What is topping and tailing?

What is topping and tailing?

Our step-by-step guide to cleaning your newborn starts at the top and ends at the tip of their toes

In Newborn

At a glance

Use cooled boiled water and cotton wool for eyes                

Start at the top and finish with the bottom


Dry your baby thoroughly, especially the folds of skin

Talk to your baby to relax them as you clean them

In the early weeks, there’s no need to bath your baby every day. Instead of a bath you may find it easier to top and tail baby. It’s also a quick and easy way to keep your baby clean between bath days later on. Simply follow these simple steps.

Parent cleaning newborn's face with cotton wool

How to top and tail your baby

  • Undress your baby and lay them on a changing mat and wrap them in a towel
  • Babies’ eyes can be a little sticky after birth. With clean hands, dip cotton wool in cool boiled water and wipe gently your baby's eyes from the nose outwards, using a new piece of cotton wool for each eye
  • Use a fresh piece of cotton wool dipped in warm water to clean around your baby's ears, avoiding the inside
  • Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel
  • Keep your baby’s umbilical cord stump clean and dry to avoid infection. Give it a wipe with a fresh cotton wool dipped in cooled boiled water each day and gently pat it dry. It should drop off after about 10 days but if you have any concerns or questions talk to your midwife
  • Remove baby’s nappy and wash your baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Then dry very carefully, including the skin folds, before putting on a clean nappy. Making sure your baby’s bottom is completely dry and using an unperfumed nappy cream if necessary can help prevent nappy rash
  • Some babies are born with long nails and can scratch themselves easily. Use baby (not adult) nail clippers to carefully trim them. Or try a fine emery board to shorten and smooth them instead. Anti-scratch mitts or fold-over cuffs on your baby’s sleep suits can also help stop your little one from hurting themselves

“Skip the special top and tail bowl and just use any bowl you have”

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Important advice to mothers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.


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