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Hygiene is important for anyone taking care of children, and is one of the most effective ways we have to protect ourselves – and others – from illness.

Cleaning baby’s eyes, ears and nose: basics

You can clean your baby’s eyes, nose and ears when you’re bathing him. Water on its own is fine, because the skin on your baby’s face is too sensitive for soap.

Steps for cleaning baby’s face

  1. Get some cotton balls.
  2. Soak one cotton ball in some warm water.
  3. Clean the corners of your baby’s eye, wiping gently from the inside corner to the outside corner. Use a new cotton ball for each eye.
  4. Wipe gently around each nostril to get rid of mucus. It’s best not to put anything inside your baby’s nostrils (including cotton buds). This can damage the lining of the nose and cause bleeding.
  5. Wipe behind your baby’s ears and around the outside of each ear. Be careful not to stick anything inside her ear, because it’s very easy to cause damage.
  6. Wipe gently under your baby’s chin and neck, making sure you wipe between the folds of skin.

Your baby might get anxious or irritated when you try to clean his face. Singing a song might distract him. But sometimes it’s good just to be quick and get on with it.

  • Use a cotton wool ball to wipe behind and around the outside of baby’s ears. Be careful not to stick anything inside baby’s ear – this can cause damage.
  • After washing baby’s hair, dry it by gently moving the towel back and forward across the scalp.
  • Clean baby’s gums and tongue using water and a washcloth after morning and evening feeds.
  • Wipe front and back of teeth using water and a clean washcloth. At 12 months use a soft infant toothbrush to brush teeth with water at least twice a day.


Use special baby nail scissors or an emery board. Work with someone else if it helps – one holds the newborn as the other trims the nails. You can try trimming your baby’s nails when he’s asleep, in the highchair or while singing a favourite song.

Umbilical cord

Wash your hands before handling your baby’s umbilical cord. Clean the area with water. Make sure the stump is dry after bathing. To help the stump heal faster, avoid covering it with plastic pants and nappies. Fold nappies away from the stump if possible. Avoid touching the cord stump as much as possible.

Genital care

When bathing your baby girl, wet a cotton ball, hold her legs apart and wipe between the labia with the cotton ball. Start at the front and gently wipe backwards.

For baby boys, gently rinse the genital area with water while bathing.

Give your baby some ‘nappy-free’ time, and air her skin to prevent nappy rash.