your top baby bath questions answered
Our resident pediatrician mom, Dr. Mona Amin, shares her best tips and picks to ensure your baby’s bath is warm and wonderful.
Baths are more than how we keep our kiddos clean, they’re a big part of our daily routines. But, alas, they are not always splish-splash easy! My own son didn’t always greet bathtime with a grin. As a newborn, he definitely wasn’t a fan, but slowly started to enjoy it over time. Then, when we transitioned to a big tub at eight months, he cried and cried and we took a few steps backwards. It took persistence, patience, and a calm presence for him to come around and now—at age two and a half—he loves it again. We really have so much fun splashing and getting clean.
But bathing a baby isn’t something everyone just automatically knows how to do! In fact, most new parents have questions about how experienced parents suds up their little ones. Well, I’ve got answers. Here’s what to know to make bathtime a routine you can all look forward to right from the start.
how soon can I give my newborn a bath?
Once your baby’s umbilical cord falls off—typically one to two weeks after birth—you can start giving them baths in an infant tub. Until then, a sponge bath is best.
For newborns, baby bath tubs are essential to have on hand as soon as you’re home from the hospital since they are designed to position an infant’s head above the water. They also give you more control over how much water you are pouring on your baby, which can be nerve wracking in the beginning.
Always keep a hand on your baby while bathing them— they can slip around or roll when you least expect it!
how often do babies need baths?
From a hygiene standpoint, babies don’t need baths every day—just frequent diaper changes. But the bath can be helpful to wipe away spit-up and drool, which has a way of making its way into crevices and folds. Start by doing baths every three days or as their skin tolerates it (you don’t want it to get too dry). Use lukewarm water for baths, as hotter water can strip our skin of its natural oils, and apply an ointment or lotion after baths to lock in moisture. If your child is prone to dry skin or eczema, be extra vigilant about pat-drying with a towel and moisturizing immediately with a gentle, fragrance-free lotion afterward.
As your child gets older, baths continue to be important (and the toys get even more fun!). Daily baths help remove environmental allergens that find their way to your child’s skin and give your child an opportunity to learn hygiene and autonomy in cleaning themselves.
what time of day is best for a bath?
Baths can be a useful part of your baby’s bedtime routine since they help relax the body (just think about the last time you had a nice, warm bath before bed). By bathing at the end of the day you’ll also get to wash away the day’s sticky situations and sneak in some together time before it’s lights out.
I still remember when my son was 7 weeks and hit the witching hour (read: fussy evenings), the bath was THE thing that calmed him down and it was relaxing for me too as I ran my hands under the water. Try following the bath with a massage with baby coconut oil or lotion for extra relaxation and bonding.
how do I know if my baby is comfy in the water?
A big part of making sure you keep your baby comfortable is in your preparation. Start by getting all your supplies ready so you don’t have to remove your baby to get something (which can be jarring and, well, chilly!). You’ll need an age-appropriate baby bath tub, body wash and shampoo, a washcloth, a cup for rinsing, and a cozy towel (you can apply lotion back in the nursery).
Then, make sure the water is warm, but not too hot. You can use your elbow to gauge the temperature rather than your fingers which are more sensitive to temperature. If it feels hot to your elbow, it’s likely too hot! A tub thermometer can give you the confidence that the temp is just right, too. To keep your baby warm from beginning to end, you can use a washcloth to cover your baby’s core. Some babies may like the water level covering most of their body (not their face though), while other babies may like more shallow water that you can scoop up for rinsing as needed.
Before placing your baby in the water, always check the temperature! Use a tub thermometer or submerge your elbow, not your hand.
how can I make baths fun?
Sing and talk to your child as you give them a bath! Now’s the time to break out every nursery rhyme you ever learned. The more you stay calm and make this a fun routine, the more your baby will know what to expect and enjoy it.
Toys also make it fun! I always recommend stacking cups that sift water and can be poured because they’re a great cognitive and motor toy to use in the bath. Continue to introduce age-appropriate toys as your child grows and it’ll be a fun part of your nightly routine.
my favorite bathtime products
ABOUT DR. AMIN
As a board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Mona Amin provides a safe space for parents to get trusted advice directly from a doctor. With a focus on baby health and well-being, it’s her mission to share balanced, well-researched parenting advice to lessen those big worries and help parents find more joy in parenthood. Follow Dr. Amin on Instagram at @pedsdoctalk or visit pedsdoctalk.com.
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