Skip to main content

We use cookies to help us improve your experience and to provide services like web chat. We also use cookies to measure the effectiveness of public health campaigns and understand how people use the website.

To find out more about cookies and how we use them, please see our privacy policy.

Keeping your baby clean between baths

If you are anxious about bathing your baby, you don't need to put them into the bath until you feel confident. Instead you can 'top and tail' them.

A 'top and tail' wash is a quick way to keep your baby clean between baths. This means washing:

  • your baby's face and hands
  • the folds or creases under the neck
  • the folds and creases under arms
  • the nappy area

How to 'top and tail' instead of a bath

If you can kneel safely, use a changing mat on the floor. This means you won't 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 and then squeeze it out so it is just damp when you use it.

Never put anything like a cotton bud in your baby's ear or nose. Just wipe what you can see.

  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 the mouth and nose
  4. Take another piece of cotton wool and clean the ears, neck and face
  5. Pay attention to the neck creases where milk and fluff can get trapped
  6. Wash the hands and feet, looking out for sharp fingernails
  7. Smooth sharp fingernails with a tiny scissors or baby clippers
  8. Take off your baby's nappy and wash their bottom – this is the 'tail' part

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

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

Related topic

How to change a nappy

page last reviewed: 26/03/2018
next review due: 26/03/2021