For many babies bathtime is a fun ritual and can even help promote a good night’s sleep (we’re so here for that). On the flip-side, baby’s bathtime can also be nerve-wracking if you’re worried about possible dangers or if your baby cries at the mere sight of the tub. But never fear. There are a few tips and tricks to get the routine nailed. We’re here to let you know about the essentials and how to make bathtime fun for you both.
Here’s our all-important intro to babies at bathtime.
In this article: 📝
- When can you give your newborn a bath?
- How often should I bathe my baby?
- How to bathe a newborn
- What is needed for baby bath time?
- What bath products do I need for a newborn?
- How to make bathtime fun for babies
When can you give your newborn a bath?
Babies are born covered in a waxy vernix substance that helps protect skin from bacteria and drying out, so most parents choose to wait at least 24 hours (sometimes even a week or two) before the first bath to help preserve that layer. But really, it’s up to you, mama.
How often should I bathe my baby?
You only need to bathe your baby two or three times a week, but you might want to change to daily baths once your baby is eating solids, crawling all over the floor, and generally getting messier!
A 10-minute bath is plenty long enough, and not using soaps every time will keep your baby’s skin from drying out.
➡️ Read more: How Often to Bathe a Newborn
How to bathe a newborn
Once you’ve decided it’s time for baby’s first bath, you can choose to either give a sponge bath (recommended if they still have their umbilical cord stump) or a submersion bath in a sink or baby-sized tub. Preparation is key, so here are some ideas to consider:
Step 1: Get all your essentials together (keep reading for our favorites!) so you have everything on hand. You should never leave your baby, even for a second, once they’re in the bath. Babies can drown in a tiny amount of water, very quickly.
Step 2: Make sure the room is nice and warm to keep your little one from becoming cold and fussy. A toasty 75-80°F is ideal.
Step 3: Make sure the water you’re using is just warm enough. 90-100°F is just right, and you can test it with your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot.
Step 4: If you’re sponge bathing, focus on the dirty bits (face, hands, bottom) and work in order. Our step-by-step guide to sponge baths will help you through.
Step 5: If baby takes a bath in a sink or baby bath, gently place them in, supporting them under their head with one arm, your hand tucked under the armpit furthest from you, with your other arm under their bottom. The water shouldn’t be too deep — belly button height is perfect.
Step 6: Using a soft washcloth, wash their eyes (use different clean corners of the washcloth for each eye), the rest of their face, behind their ears, and their neck, focusing on any rolls of skin where dribble can settle and cause irritation.
Step 7: Continue washing with the washcloth down their torso, arms, hands, legs, and feet, washing their diaper area gently to finish.
Step 8: If you want to shampoo their hair, do this last, and have a container of clean water to rinse away the suds afterward.
Step 9: If you’ve finished washing your baby, but they’re enjoying the experience, continue to support them, and encourage any splashing and kicking they might want to do. They might find it relaxing to lie in the water with a wet washcloth over their chest to keep the upper side of their body warm if it is above the waterline.
Step 10: Transfer your baby into a clean towel on a safe, flat surface near the bath. Pat their skin dry, apply any moisturizer or lotion, add a clean diaper and outfit, and you’re done. You did it!
What is needed for baby bath time?
A few essentials will mean you have everything ready for baby’s bathtime.
- A baby tub (until baby can sit unsupported, and then they can go into the big tub if it’s easier)
- A couple of soft washcloths
- Sensitive baby wash or shampoo
- Any toys your baby might enjoy
- A hooded towel (so cute, but also great at keeping their head warm once they’re out of the bath)
- Diaper rash cream if you need it
- A clean diaper and outfit for afterward
What bath products do I need for a newborn?
Newborn skin is so delicate, so keep the products to a minimum to avoid irritation. Plain water is fine to wash their skin and hair. If they’ve had a big vomit or poo-plosion, a gentle soap-free wash can be used sparingly.
How to make bathtime fun for babies
Some babies are not big fans of bathtime, and keeping them clean — then getting them dry again — can be a struggle. We hear ya. Trying to make bathtime fun for your baby hopefully means it’s a more relaxing experience for you too, so here are some tips to consider:
Choose a time of day to suit your baby’s mood. For many, bathtime is an essential part of their bedtime routine, and it can help promote a good night’s sleep. But if your baby is too tired and grouchy at that time of day, feel free to switch it up. If your baby is most happy and relaxed in the morning, or after lunch, do bath time then.
Making sure the room and water are at the right temperatures will prevent them from fussing because they’re cold.
Bathtime toys for babies, like cups, sieves, and the classic rubber ducks can add some much-needed fun. Waterproof bathtime books and bath crayons are great for older toddlers, while younger babies might just enjoy feeling a washcloth or splashing with their hands or feet. You can gently encourage them to splash if they’re unsure, although hold off on splashing their face until they’re used to the sensation.
Most of all, your newborn will love the bonding experience, so feel free to include songs, talk to them about what you’re doing, and engage in plenty of eye contact.
If they’re still not bathtime fans, perhaps you can try showering with your baby or getting in the tub with them. You got this mama!