Rub-a-dub bub: tips to help make bath time tears-free

Not sure how or when to bath your newborn? Check out our tears-free guide to bathing your baby.

Bath time is so much more than just getting clean; it can be a special time to bond or play with your baby and help you relax together.  

How often should you bath your newborn?

Kaye Dyson is Manager of the Breastfeeding Service and Childbirth Education department at the Royal Women's Hospital in Victoria. “Some babies really enjoy bath time, and parents can use it as a time for relaxation and to bond and play with their baby,” she says. “But other babies don’t like it, so if it’s stressful you may prefer to do a bath every second or third day.”
 
On the days where you don’t give them a bath, Dyson suggests giving your baby a sponge bath, using a warm, damp face cloth to clean your baby’s nappy area and the folds of their skin, then drying them thoroughly with a soft towel.

Where should I bath them?

It’s really up to you and whatever is most convenient. “You could use your laundry trough or your bathroom basin, or have a baby bath that sits in or over the big bath,” suggests Dyson. Wherever you choose, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s safe, not over filled, and that you can easily pour away the water to avoid having to lug it elsewhere. 

The most important thing to remember however is NEVER  leave your baby unattended in the bath, or on a bench or table top. Make sure you are prepared and have everything you need, such as towels and a change of clothes, within easy reach. 

How hot should the water be?

Babies can easily be scalded if the bath water is too hot. It’s recommended that the water be about 37 degrees Celsius – pleasantly warm, but not hot. 

Which is why it’s really important to check the water temperature before putting your baby in the bath. Whilst your elbow or the skin on the inside of your wrist may be a very rough guide to how hot the bathwater is, it’s much safer and more accurate to use a proper baby bath thermometer to check the water  – it can double up as a fun bath toy.
Parent in shower with baby

How should I hold them in the bath?

“We recommend holding the baby so that the back of their head is leaning against your forearm and your fingers are looped around the baby’s arm that is furthest away from you,” says Kaye. This way you have a good grip, so your baby can’t fall out of your grasp. Vitally, it also leaves one hand free to wash your baby!

What products can I use when bathing my baby?

 It’s not recommended to use soap when bathing your baby as it can be too drying for their sensitive skin. If you do want to use something other than just warm water, Dyson suggests a soap-free bath product designed especially for babies.

Can I bath or shower with my baby?

Dyson says it’s fine to bathe in an adult-sized bath together, or to take a shower with your baby. “Just have another adult present to pass the baby to and from the bath,” she advises. “You don’t want a wet, slippery person trying to handle a wet, slippery baby.”

Baby massage

If your baby is relaxed after the bath, you may also want to give them a short massage to help relax or sooth them. Find out more tips on baby massage.  

Bath time can be a great way to bond and spend special time with your child, but don’t worry if it’s not easy at first, it just takes time and practice. 
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