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Top & tailing

Top & tailing is the common alternative to giving your baby a full bath. Here is a step-by-step guide to give you a helping hand.


Keeping your baby's skin clean is essential to good health, and cleansing your baby is also a wonderful bonding experience. Most midwives recommend bathing newborns two or three times per week, increasing the frequency as your baby gets older. Even though you may not give your baby a bath every day, top & tailing is an alternative many mums choose for very young babies, especially in the mornings. During the day you need to make sure that the nappy area is kept clean at every nappy change, and that his face, skin folds under the chin, and hands are cleaned after every feeding.

Getting Ready

Make sure the room is warm (24 degrees C, 75 degrees F), because babies lose heat from their bodies quickly. You will need the following items:

  • Basin/ baby bath filled with water that is at a comfortable temperature (37 degrees C). Test it with your hand or wrist — it should feel warm but not hot.
  • A large, soft, hooded towel
  • A soft wash cloth or cotton pads
  • A mild cleanser specially formulated for babies, such as JOHNSON'S® Baby Shampoo

After Top & Tailing:

  • Baby oil or moisturising lotion, such as JOHNSON'S® Baby Oil or JOHNSON'S® Baby Lotion
  • Clean clothing and nappy
  • Receiving blanket
  • Soft brush or comb
  • Nappy cream

How To Top & Tail

  1. Provide Reassurance. First put warm water into a basin, adding warmer water as needed. Take a few minutes to talk to your baby and provide reassurance. Now undress him, except for his nappy, and wrap him in a towel.
  2. Eyes. Holding your baby's head, gently wash around each eye with a cotton pad dampened with warm water. The advantage of using cotton pads is that they don't shed pieces of lint. Use a new cotton pad for each eye and always wipe from the inside corner of the eye, outward. If there is no crust (dried mucus), the eye area does not need to be washed. Do not wash the eye itself.
  3. Face. Using a wet cotton pad or soft washcloth, wipe around your baby's mouth, nose and whole face, working outward from the middle. Focus on areas behind the ears, under the chin and creases in the neck. Remember; never put anything into the ear canal or nose. Gently pat dry.
  4. Hair. Keeping your baby wrapped in a towel, put your arm under his back and your hand behind his head. With your free hand wet your baby's hair with the washcloth. Apply a small amount of gentle baby shampoo, such as JOHNSON'S® Baby Shampoo, which is specially formulated to not sting his eyes, and gently massage over his whole head. Your baby's head has a soft spot (called fontanels) where the skull has not yet fully closed. It is safe to gently touch and wash this area. Rinse your baby's hair with water until all the cleanser is removed. Lay baby down and dry his head gently and lift the hood of the towel over his head to keep him warm.
  5. Nappy Area. Keeping his head & upper body covered with the corner of the towel, remove his nappy. Wash the nappy areas using clean warm water & gentle cleanser, or specially formulated baby wipe: for a baby girl, just wipe the area gently from front to back. For an uncircumcised boy, wash the penis and genital area, avoiding pulling back the foreskin, and also wipe front to back.
  6. Protection. Before dressing your baby, you can apply mild baby skin care products to moisturise the skin and keep him comfortable. JOHNSON'S® Baby Lotion is allergy tested and mild enough for your baby. It's also a good idea to use a barrier cream on the nappy area to protect against the causes of nappy rash. JOHNSON'S® Baby Nappy Cream provides mild & gentle protection.
  7. Dressing. Now dress your baby and wrap him in a receiving blanket to keep him warm. Hold your baby close and enjoy your time together.