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Everything You Need to Know About Baby Bathtime

You are home with your new baby and the time has come for her first bath. Suddenly, you have questions, and lots of them. Is it okay to bathe my baby with his umbilical cord? What should the water temperature be? Can I get water in his eyes? What kind of soap should I use? We’ve got answers to all of those questions and then some. Here is everything you ever wanted or needed to know about baby bath time. 

Baby Bathtime

What are the Most Important Safety Tips for Bathtime? 

  • The number one rule for baby bathtime is, NEVER LEAVE YOUR BABY ALONE in the bath. Children can drown in as little as 1-2 inches of water, so turning your back for even a few seconds can be fatal. Get rid of any distractions and give your baby your full, undivided attention during bathtime.

  • Next, choose a tub that is safe and sturdy, and free from any sharp corners or edges. Check out our recommendations for the best baby bath tubs below.

  • Remember, baby bathtime is definitely a case of “slippery when wet,” so make sure you have a good handle on your baby before you attempt to move him/her out of the tub.

  • You will want to read the safety precautions on all of your baby bath gear carefully. Different products come with different warnings. 

What Temperature Should My Baby’s Bath Water Be? 

You’ll want to adjust your water heater temperature before the baby arrives to prevent any accidents. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns. As far as bath water is concerned, you’ll want to keep the temperature at about 100°F for your baby. How do you know the temperature of the water? Grab one of these bath thermometers or add it to your registry. This takes the guesswork out of it and ensures your baby’s safety.

How Often Should I Bathe My Baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bathing your newborn about three times per week. Bathing them more often could irritate and dry out their skin. After your baby is a few weeks old, if you find that he enjoys the water, or it acts to soothe him in some way, you can consider bathing more frequently. Just be sure to keep an eye on that skin. More on skin care here.

How Do I Give My Baby His First Sponge Bath?

You’ve done your research and are ready to give your baby his first bath. But first you’ll need to do a little bit of preparation. First, if the umbilical cord is still attached, you’ll need to stick to a sponge bath (this will fall off on it’s own anywhere between 1-2 weeks old). To give your baby a sponge bath, follow these simple steps:

  • Prepare a hard surface, like the changing table or floor, with a clean towel. 
  • Prepare 2 shallow dishes with warm water--one with soap, one without. Have a washcloth ready for each one.
  • Check the room temperature. Baby’s get cold easily, so you’ll want to make sure there isn’t a fan on or cool breeze coming in from the window.
  • Undress your baby and wrap him in a towel. Take him to the bathing station.
  • Begin “washing” one area at a time, first with the soapy washcloth, then with the clean washcloth. Keep the rest of your baby’s body wrapped in the towel. 
  • You don’t need to put soap on her face. If you’d like to wash her hair, you can add just a drop of soap with a little bit of water and gently rub her scalp. Then saturate the clean washcloth, and ring it out over her head to rinse it. 
  • Once you’ve washed your baby’s whole body, dry him off and head over to a dry spot to start your “after bath” routine.

Do I Need a Special Tub or Seat to Bathe My Baby?

  • Let’s start with tubs. As we mentioned before, choosing a bathtub for your baby is important. We love this one from Fisher Price, as it grows with your baby from infancy to toddlerhood. It starts with a newborn sling, then an infant seat, and finally becomes a tub that’s large enough for your toddler. 

  • If you want to use your kitchen sink itself as your tub, you’ll want to consider one of these Lotus Bath Blooms. It keeps your baby snug and comfortable, and is a favorite of new moms. And it’s machine washable, so you can ensure that no mold or mildew is growing.

  • Once your baby is able to sit-up on her own, it may be time for a toddler seat that you can place in your regular tub like this one from Summer Infant. This is a great way to transition your baby into the bigger tub, while keeping her safe and supported. Just be sure your baby is a confident sitter-upper before using a seat like this one.

  • If you choose to forego the bath seat, be sure to get a non-slip mat instead. Remember, slippery when wet. 

Baby in Baby Bath

Is My Baby’s Skin Different From Mine? 

