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Keeping your baby clean between baths

You do not need to bathe your baby every day. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom instead. This is often called 'topping and tailing'.

How to 'top and tail' instead of a bath

Use a changing mat on the floor. This means you do not need to worry about your baby rolling off as they get bigger.

You will need pieces of cotton wool and a bowl of warm water. Wet each piece of cotton wool in a bowl of warm water. Then squeeze it out so it's just damp when you use it.

  1. Wash your baby's face using cotton wool.
  2. Wipe each eye with a separate piece of cotton wool, working from the inner corner outwards.
  3. Use a new piece of cotton wool to wipe around their mouth and nose.
  4. Take another piece of cotton wool and clean their ears, neck and face. Never put anything like a cotton bud in your baby's ear or nose. Just wipe away what you can see.
  5. Pay attention to the creases under your baby's neck and arms where milk and fluff can get trapped.
  6. Wash their hands and feet, looking out for sharp fingernails. Dry all areas gently with the towel.
  7. Smooth sharp fingernails with a tiny scissors or baby clippers.
  8. Take off their nappy and wash your baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.

If your baby has a dirty nappy you'll need to change the water before you wash the 'top'.

You do not need to use any soap, shampoo or products when they're very young. Plain water is fine, and safer for your baby's skin.

Page last reviewed: 16 June 2022
Next review due: 16 June 2025