Safely Bathing A Baby From Newborn To Toddlerhood

Bath time presents different challenges at each age, but we have some tips and advice that will help you look forward to it — and keep your baby safe.

How to keep bath time safe and fun

Photo credit: Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

Bathing your baby doesn't need to be a stressful experience. The soothing routine of a warm bath can be a special time of fun and bonding for both you and your babe, if you follow some simple guidelines.

Bathing your newborn at home

The first thing you need to know about bathing your newborn is that babies don't need to be bathed every day during the first year of their lives, just every two or three days. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, until your baby's umbilical cord falls off, you should stick to sponge baths. Also, if your baby is circumcised, wait until that wound heals before you advance to a full bath.

Choose a warm spot with a flat surface, and use a mild soap. Be sure to keep the water temperature warm, but never hot (below 120 degrees F is the safest). Test the water temperature with your elbow or a tub thermometer. Lay your baby on a thick towel, cover him up and gently wash one area at a time with a soft washcloth, while the rest of his body stays nice and cozy. Don't forget to wash your baby's hair.

To create a soothing atmosphere, keep the lighting as low as possible and talk to your child as you wash her.

Break out that bathtub

Once your baby is ready for a tub bath, put two to three inches of warm water in an infant tub, a large sink or a full bathtub. If you're worried about your wee baby in that big, full-size tub, you can fold up a towel and place it in the water, or consider using a mesh bath sling.

The safest place for your infant tub is inside of your grown-up tub, but if your bathroom is equipped only with a shower stall, find another secure spot to bathe your baby. Try a wide kitchen counter, a bathroom vanity or even your kitchen table. To place your baby in the tub, use a hand to support her head, and the other to lower the baby feet-first into the warm water.

It can be chilly in the tub so be sure to gently rinse your baby with warm water as you wash her, keeping her warm. This is also a great time to look your baby right in the eye and talk with her. Sing silly songs, tell stories and talk about your day.

Babies find bath time very soothing, making it an important tool in your "fight the fussies" toolbox. Make a warm bath part of the bedtime routine to smooth the transition from day to night, or bust out the bathtub when your baby has a bad case of the crankies.

Bring on the rubber duckies

Once your child can reliably sit up, bath time gets a lot more fun. Now's the time to introduce some simple, stimulating bath toys.

Toys that float, squeak, gently spray or hold water are great for kids this age. Not only do they make bathing a giggle-fest, they also help develop fine motor skills. And don't be afraid to get wet yourself — some families enjoy some skin-to-skin contact time by getting right in the tub with their kids.

The most important advice of all

It may seem like your baby is ready to be more independent in the bath, but the No. 1 safety tip for all parents to remember is that a child can drown in even just a few inches of water. Stay nearby your child when he is in the bath at all times — don't run out of the room for a second to answer the phone or grab a fresh towel, even when they reach toddlerhood.

Put your ringer on mute, gather all the supplies you need before you even turn on the faucet and plan to be both mentally and physically present when your child is in the bath.

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