Keeping Bath Time Safe: Tips for Bathing Success

Even little babies need baths!  Washing your baby is something that needs to happen regularly, but how and where are up to you.  Baby baths don't all happen in the tub and there some things to keep in mind when choosing where to scrub your baby down.   

No matter where you give your baby a bath, keep in mind that safety should come first. Every year, children are severely injured or even die as a result of accidents in the bath. Whether they are victims of drowning or near-drowning, scalding, or other slip and fall related incidents, wiggly babies are slippery when all wet and need to be watched carefully in the bath.

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Image via Bbluv

Here are tips to make sure that bath time is safe and fun.

Know the Best Age to Start Baths:

It's best to give your newborn a sponge bath. Until you baby's umbilical cord stump falls off, which can take a week or two, it’s best not to immerse baby into a tub of water. Keeping the umbilical area dry is essential to prevent infection. So to clean up a newborn, stick with sponge baths. Once your baby can be immersed in water, you still need to take some precautions. Because of a baby’s small size and inability to hold up their own head, let alone sit up, stick with a small baby bath that will fit inside the larger tub or even in a sink at least until they can sit up. You will have more control over your baby, to ensure that they don’t slip down too far into the water.

Know Where to Bathe Baby:

You need to be comfortable, not sitting awkwardly, so choose a spot where that’s possible. You need to be able to easily reach all supplies without leaving the baby alone. And you should make sure the room temperature is warm enough to be comfortable during and after the bath. 

{ MORE: Let's Be Real: The Real Work of Pregnancy Comes After the Birth }

Know What you Need Ahead of Time

Make sure you have all you need for the bath within reach before you start.   This is essential because it is not safe to leave a baby alone in a tub for any length of time, even a few seconds, to get something you forgot. We recommend having nearby:

  • Mild baby soap, like one from Babo Botanicals

  • A soft wash cloth

  • A cup for pouring water over baby to keep them warm and rinsing them off when you’re done

  • Towel for drying, preferably with a hood or one large enough to cover baby's head

  • A bath thermometer, to check the water temperature

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  • A shampoo cap, to keep soap out of their eyes

  • Once old enough, toys to keep baby occupied throughout her bath

Take Common-Sense Precautions:

  • Never leave a child alone in the bath or on a surface where they can roll off, especially if they are wet.  When a child is in any bath a caregiver should be close enough to touch the child at all times.
  • Studies show that the majority of falls happen with an adult in the room so experts recommend keeping one hand on a baby in a bath at all times to help keep them steady.
  • Scalding injuries are common. According to the Burn Foundation, over 5,000 children a year are burned in the U.S., typically because an unattended child turns on the hot water tap or a caregiver does not test the water temperature before placing the baby in it. It’s also a risk to put a baby into a tub that is too cold. They are much smaller and unable to regulate their body temperatures in the same way that older children and adults can. A thermometer like the The Kräb 3-in-1 thermometer and bath toy from bblüv can put an end to this risk. A warning will sound when the temperature is too hot, or too cold, and it doubles as a toy so you can leave it in the tub throughout bathtime.
  • Keep the soap out of baby’s eyes when rinsing their hair. Even the mildest soap will sting a little and can cause your baby to start dreading baths. Many children also dislike getting water poured on their faces. It’s an unsettling feeling! The last thing any parent wants is a child who fights bath time because they have become afraid of that feeling. Many children like something like the adjustable Käp, a silicone shampoo repellent cap to keep their faces and eyes clear of soapy water for under $10.00. 
  • Focus first on the parts that need cleaning in case baby becomes fussy.  Normally start with the face, diaper region, and hands.
  • Once baby can sit up in the tub, consider applying some non-slip adhesives to the bottom of the tub, or a rubber mat with suction cups can help a lot.
  • Make sure the bathroom is warm enough.  
  • Regularly pour water over baby in the bath to help keep her warm.  
  • Do not ask young siblings to help.  Babies can aspirate water very quickly if they go under water, even for a few seconds.  This is a job best left to the grown-ups due to the high risk of injury.
  • Once you take baby out of the bath, make sure she stays warm.  Wrap her in a warm towel.  Towels with hoods are great for little ones.  A space heater like this Honeywell space heater in the nursery can help take the chill out of the air while you getting baby dressed after her bath and while she dries.

{ MORE: Probiotics and Baby: What You Need to Know }

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Kitchen Sink:

  • The height and depth of sinks in many homes make them the perfect place to bathe babies.
  • Kitchen sinks can be among the dirtiest places in the house.  Make sure your sink is clean before you put in baby in for a bath!
  • Because kitchen sinks are so high, once baby is able to pull up it's best to find another place to bathe your babe.

Shower:

  • Many parents find it convenient to bring their baby in the shower when them while they are taking their own shower.
  • This is a good option for babies who don't mind being wet, but some babies will get fussy quickly.
  • For safety, you can bathe your baby while he is sitting on the ground.
  • Never pick up a wet baby in the shower.  Wet, wiggly babies can slip out of your wet arms easily.  
  • Be mindful of the water temperature.  While you may be used to taking hot showers, keep the water temperature down while your baby is in the shower with you. 

Tub:

  • No special equipment is needed if you use the tub you already have.
  • It can be easy to misjudge how much water is needed in an adult sized tub so be very mindful not to put too much water in a regular tub when bathing baby.
  • Keep baby away from the faucets.  Babies can bonk their heads on the faucet or even accidentally turn on the hot water, which can cause burns.  

Baby Bath:

  • This is the most popular option for a reason. Baby baths are portable and easy to use.
  • Use the baby bath on the ground or in a tub.
  • Do not place the baby bath on a counter or other high surface.  Babies move around and the tub will get wet, so there is a very high risk of the tub, along with the baby, falling from a high distance.  
  • There is little risk of using too much water in a baby bathtub.

Baby Bath Seats:

Sponge Bath:

  • This is good option not just for newborns who can't be immersed in water, but for all ages.  
  • Make sure baby is secure and cannot roll or fall off the surface you use for sponge bathing.

  • Keep baby warm: newborns in particular aren’t adept at regulating their body temperature, but all babies can get fussy if cold.  If the room you are giving a sponge bath is cool, consider covering parts that aren't being washed with a towel.

{ MORE: The Science of Infant Bathing }

How do you bathe your baby?

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Keeping Bath Time Safe: Tips for Bathing Success

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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