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Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Bathtime
Updated on
September 11, 2023

Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Bathtime

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Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Bathtime.
Ask the Baby Gear Expert: Bathtime

Ever wish you had a baby gear expert by your side to answer all of your questions and help you build your baby registry every step of the way?

Welcome to Ask the Expert, a new series where I answer real questions from real Babylist users and parents just like you. Who am I? I’m Jen LaBracio, Babylist’s Gear Editor, a role that perfectly combines my love of (obsessive) research with my love of all things baby gear.

If bathing a tiny, slippery newborn has you in a bit of a panic, relax. We’ve got you covered!

We asked our favorite new parents and parents-to-be—YOU!—for all your questions around baby baths and bathtime. Here’s what you wanted to know (and the answers, of course) to make bathtime something you’ll look forward to with your new addition.

What’s the best baby bathtub?

Although I definitely prefer some bathtubs over others, there’s really no “best” choice. It’s more about figuring out what’s right for you and what fits best in your home.

There are two main types of infant tubs: sink inserts and basin tubs. Sink inserts are padded inserts that rest inside your sink. They’re usually flexible, hang for easy storage and allow you to stand at the sink while bathing your baby, something some parents and caregivers find to be more comfortable than kneeling over an adult tub.

Basin tubs are standalone tubs. They can be used inside your regular tub, on a counter or table, and sometimes even in a sink. Most have a newborn-friendly option like a sling or netting that can be removed when no longer needed, and some basin tubs collapse for easy storage.

Sink inserts and basin tubs are both really good options for bathing your little one, so it’s just a matter of personal preference which one you choose. When you’re deciding, try asking yourself questions like:

  • Where do you think you’ll be most comfortable bathing your baby, the sink or the tub? (Also keep in mind if a grandparent or caregiver who may not be able to bend over the tub will ever be giving your little one a bath, or if you know in advance that you’ll be recovering from a C-section.)
  • Do you have enough room to store a standalone baby tub or do you need something that collapses or folds?
  • Will you be bathing your baby along with an older sibling?
  • About how long do you hope to use your infant tub before making the switch?

Thinking through these questions can help you determine which type of tub is the right choice for you. You can also check out our guide to the Best Baby Bathtubs for some of my favorite picks.

When should baby get their first bath?

We turned to an expert for this one, Dr. Tracey Agnese, pediatrician in New York City and founder of Taking Care of Mom and Baby, a resource for new parents.

“It’s recommended to delay the first bath for about 24 hours if you can for various reasons, like body temperature and blood sugar stability and also other benefits of the vernix (the greasy coating that covers baby’s skin during their time in the womb),” says Dr. Agnese.

“Until the belly button falls off, you should not fully immerse your baby in water; just give sponge baths. Once the belly button falls off, usually around two to three weeks of age, you can give a regular bath.”

How often do babies need baths?

Another one we’ll let the pediatrician answer.

“Newborns aren’t doing much to get dirty so you don’t need to bathe them that often. Usually two to three times a week is more than enough. Concentrate on the dirty parts like the diaper area, neck folds, and creases in their clenched fists. You can bathe them daily if you want, if it’s enjoyable for both of you—but usually it’s just another stressful thing to do in the beginning!” says Dr. Agnese.

What temperature should baby’s bath water be?

According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s best to bathe your baby in warm water—but not too warm. You want to aim for about 100 F. (They recommend setting the thermostat on your water heater to below 120 F to prevent scalding.) Always be sure to check the water temperature with your hand before putting your baby in the tub. And make sure the room is on the warmer side, too, as babies (especially newborns) can get cold pretty easily.

Worried about finding the perfect bath water temp? Dreambaby’s Room and Bath Thermometer doubles as a bath toy and a digital thermometer so you’ll always know if the water is too warm or too cool, while Munchkin’s White Hot Safety Bath Ducky reads HOT when the water is too warm. And some infant tubs, like Stokke’s Flexi Bath, have a heat-sensitive plug built right in that turns colors when the water gets too hot.

What can I do so my baby doesn’t cry through bathtime?

I love this question, not because I want to hear about crying babies (sad!) but because it’s so common and something that new parents stress about a lot.