A baby’s skin is very delicate and has anatomical differences from that of an adult. Their skin is actually much thinner than ours, and doesn’t reach the first stage of skin maturity until about age 2. With the skin being the largest organ in the body, it requires special care. This means it’s important to choose carefully when it comes to soap, towels, washcloths, etc. Continue reading for our recommendations.  Seeing some bumps on the skin, or dry flaky skin on the scalp (called cradle cap) isn’t usually a sign for concern. Remember, your baby’s skin is adjusting to the whole new world, with new elements coming at them from every direction. But it’s always best to check with your pediatrician about anything new that appears on your baby’s skin.

What Soap or Shampoo Should I Use for My Baby?

Choosing a soap for your baby can be overwhelming as there is no shortage of brands out there. Most baby soaps are soap + shampoo combinations, so you don’t need to worry about buying two separate products.  You’ll want to choose something that is hypoallergenic, paraben- and phthalate- free, sulfate- free, tear-free and fragrance free. If we just overwhelmed you even more, try one of these soaps from our list of favorites. We’ve included the manufacturer’s descriptions to help you decide. Your pediatrician is also a great resource for choosing a soap for your baby.


  1. Avenno Baby Wash- Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo blends natural oat extract into a rich lathering cleansing wash that cleans without drying because it is soap free and allergy tested. This tear-free formula can be used on skin and hair for gentle cleansing that rinses clean, leaving a soft, fresh fragrance. Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo is formulated to be gentle enough for infants, and babies' sensitive skin. It’s tear free, soap free and paraben free. 
  2. CeraVe Baby Wash- CeraVe Baby Wash & Shampoo is a tear-free formula with 3 essential ceramides & vitamins to help maintain baby's delicate skin barrier as it gently cleanses. 
  3. Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo- This wash is a mild 2 in 1 solution specially designed for your baby’s sensitive skin. Chamomile essence and Provitamin B5 enriched formula to soothe and cleanse baby’s skin without drying. It also washes hair without irritating the scalp. This mild, tear-free formula cleanses with a light lather that rinses easily and comes with a convenient pump dispenser for one-handed use. Clinically proven to be gentle on baby’s sensitive skin and scalp, this Wash and Shampoo from Aquaphor Baby is preservative and fragrance free.
  4. Puracy Baby Shampoo and Natural Body Wash- This 99.5% natural formula was developed by doctors and is hypoallergenic and toxin-free. The tear-free formula is safe for daily bath time and is naturally derived, hypoallergenic, non-toxic, vegan, gluten-free, and biodegradable.

Which Washcloths and Towels are Best for My Baby?

When choosing any fabric that is going to touch your babies skin, we like to stick to the rule “if it feels good to you, it feels good to them”. If a towel or washcloth feels a bit rough then it will likely irritate your baby’s skin. Organic cotton is best, because remember, our skin is our largest organ! So anything that comes into contact with it is being absorbed to some degree. We like the towels and washcloths from keababies.com, because they are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified--which means they are the best of the best when it comes to fabric, and it ensures that the fabric is sourced in a sustainable way. 

Do I Need to Put Lotion or Powder On My Baby After a Bath?

To lotion or not to lotion? According to the AAP, applying a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion immediately after the bath helps keep the skin from drying out. Powder, on the other hand, is not recommended. Research has shown that using powder may lead to breathing in of fine powder particles, which make their way into the lungs and can lead to respiratory problems. 


Post-bath lotion application is also the perfect time for a massage! According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), baby massage may help to stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems. So if you’ve got a colicky or gassy baby, massage is a great tool for you.  Infant massage also helps to promote relaxation and allows for skin to skin contact, which is so important doing the newborn stage. Always watch your baby for cues. If he seems bothered by the massage, then skip it and try again another time.

Baby Feet

What Else do I Need to Do After I Give My Baby a Bath?

After your baby is dried and lotioned, you’ll want to put on a fresh diaper and soft clothing. We’ve got the perfect onesie for you! If sleeping comes next (which it likely will--having a bath takes a lot of energy!) you may want to swaddle your baby and sing a gentle lullaby. Whatever you choose to do, take a moment to enjoy that sweet, clean baby smell!

 

Does My Baby Need Bath Toys?

