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Bathing hacks: How to top and tail a newborn

Some babies love having a bath, while others need time to get used to it. For the first few weeks or so, you may want to top and tail baby instead. Our step-by-step guide to cleaning newborns starts at their head and ends at their bottom!

5 mins to read Oct 26, 2020
  • You don’t need to wash your baby every day—for the first few weeks it may be easier to top and tail instead.
  • Top and tailing is where you carefully wash the face, neck, hands and bottom.
  • You will need a bowl of cooled, boiled water, a bowl of warm water, cotton balls or cotton pads, a fresh nappy, clean clothes, and clean towels.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and remove any rings or bracelets.
  • Check the room is nice and warm—undress your baby and place them on a clean towel.
  • Topping means washing your baby’s face, neck and hands.
  • Babies’ eyes can be a little sticky after birth. Dip a cotton ball or a cotton pad in cool boiled water and gently wipe your baby's eyes from the nose outwards, using a new piece of cotton ball for each eye.
  • Use a fresh piece of cotton ball dipped in warm water to clean around your baby's ears, avoiding the inside.
  • Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way.
  • If your baby still has vernix (the creamy white layer) in their creases, leave it there as it helps the skin barrier to develop.
  • Keep your baby’s umbilical cord stump clean and dry to avoid infection—wipe it with a fresh cotton ball dipped in cooled, boiled water each day and gently pat it dry.
  • The umbilical cord stump should drop off after about 10 days—if you have any concerns talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Tailing means cleaning your baby’s genitals and bottom.
  • Remove nappy and wash baby’s bottom and genital area with a fresh cotton ball and warm water.
  • If you prefer use baby wipes, but make sure they are unperfumed and suitable for newborns.
  • Gently pat your baby dry paying particular attention to the skin folds, before putting on a clean nappy.
  • Dress baby in clean clothes. Newborns loose heat quickly so you may also want to use a blanket.
  • When you feel ready to move onto giving your baby a bath instead, read our checklist to find out how to do it. [https://www.babyandme.nestle.co.za/0-6-months/how-to-bathe-newborn]