baby's first swaddle bath

Baby’s First Swaddle Bath

By Tiffanie Bettencourt, RN St. Luke’s Birthing Center

By the time a due date approaches, most parents are eager to meet their baby. For parents, the anticipation is high. Baby, on the other hand, will go from a warm, comfortable, secure place into a brand new place. A place that might be brighter and cooler than being in the womb. At St. Luke’s, we help ease this transition and recreate that feeling of comfort and security with swaddle baths.

What is a swaddle bath? It’s a bathing technique that aims to keep baby warm and relaxed by using a swaddle blanket for comfort and heat. Bath time can be stressful for newborns, so a swaddle bath (also known as an immersion bath) is a way to keep discomfort to a minimum.

At St. Luke’s Birthing Center, we teach parents how to give swaddle baths using the sink in their birthing suite. This sink is specially designed to hold little ones in place. We help parents build their confidence with this technique so they’re comfortable using it at home.

The outcomes are impressive. A 2014 study found that babies who are swaddle bathed tend to stay warmer, cry less and exhibit a calm, quiet state. They do this without any difference in incidence of cord infection or diaper rash when compared with sponge bathing. Some studies have even shown that moms feel more confident and are happier with immersion bathing.

Feel free to give it a try! If you want to swaddle bathe at home, or just need a refresher, here’s a step-by-step guide.

Steps for an Enjoyable Swaddled Tub Bath

  • Baths can be drying to the skin if they are too long or too frequent. It is best to keep them short, no more than 10 minutes and not more frequent than every other day.
  • Ensure you’re in a warm, draft-free room. It also may help to have the room quiet and dimly lit.
  • Have bathing supplies within arm’s reach (towels, diapers, wet wipes, wash cloths, receiving blanket, mild baby wash and gentle moisturizing lotion if needed).
  • Use a deep baby bathtub or clean kitchen sink.
  • Fill with warm water to about where baby’s shoulder level will be.
  • Bath water should be warm and comfortable to your inner forearm (100˚ to under 104˚ F).
  • Undress baby and, using a soft receiving blanket or towel, swaddle their arms close to their body.
  • With both hands, hold your baby firmly under their bottom and back of neck and shoulders. Gently lower them into the warm water.
  • Hold them gently but firmly as they get accustomed to the water.
  • With one hand securely supporting the neck and shoulders, use your free hand to gently wash their face with plain water. Start with their eyelids, wiping from inner to outside corner.
  • Except for baby’s hair, wash from top down, unwrapping one side at a time, using mild baby wash as needed.
  • Wash baby’s scalp last, with gentle massaging circular motions.
  • Thoroughly rinse off any cleanser residue from baby.
  • Dry off baby immediately. Pay close attention to umbilical stump and gently dry around it.
  • Use some gentle moisturizing lotion if needed. Avoid putting on baby’s hands or face.
  • Diaper baby and put him or her skin-to-skin with parent. Or swaddle with warm blanket and hat.


St. Luke’s Birthing Center is located in Duluth, MN, with St. Luke’s clinics in the surrounding region, including Superior, WI. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center, call 218.249.5605.


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