Baby bath time: how often?
A bath 2-3 times a week is enough to keep your baby clean. But if your baby really likes baths, you can bath baby once a day. Bathing more than this can dry out your baby’s skin.
You can keep your baby’s genitals clean between baths by using warm water and cotton wool.
About 5-10 minutes is long enough for a baby bath. This is especially important if your baby has dry or sensitive skin.
A ‘top and tail’ bath is when you use cotton wool and warm water for your baby’s eyes and face, and a washcloth for your baby’s hands and bottom. ‘Topping and tailing’ means you can concentrate on the areas that really need a wash, and your baby can keep most of their clothes on while you do it.
When to give your baby a bath
You can bath your baby at any time of the day. It’s a good idea to pick a time when you’re relaxed and you won’t be interrupted. Try not to bath your baby when they’re hungry or straight after a feed.
If bathing relaxes your baby, you can use it as a way to settle your baby in the evening. Some babies sleep longer after an evening bath.
Where to bath your baby
You can bath your baby in a baby bath until they’re too big to fit comfortably. Then it might be easier to bath your baby in the big bath.
You can help babies get used to the big bath by putting the small baby bath into the big bath a few times.
Once your baby is ready for the big bath, you might like to take a bath with your baby (while keeping safe and having an extra person around to help).
You can also shower with your baby. Keep your baby’s face away from the pouring water and make sure the water isn’t too hot.
A big bath allows more room for games and toys. Bath toys can be very simple – try a plastic cup or a washcloth to start with. Or you could take your baby for ‘swims’ up and down the bath – just support under your baby’s body and head (or chin, if they’re lying on their tummy).
Setting up a baby bath safely: tips
Drowning and scalds are the two main risks with bath time. With these simple tips, you can avoid these risks and keep bath time fun and safe for your baby:
- Take the phone off the hook or turn your phone off while bathing your baby. You’ll be less likely to get distracted.
- Make sure you have everything you need nearby – for example, towel, washcloth, bath toys, lotion or shampoo, clean clothes and clean nappy. This way you can keep your eyes and hands on your baby at all times.
- Make sure all bath lotions, shampoos and electrical appliances are out of baby’s reach.
- Take off your watch and jewellery. Wash your hands.
- Check the water temperature is 37-38°C before you put your baby in.
- Dry and dress your baby on a towel on the floor if possible. It’s safer than on a change table. If you’re using a change table, always keep one hand on your baby.
- Place your baby in a safe area like a cot after they’re dry and dressed.
- Empty the bath as soon as you’re finished with it. Remove bath plugs from the bath when they’re not in use.
Children can drown in a few seconds in very shallow water. Never leave your baby alone in the bath, even if you’re using a bath seat or cradle. Never leave older children or siblings to supervise. If you’re disturbed by the phone or another task, take your baby out of the bath.
Baby bath time: step by step
Here are basic steps for giving your baby a bath:
- Put a non-slip bath mat on the bathroom floor and one in the bath.
- Fill the bath with just enough water to wash your baby. For babies who can sit up, fill the bath to the depth of their belly buttons.
- Use warm (not hot) water, about 37°C or 38°C. Turn the water off. Test the temperature with a thermometer or your wrist or elbow before you put baby into the bath.
- Briefly run cold water through the tap.
- Gently lower your baby into the bath, keeping a hand on your baby at all times.
- If bathing your baby in the big bath, kneel down or sit on a low stool so that you don’t hurt your back.
- Shampoo your baby’s hair last (you need to do this only once or twice a week). To do this, lie baby on their back and gently rinse their hair.
- Use a soft washcloth to gently clean your baby’s face, then their neck and body, leaving the genitals and bottom until last.
- Gently lift your baby out of the bath and wrap them in a soft dry towel to keep them warm.
Try to keep soap, shampoos and bubble baths to a minimum – they can irritate skin and cause nappy rash. A mild non-soap cleanser is a good alternative.
Your baby will probably try to pull themselves up or stand up in the bath. If you can’t stop them trying this, at least make sure you’re holding them so they can’t slip. You might like to use a non-slip bath mat and have a non-slip surface in your bath.