Typically, bath time becomes a favorite activity, where you will spend a good amount of time playing. Newborns do not need any bath toys, in fact, bath toys might over-stimulate them. So skip on the toys until your baby is ready to grasp things.


Older infants will love grasping the washcloth and chewing on a rubber duck. Toddlers will get excited by foam pieces that stick to the tub, or squirting toys that they can squeeze. Toys aren’t necessary though, a plastic measuring cup and hearing your voice will likely entertain your baby just as much as any toy you purchase.

What are Some Fun Bath Time Games or Songs?

As your baby gets older, bathtime can be a great time for fun activities that are also good for development. Here are some fun and easy activities that you can implement when your baby is of age. 


Glow sticks. Grab some glow sticks, activate them, and throw them in the tub. Turn off the lights and have a glow-in-the dark party!


Shaving cream. Shaving cream is so much fun in the tub. Your child can enjoy the sensory experience of the soft, puffy foam. Now, this one can get messy, so be prepared for a lengthy rinse down after. 


Cut-up pool noodle. Grab a pool noodle at the dollar store and cut it up into donut-shaped rings. Then, add them to your baby’s bath. They float around like little boats and your baby will enjoy stacking them, trying to sink them, and more. 


Watercolor painting. Let your child paint the tub with WASHABLE watercolor paints like these. 

What Are the Benefits of Bathtime (Beyond the Cleanliness)?

Bonding time. When you are bathing your baby, it can be the perfect time for uninterrupted bonding. With no distractions, and physical closeness, you can spend this time making eye contact, talking to your baby, singing songs. It’s a special time of day for connecting.


Calming/soothing/relaxing. The soothing properties of water are invaluable to a parent, especially if your baby is cranky. Scientifically speaking, seeing and feeling water actually releases chemicals in the brain that help to calm the body. You can use the bath as a tool to help during those times when your baby needs extra soothing.


Bath time can become a cue for sleeping/routine. Once you start to formulate a routine for your baby (somewhere around 6-8 weeks), you can use bath time as a cue for her that bedtime, or a nap is coming. Is there a best time of day to give your baby a bath? Not necessarily. But keep in mind that usually a bath will relax your baby, so you may want to plan your baths around sleeping. 


Developmental Benefits. Bath time supports cognitive development in more ways than one. Babies are learning about science, absorption, permeability, buoyancy, solid/liquid/gas, and more (yes, even babies that are just a few months old are learning these things!). They are exercising their fine motor skills by squeezing and grabbing. Their cores are being worked once they learn to sit up in the bath. 


Sensory experience. Baths are a sensory experience for babies. What is a sensory experience? It’s any experience where your baby is learning about the world through his senses. The bath offers a time for him to feel warmth, smell soap, see the water, and so on. All of these stimuli are crucial for brain development. 

Baby in a Bath


More Baby Bath FAQs


How Do I Wash Towels and WashCloths? 

You’ll want to wash your babies towels and washcloths in a detergent that is free from dyes and perfumes prior to use. Dreft is a fan favorite of moms across the board, but any detergent that meets this criteria is a good choice. 


What if I Don’t Have a Proper Bathtub?
No tub? No worries! You can absolutely shower with your baby once he outgrows the baby tub (or even before, just be careful about getting large amounts of water in their eyes and ears). Again, humans are slippery when wet, so be mindful of this if you are holding your baby in the shower. Another option is one of these inflatable tubs, which is a great solution depending on the size of your shower. 


How Do I Clean My Baby’s Bath Toys? 

Keeping those bath toys clean is important. All types of fun bacteria, mold and mildew can grow if they aren’t cleaned and dried properly. According to Martha Stewart, 


A monthly wash will help keep bacteria and mildew at bay. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar per gallon of warm water in a bucket. Soak the toys in the solution for about 10 minutes, then rub them gently with a sponge. To clean the inside of squeeze toys, suck up the solution, shake, and squeeze out. Let air-dry.


How Do I Bathe My Baby When Traveling?

If you’re considering a trip where you’ll need to bathe your baby, then your best bet is to bring your Lotus Bath or toddler seat with you. Not only will it keep your baby safe during bathtime, but it will be a familiar cue in a new place. We are sorry to tell you that traveling just got a bit more complicated, and a lot more heavy.

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