Bathing Your Baby (6 months-2 years)
How to Bathe Your Baby
You’ve finally started to get used to bathing your baby. You know what toys he likes best at bath time, which soaps don’t irritate his skin, and even his favorite towel. But he’s still as slippery as ever and can sometimes be nearly impossible to get in and out of the tub. Here are a few things to help you make bathing your baby as easy as possible on yourself:
- A baby bath towel washed in appropriate baby detergent
- Sterile cotton balls to clean his or her eyes
- At least two soft washcloths – one for soaping and one for rinsing. It’s not necessary to buy washcloths specifically for your baby (though they are typically smaller in size, cuter, and can potentially match your towels or baby d’cor).
- Baby body soap and tear-free shampoo: Your baby is now getting to an age where you want to start washing her with a very mild, gentle baby-formulated soap and a tear-free baby shampoo for her hair. You won’t need to wash her hair every day, though. Only once or twice a week will do. The best baby soaps don’t contain added perfumes or dyes, which can be hard on sensitive baby skin. Avoid anti-bacterial cleansers, soaps and products containing alcohol, which dry can out soft baby skin.
- Fresh diapers and ointment for diaper rash
- Clean clothes
- Newborn tub. As your baby gets bigger, he’s ready to be transitioned out of the baby tub, but sometimes that transition takes a little longer, especially if your baby seems nervous in the big tub. Keep the newborn tub on hand just in case.
- 1-3 hooded towels. A towel with a hood will help you keep baby’s head warm just out of the bath – and these are some of the cutest towels you’ve ever seen.
- Extra cotton balls or squares and Q-tips. Cotton balls and Q-tips are convenient for cleaning behind ears, under arms or anywhere that needs closer attention.
- Brush and comb. Baby’s hair is starting to grow in, so you might need a brush or comb.
- Baby skincare. Beyond a gentle soap, you don’t need much, but many parents use sweet smelling lotions, cleansing cloths, powders or other goodies. Just make sure to always check for any reaction. Your baby’s delicate skin can respond differently than adult skin to fragrances.
Additional items: You may want a few more items to make baths easier or more fun.
- Thermometers make sure bathwater isn’t too hot.
- Bath toys
- A spout cover to protect baby’s head.
- Tub treads keep a tub in place on the bathtub surface.
- A container for bath toys.
How Much Water
Don’t put too much water in the tub – never more than waist-high (in sitting position) for babies. And never keep the water running while baby is in tub. The temperature can change quickly and you always want to control the depth.
Babies don’t need to soak like we do, so there’s no need to submerge your baby. But if your baby seems cold, you may pour warm cups of water over her, slowly, to keep her from getting a chill.
Your baby won’t like a bath as warm as you do, so testing the water is very important.
- Make the water warm but not hot. Your hands are tougher than baby skin and therefore won’t feel heat like a baby’s bum will.
- Test the tub by dipping your elbow into the water; it’s more sensitive than your hands.
- Mix the water around with your hands or a cup to ensure there are no scalding spots.
- A lukewarm tub is perfect for baby, anywhere between 90ºF and 100ºF.
- For comfort, carefully pour small cups of water over baby regularly to keep him from getting cold.
How Often and When
Some parents choose to bathe baby every day at this point, but until yours is crawling and getting messy, a daily bath isn’t really necessary. A full bath should be given at least twice a week. On the days in between, just wash the little face and ears and thoroughly clean the genital area after each diaper change.
What Type of Tub
Baby should transition into a big tub when he can start sitting up on his own. Until then, use a plastic tub or baby tub for your bathing beauty.
- If baby fusses about going in the big tub, you can place the baby tub he’s used to into the big tub until he’s more comfortable.
- It’s also appropriate to give baby a sponge-off between baths if the transition is difficult. Make sure you have plenty of baby washcloths on hand for this.
Holding and Positions
It is important to always keep at least one hand on your baby in the bath tub. By now you’ve learned that they can be slippery and wiggly when in soapy bath water.
- After undressing your baby, place him very gently in the tub feet-first. Always make sure you keep one hand supporting his head, neck and back.
- Some baby tubs come with built-in head and neck supports, but still make sure you keep a hand on your baby.
- Wash your baby with your free hand.
- Be careful lifting your baby from the bath. Again, make sure to support the head and neck with one hand and to hold the tiny tush and thigh with the other. This is often referred to as the safety hold.
You’ve been washing baby for a while now, but the big tub changes things.
- Start with the face. Use one sterile cotton ball for each eye, gently wiping from the inner eye outward. For the rest of the face, wash using just water. Then move to the chest and neck. Use a small dab of soap, especially if the baby is particularly dirty for some reason. Do the same for the arms, legs and back. The hands and feet will need a small dab of baby soap as well, but make sure to rinse completely as they’ll surely end up in your baby’s mouth in no time.
- Make sure you always clean in all of those adorable folds; scary things can be hiding in there.
- Lastly, wash the baby’s genitals. For girls, wash front to back with water.
- You may choose to wash your baby’s hair in the tub if they are a bit older and strong, or out of the tub if you’re more secure that way. To wash the hair over the sink, wrap your baby in a dry towel and hold him in a football hold. Use a cup to pour warm water over the scalp, and then wash the hair with just water or with a small amount of shampoo.
Bath time is a perfect time to bond with your baby. By forming rituals with your children, bath-time can become something you all look forward to.
- Your baby has probably taken a deeper interest in toys by now, so be sure to add fun and interesting playthings into every tub. Give a favorite ducky a name or make a puppet wash cloth talk. If you don’t have any tub toys, plastic spoons and containers can work just as well.
- Schedule a bath time and be consistent. Some parents prefer morning baths as they can be invigorating for baby, but most parents seem to agree that evening is the best time. Baths can be quite calming and help give baby a good night’s rest. But there is no wrong time of day, so find the time that works for you.
- Repeat certain phrases again and again. Saying “Head back” or “close your eyes” prepares your baby for what’s to come.
- Making your own rituals will happen naturally. Whether it’s singing a certain song or climbing in too, bath time can be fun. Enjoy it!
Baby’s post-bath routine is just as important as the actual bath, especially if baby’s next stop is bed. You’re more comfortable with baby’s needs by now, but it’s still important not to miss anything.
- Dry your baby well and apply any needed ointment before diapering, clothing and swaddling.
- Find clothes with snaps or zipper closures and wide openings for the neck. Now is not the time to be fumbling with buttons. Onesies can be super cozy for baby and easy for you.
- Take the opportunity to sing and talk to your little one, both for distraction and bonding. Explain what color the shirt and pants are, count how many snaps you’re fastening, and label each body part as you kiss them.
- Instead of trying to pull sleeves and pants over flailing limbs, try reaching into the openings and pulling his or her extremities through.
- Despite all the spit-up and bowel explosions, try to keep wardrobe changes to an absolute minimum. The laundry will pile up fast enough as it is.
- Don’t over-dress babies at night. Believe it or not, babies are comfortable in 61 to 67 degrees, dressed in light pajamas and a sleeper or swaddling blanket. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overheating increases a baby’s risk of SIDS.