Lots of babies cry during bathtime for a variety of different reasons, some that are easy fixes and others that aren’t because, well…babies! Here are few common things to look out for if your little one is wailing their way through what you were hoping would be a peaceful time of day for both of you and how to remedy the situation:

  • Parents are often worried about bath water that’s too warm, but is your water too cold? Babies, especially newborns, get chilly pretty easily. Make sure the water is warm enough to keep your little one calm and comfy.
  • Try placing a warm, wet washcloth or small towel over your baby’s stomach, legs, shoulders or even the top of their head (don’t cover their face, of course!) while they’re in the bath. This can help keep them warm as well as help to soothe them in the tub.
  • Is the room where you’re bathing your little one too cold? If you’re using a room with a door, shut it while you get the bath going to warm it up a bit.
  • Make sure your baby is in a comfortable position while in the tub. If you’re using a sink insert, make sure it’s correctly positioned so baby isn’t hunched too far forward or leaning too far back. Same goes for if you’re using a standalone tub; utilize any newborn support your tub comes with or consider placing a soft towel or bath sponge underneath your baby’s body for added comfort.
  • Try a swaddle bath. This is when you loosely swaddle your baby before putting them (and the swaddle) in the tub, keeping your little one wrapped up while they’re in the water. A swaddle bath is a great newborn bath tip as it helps babies feel secure and warm while also helping you keep a grip on your slippery baby.
  • Bathtime doesn’t have to happen only at night. Sometimes babies are overtired in the evening, leading to more crying than normal. Try bathing your baby at different times during the day to see if that helps with fussiness.

Is it okay to get water in baby’s ears?

Yup. I mean, I wouldn’t turn their heads sideways and pour it in ;) But a little water over your baby’s head and ears is completely safe.

I find bath rinsers to be helpful with aim and minimizing the amount of water that gets in baby’s eyes and ears. I like Skip Hop’s Moby Waterfall Bath Rinser, Frida Baby’s Control the Flow Rinser and Lalo’s The Rinse Cup for exactly this purpose.

Baby always slips down when kicking in our infant tub. What is the best brand or any tips?

This is an issue for lots of parents, myself included when my son was first born. There are a few solutions.

Any tub with an infant insert (think a sling like in the First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe tub or a curved plastic option like in Stokke’s Flexi Bath) generally solves this problem. The sling keeps baby in place and upright even when they’re kicking.

If you have an infant tub that accommodates newborns but doesn’t come with a specific insert, like the Oxo Tot Splash & Store or the Boon Soak, you may want to consider adding your own insert for added traction. I like the bath sponge mentioned above or even simply a towel placed under baby’s body.

When do you stop using a newborn sling in a baby tub?

Lots of baby tubs have removable mesh or fabric slings that are great for the newborn months. The slings cradle younger babies and help them feel supported in the bath. They also provide a lot of stability, which can make it much easier for you to give baths without having to worry about your baby slipping and sliding in a plastic tub.

You’ll want to stop using the newborn sling right around the time your baby is able to sit up independently. By then they’ll have much more control over their head, neck and body and will be able to support themselves more easily in a standalone tub or in the regular bathtub.

When do you transition from a baby bathtub?

The answer to this question totally depends on your comfort level—and maybe how squirmy your baby is in the bath.

You have a few options after the infant tub. If you’ve been using a basin-style tub and it’s on the larger side, you may not want to transition out of it for quite a while. (The Stokke Flexi Bath, for example, works with kids up to four years old!)

When you are ready to make the switch, you can jump right to the regular tub with a bath mat (I like Skip Hop’s Moby or Ubbi’s Bath Mat) for some added padding and slip-free support. If you’ve got an extra wiggly little one, you can also use a bath seat like Summer’s My Bath Seat. These types of seats suction to the walls of the tub and provide your baby with a secure, supported place to sit during bathtime. Just remember to never take your eyes off of your baby, even when they’re in the bath seat. They’re not safety devices and still always require constant supervision.

Top five bathtime products for my baby registry?

