How to keep your baby clean

Your easy guide to looking after your newborn baby’s skin, hair, nails & eyes

Cleaning and caring for your baby’s delicate skin is simple with this guide to newborn bathing and skincare.

How to keep your baby's skin clean

Your new baby’s skin is so soft and smooth – no wonder you can’t stop kissing it! But to keep it that way, you need to give it the kid-glove treatment from day one. You don’t have to bath your baby every day – young babies don’t get very dirty, apart from the obvious areas such as face and bottom, so topping and tailing between baths using cotton wool and plain water is fine.

Here are our tips for bathing, washing and cleaning your baby – and how to deal with dry skin patches, too.

Keep bath time simple

Wash your baby with plain water using a clean flannel, sponge or just your fingers. You can add a dash of mild baby bath wash – but not too much – it can dry out delicate skin.

Wash your baby’s hair a few times a week

Newborns only need to have their hair washed about twice a week. Use a mild baby shampoo to help keep your baby’s hair clean and soft and their scalp clear.

Gently treat a flaky scalp

Babies can develop scaly skin on their scalp. To help prevent this, try softly massaging baby oil in to the delicate scalp area and wash out with a mild baby shampoo. Very carefully dry their head then gently brush out any loose scales with a baby hairbrush. See your GP if cradle cap spreads to other areas of the body, or if the scalp becomes inflamed or infected.

Treating dry skin

Babies can be prone to small patches of dry skin which appear on the face or elsewhere in the body. Soothe any affected areas with a suitable baby emollient cream (skin moisturizer) after a bath. You can ask your health visitor to recommend one. For severe dryness or eczema, see your GP.

Protect against nappy rash

Try to remove wet nappies as soon as possible – a sore bottom usually means you need to change your baby’s nappy more frequently. To help prevent nappy rash, clean their bottom gently with cotton wool and warm water and make sure they are completely dry before you put on a new nappy. Apply a barrier cream after washing and try to allow your baby to go nappy free occasionally to let the skin breathe a bit.

How to clean your baby's ears

Wax is the ear’s natural protection and cleaning inside your baby’s ear canal risks damage to the eardrum. Use a damp cloth outside, behind and around – but never inside – your baby’s ears.

Cleaning your baby's eyes

Newborns often get goo in the corners of their eyes (known as sticky eyes) while their tear ducts develop. Before wiping your baby’s eyes, softly massage the area below the inside corner with a clean finger – this helps to clear the tear duct. Afterwards, gently cleanse the eye area with clean cotton wool moistened in cooled boiled water, wiping gently from the inside corner, outwards. Use a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye.

Trimming baby's fingernails

A newborn’s fingernails are soft and grow fast. You may need to trim them more than once a week. The easiest way to do this is to trim them with baby nail clippers that have specially rounded ends. This is best done while your baby sleeps or feeds. Don’t be tempted to bite your baby’s nails to keep them short - you could introduce germs into any cuts they may have on their fingers.

More about newborn skincare & baby rashes

Want to know more about how to bath your baby? Read our step by step bathing baby guide. You can also find more details about dealing with very common baby rashes and skin issues, in our handy guide to baby skin problems.