Some babies absolutely love bathtime and others just can’t stand it. Is it something you’re doing wrong?
But there are a number of simple tips to make baby’s bathtime easier for everyone that can help encourage a comfortable calm baby (and mama) throughout the bathing experience.
- Baths keep your little baby clean and healthy. It’s never too early to encourage good hygiene!
- Bathtime can be very relaxing for many infants. Lots of families choose to incorporate a bath into their nightly routine before bed as it’s a nice way to wind down and calm the baby’s little body before a cozy night’s sleep.
- What a beautiful bonding moment your infant’s bath can be! No interruptions, just eye-to-eye moments between momma and baby.
- Baths are a great opportunity for multi-sensory learning as your infant feels, smells, and hears all sorts of new things.
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Simple Tips to Make Baby’s Bath Time Easier
The following tips will help make bathtime easier, provide some ideas for babies who hate the bath, and show you how to encourage a calm bath routine.
Gather Bath Essentials for Baby Beforehand
Gather everything you need for before, during, and after bath time.
You don’t want to be running around trying to collect supplies when your little one has their clothes off.
Some items you may need:
- Baby Bath
- Washcloths or sponge
- Baby bath wash or shampoo
- Cup or pitcher for pouring
- Pacifier, if needed
- Any hygiene products you want: brush, lotion, diaper cream, etc
- Clean diaper and clean clothes (if you’ll dress them there)
If you forget something after you’ve already undressed your baby or even put them in the water, just wrap them in a towel and go get what you need.
Keeping a basket with baby’s bath essentials can help ensure you have what you need each time.
Use a Bathtub for Babies, Especially if They are Squirmy!
The ones with slings or seats can take a lot of stress out of bathing a squirmy newborn as it will safely cradle smaller babies.
As your baby grows, they will no longer need the sling support and can sit inside the tub and play with the water and toys around them.
If your baby’s bathtub doesn’t include a sling, place a face towel on the bottom of the bathtub to help keep the baby from slipping around while you hold it.
How do I hold a baby in the bath, you might ask?
To wash an infant, you can put your arm behind their neck using your forearm to support their head, and use your hand to securely hold onto the baby’s arm/armpit furthest from you.
This position keeps the baby’s body from rolling from side to side, safely holds their head well out of the water, and your free hand can wash their body and provide additional stability when needed.
Babies Pee in the Bath… It’s OK!
Here’s an interesting fact:
If they do wee a little, it’s really not that big of a deal. Maybe avoid splashing the water in their face, but besides that, you can keep bathing them like normal.
If your baby poops, you’ll have to wrap them in a towel, drain/wash the tub, and start again.
It’s a little inconvenient and more time-consuming, but also a totally normal occurrence. The warm water helps relax your little one’s body and sometimes this relaxation helps their bowels move too.
Believe it or not, giving them a warm bath with a tummy massage is actually a great trick if your baby is constipated!
What to Do if Your Baby Hates the Bath
Not all babies love the water so don’t be concerned if yours isn’t a fan of their bath routine.
With that said, there are some important factors to consider that may help your baby enjoy it more.
Let’s take a closer look!
Think of the Best Time of Day for a Baby Bath
Some babies will love a relaxing bathtime before bed but if it’s left too late they may find the bath overstimulating, leaving you to wash a tired and cranky baby.
Other babies may just get too excited in the water to wind down in the evening.
Take their feeding schedule into consideration as well. While you may not want to feed them right before the bath, in case they get sleepy, poop, or spit up… try to time it so that they aren’t fighting hunger as well as bathtime.
Try experimenting with different times to see what works best for your family. Bathtime can be a fun activity for your baby or the perfect addition to your bedtime routine.
If your little one doesn’t love the water, don’t feel you have to bathe them every single day.
A couple of times a week is usually sufficient if you’re properly cleaning their face and diaper area every day.
If you do decide to bathe them daily, you don’t need to use soap or body wash every time. Washing too frequently may dry out their delicate skin.
Get Baby’s Bath Water Temperature Right
Run the bath with warm water, not hot or cold. I personally believe you don’t need fancy floating thermometers but it does help some new parents feel more comfortable.
So if that’s the case, go for it!
If you don’t have a temperature gauge, dip your wrist or elbow in. If it feels hot on your skin, it’s too hot for the baby.
