • You cannot hold your baby too much in the early months.
  • Babies who are held a lot cry less.
  • Make sure baby’s head and bottom are supported.
  • A special kind of holding is skin-to-skin. Strip baby down to the diaper and hold him or her against your bare chest.


Some babies need frequent burping during their feeds. Do not be surprised if baby’s burp sounds as loud as an adult’s.

How to burp baby:


  • Hold baby against your chest or over your shoulder.
  • Support his or her head and back with one hand.
  • With the other hand, gently pat and rub baby’s back.


  • Sit baby up on your lap.
  • Hold baby’s jaw with the pads of your fingers and thumb. Baby’s chin will be in the web between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Use the other hand to pat and rub baby’s back gently.


  • Lay baby on your lap on his or her belly.
  • Support baby’s head and make sure it is higher than his or her chest.
  • Gently pat baby’s back.

Cord Care

  • The cord will change from yellowish green to brown and then to black. It will dry out and fall off in about 2 weeks.
  • Keep the cord clean.
  • You can bathe the baby when the cord is still on.
  • Pat the cord dry, then let it air dry.
  • Keep the diaper folded below the cord to help it dry out.
  • Do not pull on stump.
  • There may be 1 or 2 drops of blood when the cord separates.
  • Call your health-care provider if the cord has a foul smell, oozes yellow pus or appears red and swollen.


  • Your baby may need a diaper change eight to 10 times a day, no matter if you are using cloth or disposable diapers.
  • A good time to check the diaper is before and after feedings. It makes your baby alert for feedings and ensures that your baby is comfortable.
  • Assemble what you need:
    • Fresh diaper.
    • Washcloth or wipes.
    • Cream.
  • Wash your hands before and after changing the diaper.
  • Keep one hand on the baby at all times. Never leave your baby unattended.
  • Remove the dirty or wet diaper.
  • Both boys and girls may pee when the diaper comes off.
  • Wipe from front to back using a clean, wet, and warm washcloth or unscented baby wipe.
  • For baby girls: Gently clean between the outer folds of the labia. There is no need to clean inside the vagina.
  • For baby boys: Be sure to clean underneath the scrotum where stool can collect in the skin folds. You do not need to pull back the foreskin when cleaning the penis.
  • Use cream if needed (no powder or cornstarch).
  • Put the new diaper on.
  • Fasten snugly around the waist.
  • Change baby more often if his or her skin looks red or has a rash.
  • Contact your health care provider of your baby has a diaper rash that does not go away in a few days. Baby may have a yeast infection or other condition and may need a medicated cream.


Baby’s bath lounge is not enough to support baby safely. Parents must hold baby securely.

newborn baby in the bath How Soon can I Bathe Baby?

  • Baby can have a tub bath or sponge bath right from birth.
  • You can give baby a full bath even if the cord has not yet fallen off. Just pat it dry after the bath.

How Often should I Bathe Baby?

  • Babies do not need to be bathed every day. Bathing too often can cause baby’s skin to dry out.
  • Bathe your baby every two or three days or as needed.
  • In the first weeks, some babies need almost a full wash with every dirty diaper.

What Time of Day should I Bathe Baby?

  • Give baby a bath at a time that works for you and your family.
  • You may want to build a bath into the evening bedtime. If bathing in the morning or afternoon is more enjoyable for baby, this is fine.
  • If you give your baby a bath right after feeding, your baby may spit up.
  • Bath time often is also playtime, one that both baby and parents enjoy.
  • Some babies do not like having a bath and will cry through their bath. They will likely outgrow this. Many love the warm water.

Where should I Bathe Baby?

  • Choose a place to bathe baby that is a good height and comfortable for you.
  • You can use the kitchen sink (at first).
  • You can use a baby tub set into the big tub. It is best to use a baby bathtub, not a regular tub. You may choose to use the baby tub on the kitchen or bathroom counter or a table.
  • You can also take baby into the tub with you.
  • Be sure you have enough space to work that is warm and free of drafts.

Is there a Special Soap or Shampoo to use on Baby?

