Head To Toes And In Between

Newborns are sweet, but keeping one clean may make you anxious. Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you would imagine — especially with these doctor-recommended tips.

Swaddled newborn baby

Contributed by Jessica Remitz

Keeping your newborn clean — from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tiny toes — can be a continuous and worrisome project for a new mom. Here are some simple, doctor-recommended tips for keeping your baby clean and comfy.

Face, eyes and nose

While baby acne is a common, harmless condition, it can be unsettling to see a newborn with a red and blotchy face. Wash it daily with a mild baby soap to help keep it clear. You may also notice some yellow discharge or crusting around your baby’s eyes, which can be caused by a blocked tear duct. Keep this area clean with a wet cotton ball moistened with warm water. Their narrow noses can also get blocked up and fill with mucous, which can be unclogged with an infant-sized syringe.

Nails and scalp

Many newborns can develop a condition called cradle cap, which can make your baby’s scalp dry and flaky. It usually disappears on its own for the first few months, but you can help it by washing baby’s hair with a baby-formulated shampoo three times a week, and brushing out the scales daily using a soft toothbrush or baby hairbrush. Your newborn baby’s nails will usually be soft, but they can sometimes scratch their sensitive skin. Keep them short by clipping them after a bath or when they’re asleep as a part of your basic baby care.


Some babies can inherit skin conditions like eczema — characterized by red, itchy patches on the skin — from their parents. If your baby has it, limit their baths to 10 minutes using a mild, fragrance-free soap and lukewarm water. After bath time, liberally apply hypoallergenic skin cream to the dry areas and dress them in loose, cotton clothes.

Another common skin condition, diaper rash, can affect your baby’s bottom, and is characterized by red, tender skin around diaper areas. Help diminish symptoms by changing your baby’s diapers frequently, rinsing their bottoms with water during each change and blotting dry and using petroleum jelly or white zinc oxide around the area. Avoid using diaper wipes if possible, as they may irritate the skin further. Learn more about baby skin care basics here.

Umbilical cord and circumcision

You’ll want to keep baby’s umbilical cord stump as clean and dry as possible — it will shrivel and fall off on its own within a few weeks. Until it does, avoid covering the cord area with a diaper and stick to sponge baths that, surprisingly, don’t need to be daily. When cleaning a circumcision, gently wash the area with warm water daily and use petroleum jelly to protect the area and prevent the penis from sticking to a diaper.

Check out Fit Pregnancy’s six-week survival guide for tips on what to expect and how to stay sane with your newborn once you leave the hospital here.

More on newborns and you

Newborn safety in the hospital
How to get help with your newborn
Postpartum changes and your body


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