Keep in mind that the water will cool off as you bathe them, so if you notice them acting particularly fussy towards the end, perhaps they’re getting chilly!
Keep Baby Warm in the Bath with a Wet Cloth
You don’t want to fill the bathtub to the brim with water. Usually, a few inches of water is sufficient.
However, since the baby’s entire body won’t be submerged, place a washcloth over their tummy to keep them warm. Every few minutes you can pour more warm bath water onto the cloth to heat it up again and keep the baby comfortable.
The cloth can also provide some comfort and security to your little one as the subtle weight offers a gentle embrace to their belly.
Make Bathtime an Enjoyable Experience for Baby
A lot of the popular squirty toys just hold soapy water and get quite gross after a few weeks if not constantly rinsed/dried out properly.
Another way to keep a happy baby is to avoid splashing their face. While it’s important to wipe their face clean, you don’t need to dump water on their face when they’re little.
In fact, if you’re bathing a newborn, you’ll want to avoid getting water in their ears.
You can use your fingers to cover their ears gently by cupping the back of their head in your palm and stretching your thumb and middle finger to reach each ear.
If your hand isn’t big enough, just pour the water carefully so that it doesn’t stream directly over the ear.
When rinsing your baby’s hair, try to point their face towards the ceiling by tilting their head back a little.
There’s no need for visors or pitchers to keep water away. Use your hand or dry washcloth nearby if too much water gets on the face and try not to make a fuss when it does happen.
Eventually, you’ll want your little one to get used to water touching their face as it’ll help them feel more comfortable over time and prevent fear of the water.
How to Keep A Baby Calm During Bathtime
Some babies love the water right from the start and others take more time to get used to the idea. Don’t give up if your baby fusses during bath time. Try to find ways to make it a relaxing and calm experience for them.
Talk or sing to Your baby in the Bath
Whether they understand what you’re saying or not, your voice will provide reassurance throughout this new experience.
The great thing about babies is that you can talk to them about just about anything. Make eye contact and walk them through the steps of the bathtime routine. Offer a comforting smile and tell them what a great job they’re doing.
You can also sing anything that comes to mind. They love to hear your voice, whether you can hold a note or not, and they may even start babbling back to you.
Dim the lights in the Bathroom
Bathrooms often have bright white lights that can be a bit intense. If you can, create a more calming atmosphere with dimmer lights.
You’ll need to see what you’re doing but warmer or lower lights can help encourage relaxation during the bathing routine.
Keep the bathroom warm
It’s fairly obvious that you’ll want the water to be pleasantly warm, but try to keep the bathroom warm and draft-free as well.
You may work up a sweat when bathing the baby because you’re fully clothed and doing most of the lifting and moving. But your infant’s skin is completely exposed, and wet, and they may feel chilly or uncomfortable in a cooler bathroom.
Don’t make the bath longer than it needs to be
If your little one is really not enjoying bathtime, you don’t need to drag it on longer than necessary.
Until your baby is comfortable in the water, you can keep the routine fairly short. A 5-10 minute bath should be enough to get them clean.
Don’t rush through it but peacefully wash them, even if they’re crying, and just get them out for reassurance when you’re all done.
Give them a bit of a cuddle in a warm towel before laying them down to get dressed.
Bring a pacifier
Some parents are pro-pacifiers, others not so much. I’m not here to pass judgement or convince you either way.
If your baby does use or like the pacifier, try bringing it with you during bathtime to calm them down before or after, or even during the bath. It may help distract or calm them when they start to get upset.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR BABY UNATTENDED IN THE BATH (The most Important Point of All)
Whatever you do, NEVER EVER leave your baby unattended in the bath. They should be within arms reach at ALL times.
Did the doorbell ring? Bring the baby.
Your phone got a message? Bring the baby.
The dog is barking? Bring the baby.
Can’t hear your husband from the other room? Bring the baby.
Are you burning dinner? Bring the baby.
It doesn’t matter if there are 2 inches of water or 12, if you’ll be 5 minutes or 5 seconds.
Whatever inconvenience happens during baby’s bathtime, nothing compares to your baby’s safety.
Never leave your baby unattended in the bath.
For more information on baby care, check out How to Change a Disposable Diaper (with step-by-step instructions) and Tips for Clipping a Baby’s Nails.