  • Soaps, shampoos and lotions specially made for babies are the best to use.
  • If baby has sensitive skin, buy products that say they are for babies with sensitive skin on the label.
  • Unscented does not mean fragrance-free unless it says fragrance-free on the label.
  • Rinse baby’s skin thoroughly and use a moisturizing lotion.

How Warm should the Water be in the Bathtub?

  • Use lukewarm water for baby’s bath.
  • The water should be comfortable to your wrist or elbow. The water should not be hot.
  • Adults like hot baths, babies like warm ones.

How to Give Baby a Sponge Bath

  • You may wish to give baby a sponge bath rather than a tub bath until you feel comfortable.
  • Use the change table, end of the crib or a table. A pad covered with a towel is soft and absorbs extra water.
  • Never leave baby alone, not even for a second.
  • Assemble your supplies. Undress baby but leave the diaper on.
  • Wipe baby’s face, neck and ears with a damp cloth. Dry gently.
  • Wash the back if needed.
  • Wipe baby’s hands and under his arms in the same way.
  • Put on baby’s shirt.
  • Remove the diaper.
  • With a newborn baby, wipe away any discharge from the cord stump. Dry well.
  • Wash baby’s legs and feet and dry.
  • Wash the bottom and the genitals. Dry.
  • Put on a clean diaper using cream if needed.
  • Dress baby.

drawing of how to support the head of a baby while bathing it drawing of how to hold a baby being bathed

How to Give Baby a Tub Bath

  • Get everything together – i.e. soap, shampoo, a washcloth or two, a towel, something to lay baby on, a fresh diaper and a shirt or onesie. Make sure they are all within reach.
  • Take off jewelry that might scratch. Wash your hands.
  • Fill the tub with about 5 centimetres (2 inches) of warm water.
  • Bring baby to bath and undress completely, or undress at the changing area and bring baby with his or her towel.
  • This is the tricky part – babies are wiggly. Sit baby in the tub and lean him or her back with his or her neck over one wrist. Use that hand to hold onto his or her arm.
  • Use your free hand to scoop up handfuls of water to wet the baby, including his or her head. Try not to run water over his or her face.
  • It will probably be easier to wash baby’s face, eyes, nose and ears in the diaper changing area (See “Areas Needing Extra Care”). Otherwise, wash baby from top to bottom.
  • Wash the baby’s head and body with your free hand soaped up or with a soapy washcloth.
  • Pay extra attention to the underarm, neck and groin creases.
  • Rinse by scooping water and running over his or her body. A plastic cup is handy for this.
  • To wash the diaper area, lean the baby forward and lean his or her head and neck over the wrist of your dominant hand. Use your free hand to wash the buttocks and rinse.
  • Rinse again and move to a dry towel. Dry baby and wrap in a second dry towel. This part often causes tears – being wet and cold is something babies hate.

Areas Needing Extra Care


  • Clean baby’s eyes from the inner corner to the outer corner with clear water.
  • Use a clean spot on your washcloth for each eye.


  • Wash baby’s face with clear water.
  • Wipe off any particles at entrance of nostrils with washcloth.


  • Wipe with damp washcloth the outer ear fold and behind the ear.
  • Only use a washcloth over your finger.
  • Never clean the ear canal with a cotton-tipped applicator or any other small object.

Genitals or Private Parts (Female)

  • Separate folds of skin (labia).
  • Wash gently from front to back, changing area of washcloth with each stroke.
  • Then wash anal (rectal) area, wiping front to back.

Genitals or Private Parts (Male)

  • Uncircumcised
    • Clean and dry the penis and scrotum.
    • Clean and dry the rectal area.
    • Do not push back the foreskin.
  • Circumcised
    • Clean and dry the penis and scrotum.
    • Clean and dry the rectal area.
    • If the circumcision is recent, you may have other care instructions from your health-care provider.


  • DO keep one hand on baby when you are reaching for something.
  • DO talk with baby during the bath and make the bath a fun time.
  • DO wrap and cuddle baby. Babies get cold when they come from the tub.
  • DO NOT leave baby alone on the table or in the bath.
  • DO NOT add warm or hot water while the baby is still in the bathtub.
  • DO NOT wear sharp-cornered jewelry (rings) that may scratch baby.


Mayo Clinic (online) 2015
Ontario Prenatal Key Messages (online) 2016