Giving your newborn her first bath is one of those moments every parent cherishes. But hold off on unpacking that bright plastic baby bathtub just yet. Doctors recommend waiting until the umbilical cord stump falls off—which usually occurs between 1 and 3 weeks of age—and the skin around the area heals, before you give her a full bath.

"After the stump falls off, the skin around it may bleed slightly and intermittently for up to a week," says Melissa Meyer, M.D., a staff pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, OH.

Even then, keep in mind that a newborn’s skin is delicate and can dry out easily if she’s bathed too often. "Most babies don’t get dirty the way older kids do, and so they only need a bath once or twice a week," says Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a staff pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She recommends using warm (not hot) water and just a dime-size amount of liquid baby soap, to avoid drying the skin too much. "You really only have to use soap on the baby’s diaper area and sometimes the hands," she adds.

Infant Nail Care

Trimming an infant’s oh-so-tiny fingernails probably isn’t high on a new parent’s list of favorite activities. Your baby’s nails grow so quickly in the first couple of months, however, that you’ll probably need to clip or file them up to twice a week. Many moms find the best time to schedule a trim is when the baby’s asleep. Right after a bath is also a good time, since the baby’s nails are more yielding, thanks to the bathwater. You can use a soft emery board or baby nail clippers for the trim.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 17 Sep 2010

Last Modified: 02 Feb 2015