Parenting 101: How to Bathe A Newborn

Franki Hobson


Sep 25, 2021

Splish Splash! Baby’s taking a bath…

You may have carried around that little bundle neatly in your belly for 40 weeks, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel nervous bathing your newborn for the first time. What temperature should the bath water be? Should you use bath wash? All these questions are completely normal, so relax.

Catherine Cervasio is a mother of two (now 19 and 13) and owner of leading organic baby bath time company, Aromababy. Catherine has been dishing out advice to new parents for almost twenty years and shares her tips…

Step 1. Keep it warm.

Parenting 101: How to Bathe A Newborn
Parenting 101: How to Bathe A Newborn

“Ensure the bath water is tepid to warm – 36-37 degrees is ideal,” suggests Catherine. “Never add hot water alone – always run both hot and cold taps simultaneously to avoid scalds and burns.  And never put your baby in the bath water without first testing the temperature.” For peace of mind, invest in a bath thermometer. Fill the bath to a level so baby has most of the body submerged, to shoulders, when lying down.”

“This photo of my first son, Beau, was taken 17 years ago! He is the reason I started  Aromababy.” 

Step 2. Get a grip!

Hold baby ensuring you support the head and neck area and gently lower into the bath. Allow baby to rest in one arm, cradling the body and being sure to continue to support the head. “The face area can be cleansed before you put baby in the bath so all you’ll be doing here is washing the body area,” suggests Catherine.

“My son, Jacob, 8 months-old in a lush spa gown we designed (no longer available).”

Step 3. Choose the right products.

Don’t use adult wash on bub. “These contain higher percentages of additives, foaming agents, preservatives, perfumes (or essential oils) and are designed for adults,” explains Catherine. “Use a low-sudsing, unscented liquid baby wash product that has been specifically formulated for newborns or babies with sensitive skin. Stick with this for the first several months to help minimise allergic reactions and dry skin. I always suggest using the bath water to wash the hair and scalp gently every other day. Alternatively, if baby has lots of hair, try a specific hair cleanse product which is sulphate-free and won’t hurt baby’s eyes.”

Step 4. Get bub cosy dry and snug as a bug!

“Take care when handling infants after bathing,” suggests Catherine. “Dry, wrap or clothe them as your baby’s body temperature can drop quickly.”

“Me with my newborn, Jacob. He was 3 weeks-old and that photo was taken in 2000!” 

Photograph by Vicki Bell Photography 

Step 5. Care for cradle cap.

how to bathe a newborn“If your baby has cradle cap, ensure the hair is rinsed well from any soapy residue and massage the scalp area with an organic (petro-chemical free), unscented vegetable oil such as sunflower,” suggests Catherine. “Alternatively, use a natural, pre-mixed baby massage oil with added oils such as calendula or evening primrose to add moisture to the area.”

“This was taken at a baby massage workshop we held in Singapore.”

Step 6. Give a gentle massage.

“After bathing, when the skin is warm and still holds some water, is a perfect time to massage your baby,” suggests Catherine. “Place your child on the floor on a padded blanket and towel. Cover any area not being massaged to help maintain body heat. Use an organic baby massage oil (jojoba or sunflower oil based are ideal to minimise allergic reactions). Choose an oil with as simple formula as possible – the more ingredients, the more risk of baby having an allergic reaction. Use long, fluid strokes on limbs and down the back to the buttock area. Massage using small circular motions with your thumbs, on smaller areas such as palms, soles of the feet and scalp area, taking care to avoid the fontanel. Massage helps to soothe and relax your baby as well as moisturising the skin in the process.  This is where you would add a treatment product, for example, to soothe nappy rash, prior to putting baby’s nappy on. I suggest choosing a petroleum free, organic oil based balm which offers a natural barrier against wetness”.

“This is a photo of me 8 months pregnant massaging my son Beau, aged 6, in our ‘massage room’ at home.”

Catherine launched Aromababy in 1994 as the first brand of its kind, after searching the world for natural baby care to use on her first child. Based on neonatal research and with a focus on the use of organic ingredients, her products created a new category in Australian retailing. They have since been used by select hospitals in several countries and enjoy a high level of success when used on babies and children with eczema. The skincare is formulated without petro chemicals, parabens, propylene glycol, added colour, artificial fragrance, sulphates, dimethicone, animal ingredients (no cows/goats milk or lanolin) or phthalates. Catherine provides workshops to parents and midwives on natural babycare, understanding ingredient lists, baby massage and skincare during pregnancy.



By Franki Hobson


Franki Hobson has worn many hats during her many years as a women's lifestyle journalist and editor. Her launching pad was COSMOPOLITAN magazine, where she moved from News & Entertainment Editor to Features Director, covering everything from the legalisation of the Morning After Pill to Gwen Stefani, fashion, beauty, sex, health, fitness, entertainment and relationships. Franki Hobson is a contributing lifestyle writer for The Carousel.


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