Almost every aspect of bringing a baby home can feel new and exciting, and bath time is no exception. Some parents find washing their baby’s hair a little nerve-wracking, given how small and delicate new babies are.
Babies only need their hair washed about once per week, but it is okay to wash it up to every other day if you feel the need.
Practice general bath time safety while bathing your baby and washing their hair.
Some babies develop a condition called cradle cap that causes skin flakes on the scalp.
Always use a baby-safe shampoo and take steps to keep your baby comfortable while washing their hair.
This is an understandable concern but rest assured, you’re unlikely to hurt your baby while washing their hair if you follow some simple steps to keep them safe and comfortable.
When to wash your baby's hair for the first time
Your baby’s hair can be washed as soon as they’re born. Typically, your baby will be given a bath at the hospital before you leave, during which a nurse will wash their hair.
It’s okay to wash your baby’s hair as soon as you get home from the hospital. However, this isn’t required. Your baby doesn’t need to have its hair washed every single day, so it’s okay to take some time to prepare before rushing to give your baby a bath when you get home.
How often do babies need to be bathed?
Parents often feel the need to incorporate a nightly bath into their baby’s routine. You may be surprised to hear that babies only need to be bathed once or twice per week. Newborn babies don’t get very dirty, and washing them daily with soap can dry out their skin, so a daily bath is no longer required.
It is good to wash your baby’s hair to remove excess oils. You may notice that your baby’s hair becomes oily quickly. This is normal. If your baby’s hair seems like it needs to be washed more than once per week, you can also cleanse their hair using a washcloth in between baths.
How to do it, step-by-step
- Find an area to bathe your baby. You can use a regular bathtub with a baby bath insert, a basin, or a clean sink.
- Gather your supplies. You’ll need a towel, washcloth, and baby-safe shampoo.
- Fill the bathtub with warm water. Feel the water before placing your baby in the tub to make sure it isn’t too hot. You can also use a thermometer to ensure the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place your baby in the tub. Wash their body now if you plan to give them a full bath. You’ll want to save their hair for the end since having wet hair will make them feel cold.
- Wet their hair. Do so by pouring water from a cup, cupping your hands, or wringing a wet washcloth over your head.
- Add some shampoo. Use a small amount of baby-safe shampoo to wash your baby’s hair. Scrub their head gently and try to avoid getting soap in their eyes.
- Rinse the shampoo out. Using only a little water at a time and using your hand to sweep the water toward the back of their head can help prevent your baby from getting soap in their eyes. Alternatively, you can use a washcloth to gently rinse the soap from their hair.
- Take your baby out and dry them off. Once all soap is rinsed off, you can take them out of the bath and quickly dry and dress them.
What is a cradle cap?
Many babies develop cradle caps, which is also called infantile seborrheic dermatitis. This occurs when babies have large flakes of skin on their scalps.
A cradle cap is incredibly common and completely harmless. Washing your baby’s hair can help with the cradle cap since it can help to scrub away the skin flakes.
Never scrub your baby's head with force. Always do so gently. You can use a soft scrub brush to help scrub away skin flakes from the cradle cap. If your baby has a cradle cap, they may benefit from having their hair washed more often, such as every other day.
What if my baby hates having a hair wash?
Some babies love the water, while others do not. If your baby is not a big fan of bath time or having their hair washed, take some steps to help them stay more comfortable.
Bath times don’t have to take long. It's recommended to only bathe your baby for up to 10 minutes at most. To keep bath time brief, gather your supplies ahead of time and try to wash your baby quickly (while still being careful and mindful, of course).
You can also give your baby a small bath toy and sing a song to them to help make bath time more fun. Be mindful of bath toys that hold water in the middle since they can grow mold over time.
Baby bath safety tips
Accidental injuries can occur during bath time. Follow these steps to keep your baby safe during bath time.
Always fill the bathtub and test the water temperature before putting your baby in.
Never leave a baby unattended in the bath.
Only use baby-safe shampoo or soap on your baby to avoid drying out their skin or stinging their eyes when you rinse their hair.
Gather all supplies before putting your baby in the water. This helps to ensure that you don’t feel the urge to walk away to grab something while your child is in the tub.
Learn infant CPR so that you’re prepared in case an emergency occurs.
If you can, have a support person at your home while you bathe your baby so they can help you. This person can bring you supplies if you need something, or they can help with the actual bath.
Dry your baby quickly after their bath to help prevent them from getting too cold.