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How to Give Your Baby a Bath
Updated on
April 30, 2023

How to Give Your Baby a Bath

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How to Give Your Baby a Bath

Is the thought of baby bath time stressing you out? Between worrying about the right water temperature to figuring out which type of bathtub is best, thinking about bathing your little one can be a little overwhelming, especially the first time around.

The good news? It’s not as scary as it may seem. (We promise!) We’re taking you through bath time bootcamp, including choosing a tub, how to bathe your little one step-by-step and the gear we love to keep your little one safe, comfortable and happy while they’re splashing away.

What’s the best baby bathtub?

There a few factors to consider when choosing a baby bathtub, but the two biggest are your baby’s age and the amount of space you have in your home.

Sink Baths

Sink baths—inserts that rest inside your bathroom sink or kitchen sink—are a great choice for younger babies who may feel overwhelmed in a regular tub (and for nervous new parents who may feel just as overwhelmed!). They’re also a great choice if you live in a smaller home and don’t want to maneuver around a giant plastic baby bath every time you head into your bathroom to brush your teeth.

The Lotus and the Boon Soak are two of our favorites in this category. Just make sure they fit properly into the sink you’re planning on bathing your baby in before you buy.

Collapsible Tubs

If you like the idea of saving a bit of space but still want a standalone tub option, collapsible tubs make a good choice. These tubs can be used alone or inside a regular bathtub and fold for easy storage (some even include a hook for hanging), making them ideal for homes with less storage space.

We love the OXO Tot Splash & Store option for its modern design and two-position recline, and the Stokke Flexi that works through the toddler years and folds completely flat when not in use.

Standard Baby Bathtubs

If storage isn’t an issue, then a standard baby bathtub may be the right option for you. Some baby bathtubs include a sling feature to safely support newborns, which you’ll remove once your little one can sit up independently. Other bathtubs like the Lalo Tub don’t require a sling for younger babies because of the tub’s backrest and contoured support.

Keep in mind that if you’re planning on using a baby tub inside your regular bathtub, there are a few key accessories worth having on hand to keep you and your little one safe and comfortable. Skip Hop’s Moby Bath Kneeler is a must-have for keeping you comfy during bath time. Lalo’s Bathtime Essentials Bundle is another good choice for saving your knees and elbows from hard surfaces. And the Frida Baby rinser helps keep the water you pour over baby’s head out of their eyes.

What temperature should baby bath water be?

Temperature-wise, you’re going for warm water, but not too warm—you don’t want your baby to be chilly, but you don’t want to risk a burn, either. This might seem like a fine line if you’re a new parent, which is why we love the White Hot Ducky from Munchkin. It’s a bath toy that doubles as a temperature gauge; “hot” appears in white letters on the bottom of the duck if it senses the water is too warm. And it comes as part of a set of Munchkin bath toys (also including a swimming scuba diver and set of tug boats), so your little one will be thoroughly entertained.

When it comes to filling the tub, you should never use more than a couple inches of water for safety reasons. There should be enough water to dip a washcloth into, but not much more than that. If your baby was to slip for any reason, the water should be low enough that it won’t get into their nose or mouth.

And it’s always better to use plain water in the tub rather than bubbly, soapy water to make sure you can see the bottom of the tub.

How often should you bathe baby?

  • There’s no set time of day when baby “should” get a bath. While baths are great for kicking off a nighttime routine once babies are past the newborn days, do what works for you in terms of your schedule and your little one’s mood.
  • Babies don’t need a bath every day. As long as you’re keeping dirt-prone areas clean (diaper, face, hands, neck, etc.) using baby wipes or a daily sponge bath, you can probably get away with giving your baby a full bath once or twice a week.
  • There’s also no need to wash your little one’s hair at every bath; simply wetting their head down with a washcloth will get the job done.
  • Babies get cold easily. Try resting a warm washcloth over your little one’s body to help them stay warm during a bath.

How to Wash a Baby

Now it’s time to get scrubbing.

  • Get organized. Make sure everything you need—washcloth, towel, baby wash, etc.—is within arm’s reach before you start bath time.
  • Scrub, scrub. Use a washcloth and a small amount of soap to gently wash your little one from head to toe. Be sure to get into every skin fold (especially if your baby has lots of those adorable, squishy rolls), and leave private parts for last so you don’t spread any bacteria elsewhere on their body. A little soap goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. If your baby looks a bit unstable, use one hand to wash and the other to gently support your little one’s body. Note: If your newborn still has their umbilical cord stump, stick to sponge baths outside of the tub until the stump falls off. Submerging the umbilical cord stump in water can prolong the healing process and potentially cause infection.
  • Get warm and dry. Once you’re done, lift your baby out of the tub (carefully—they’re slippery!) and wrap them in a soft, dry towel. We love hooded towels as they’re extra warm and comfy.

Here are a few of our favorite bath time supplies, including wash cloths, towels and baby shampoo:

What Is a Swaddle Bath?

If you’ve got a fussy baby, especially in the earliest weeks, a swaddle bath can help make baby’s first few bath times go a lot smoother.

A swaddle bath is when you loosely swaddle your baby before putting them (and the swaddle) in the tub, keeping your baby wrapped while they’re in the water. This helps them feel secure and warm, and it helps you keep a grip on your slippery, wiggly little one.

Here’s how to do a swaddle bath:

  1. Loosely swaddle your baby in a large, soft swaddle blanket.
  2. Slowly immerse your baby and the swaddle blanket into the water up to baby’s shoulders.
  3. Unwrap one section at a time (one arm, one leg, torso, etc.), wash gently with a washcloth and a small amount of soap, then rewrap. Unswaddling only one limb at a time ensures baby stays as warm and cosy as possible, rather than exposing them to the water and cool air all at once.

Here’s a helpful video showing how to do a swaddle bath.

If you give your baby a swaddle bath, the same guidance applies as for regular baths: don’t bathe baby every day (just once or twice a week is fine), make sure baby is sitting up in their tub or sink, use warm water (but not too warm!) and keep one hand supporting baby as much as possible.

Tips for Bathing Older Babies

While bath time can seem stressful during those early days, we promise it will soon turn into one of the best parts of your day when your baby gets a bit older. Most older babies love to splash and play in the water.

You might consider transitioning your little one to the regular tub around the time they start crawling, which is usually around seven to ten months old. Once your older baby or toddler is ready to explore the full range of the bath tub, be sure to invest in a good bath mat so they don’t slip and slide around on the bare tub bottom (and it’ll help you keep a steady foothold in the bath and shower, too).

A few other tips for bath time with your older babe:

And remember—almost every baby goes through a phase where bath time isn’t their thing. Don’t stress, because it’s totally normal! Try your best to keep things fun with toys, songs and whatever else you need to do to keep bath time meltdowns at a minimum.

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.