Newborn Hygiene

Newborn Hygiene Overview

Newborn Hygiene

Newborn hygiene care, including bathing, skin care and changing diapers, is important for your baby's health and comfort.

Bathing and skin care

Giving a small, wiggly baby a bath can make a new parent nervous, but by being calm and prepared you will become comfortable with the process. Follow these tips to make bath time a special bonding experience between you and your baby:

  • Newborn babies should only be bathed one to two times a week. Bathing your baby more than this can dry out his or her skin
  • Babies should not be placed in water for a bath until the umbilical cord has fallen off. Give your baby a sponge bath using a soft wash cloth and gentle soap until the umbilical cord has fallen off
  • During bath time, never leave your baby alone, not even for a few seconds

Have all the bath items within arm's reach before you begin, including:

  • A basin of warm (not hot) water
  • Clean diaper and clothes
  • Two bath towels
  • Mild soap 
  • Soft wash cloth
  • Hair brush

Cleaning steps

  • Start by washing the face with plain warm water.
  • Clean eyes using plain water and wiping from the corner near the nose to the outer corner. Use a washcloth (use a clean part for each eye) or two cotton balls (one for each eye)
  • When cleaning the ears and nose, clean only the surface of the ears and nose. Do not put a cotton swab in the ears or nose to clean
  • Wash the rest of the baby with mild soap. Do not use a perfumed soap. Rinse with warm water
  • Leaving the diaper area for last, make sure to wash all the creases and folds
  • Do not be hesitant about cleaning a baby girl’s genitals
  • Use a soft cloth and warm water, and wipe gently between the folds
  • After rinsing, pat the baby dry with a clean towel
  • Shampoo the hair while you hold the baby in the crook of your arm. Put mild soap on the hair, gently scrub and rinse out all of the soap. Don't be afraid to gently shampoo the soft spots to prevent -yellow, oily, scaly flakes from building up. This condition is known as cradle cap
  • Towel the hair dry and then brush it with a soft baby brush
  • Do not use any oil or lotions on your baby because they may cause a rash. Most oils and lotions are too harsh for your baby’s delicate skin

Nail care

  • To prevent scratches, trim your baby's fingernails regularly. If the nail has a rough edge before it is long enough to cut, use a nail file made for babies
  • Using a baby nail clippers, hold the skin away from the nail and cut straight across
  • It is easier to trim your baby’s nails after a bath because the bathwater will soften their nails
  • Trimming your baby’s nails may be easier when they are asleep

Bulb syringe usage

A bulb syringe can be used to help clear the mouth and nose if your baby has spit up or has a stuffy nose. To use the bulb syringe:
  • Squeeze the bulb to get all the air out
  • Put the tip of the syringe into the nostril and gently release the bulb
  • Take the syringe out of the nostril and squeeze it out into a tissue a few times
  • Clean the bulb syringe by squeezing it full of hot soapy water and rinse by squeezing it a few times in clean hot water

Changing diapers

  • You may use baby wipes on your newborn
  • Remove all stool and urine
  • Fan the diaper area until dry
  • Apply a clean diaper

If redness occurs, clean the area carefully and gently and dry it thoroughly. Apply a thick layer of diaper rash cream to the red area before diapering.

Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital offers care for children at all ages and stages—from birth through 18 years old. Whether your infant needs the advanced expertise of our Level II+ Special Care Nursery, your child needs a wellness checkup and immunizations, or one of your children needs care for an illness, emergency or ongoing medical condition—you’ll find the medical and surgical resources to meet your family’s needs.

We have more than 60 physicians on staff who specialize in pediatrics, along with a dedicated team of pediatric nurses—all committed to providing the very best care for your children. In addition, we can refer children who need more advanced care to pediatric specialists who are leaders in their fields. Our affiliated pediatricians can address most children’s needs at convenient locations throughout Lake and Cook counties.

We’ve also partnered with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, one of the nation’s top-ranked children’s hospitals, to provide the highest quality care for children. Our hospitalists from Lurie Children’s are available on-site at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest, 24 hours a day, every day of the year to care for special need situations or provide expert consultations.

The CDH Pediatric Emergency Department is IDPH Emergency Department Approved for Pediatrics (EDAP) and is designated by the State of Illinois as a Level II Trauma Center.

Legal Information

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital is a collaborative program between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Lurie Children's and its affiliated physician groups. The physicians participating in this program are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital or Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.


The physicians who practice at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. These physicians have selected our facilities as the place where they want to treat and care for their private patients.