Ohhh I love this question! My top five picks would be:

  1. A basin tub like Skip Hop’s Moby Bathtub or Lalo’s The Bath Tub, a sink insert like the Puj, or a bath support like the Angelcare Baby Bath Support. (I realize this is four suggestions but I want to give options depending on your needs!)
  2. Tubby Todd’s Essentials Gift Set. I love all of their stuff and this bundle lets you try out some of my favorites.
  3. This Organic Hooded Towel with Washcloth set from Burt’s Bees. The material is super soft and absorbent and the towels and washcloths seem to get softer every time you wash them.
  4. The Skip Hop Moby Essentials Kit. It has everything you need to make bathtime comfortable for you and safer for your baby. (That bath kneeler saved my knees more times that I can count.)
  5. Boon Pipes are hands-down my favorite bath toy. They entertain six-month-olds through older toddlers (and beyond!) and as long as you rinse them after each use and let them dry, they don’t build up with dirt or mold.

Best bath toys for babies under six months?

Bath toys can make time in the tub so much more fun for your little one. Here are a few of my favorites for the younger set:

And while I’m at it, here are a few favorite picks for older babies and toddlers:

You can find more bath toy favorites in our Best Bath Toys guide.

And a pro tip around bath toys in general: always let them dry out completely after every use and clean them often! It’s a massive pain, I know. But mold buildup is not something you want in your bath toys (or anywhere, really). Some bath toys are dishwasher-safe, so take advantage of that if your toys allow it. If not, a quick soak every once in a while in a bucket of a white vinegar + water solution will do the trick.

Best towels for babies to grow into

There are a few towels I like that are on the larger side and offer plenty of room to take you from the baby days through the toddler years.

  • Pottery Barn’s hooded towels are my go-to. They’re super soft, really absorbent and come in a ton of adorable designs. They can also be personalized. They make two sizes, baby and kid. While your newborn will definitely be swimming in the kid size, you’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll grow into it, so I recommend that one if you really want a towel that will go the distance.
  • Loulou Lollipop’s hooded towel comes in a lot of fun patterns and runs larger than average, so you may want to check that one out as well.

For more towel picks, check out our guide to the Best Bath Towels and Robes.

What are the best baby bath soaps?

Choosing a baby shampoo and body wash is a mix of keeping a few basic guidelines in mind plus finding something that works for your little one’s skin.

When you’re looking over ingredients, you’ll want to avoid:

  • Excessive fragrances (and sometimes even any fragrances altogether)
  • Harsh chemicals (think along the lines of things like parabens or sulfates)
  • Eye irritation (anything “no tear” isn’t necessary but also isn’t a bad idea)

It also may take a bit of trial and error to find the right shampoo and body wash for your baby’s skin. What irritates one baby may not cause any reaction at all on another, so feel free to sample a few different brands before committing.

Head over to the Best Baby Shampoo & Body Wash guide for more information on how to choose a baby body wash and shampoo and our favorite brand picks.

How do I bathe baby while traveling?

Traveling with a baby can pose lots of challenges, and bathtime can be one of them. But don’t get too discouraged! There are lots of hacks to make bathing your baby while you’re on vacation totally doable.

  • If you’re traveling by car and have the space, just bring your infant tub right along with you.
  • Pressed for space or taking a plane to your destination? Consider packing a sink insert like the Puj or the Blooming Bath Lotus. Both are completely flat and are easy to fit in a suitcase or a duffel bag, and the Lotus can even be used in a regular tub as a floor cushion if your baby is too big for sink baths.
  • And speaking of bath cushions, the bath sponge mentioned several times above is a great travel bath hack. It packs flat or can even be rolled up and rubber banded for easy storage while on the go and can be used as a cushion in an adult-sized bathtub.
  • No tub where you’re staying and no room to pack one? Consider showering with your baby. It can get slippery, though, so I like to wrap baby up in a large towel while holding them in the shower so you can keep a good grip.
  • And when in doubt, skip the bath altogether and do a quick sponge bath on a bed or other supportive surface. Babies don’t get all that dirty, anyway!

Babylist Staff

Babylist editors and writers are parents themselves and have years of experience writing and researching, coming from media outlets like Motherly, the SF Chronicle, the New York Times and the Daily Beast, and the fields of early childhood education and publishing. We research and test hundreds of products, survey real Babylist parents and consult reviews in order to recommend the best products and gear for your growing family.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.