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 your baby once a day. Bathing more than this can dry out your baby’s skin.
About 5-10 minutes is long enough for a baby bath. This is especially important if your baby has dry or sensitive skin.
When to bath babies
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 they’ve just had 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 babies
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 your baby 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. Many babies enjoy playing with simple plastic cups. If you’re buying bath toys, look for ones that don’t trap water and can be easily cleaned. You could also 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 main risks with bath time. With these tips, you can avoid these risks and keep bath time fun and safe for your baby:
- Take the phone off the hook or turn off your phone 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, mild baby cleanser and 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 your 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. Test the temperature with a thermometer or your wrist or elbow before you put your baby into the bath. Also run cold water through the tap before turning it off.
- 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 warm water to wash your baby. For babies who can sit up, fill the bath to the depth of their belly buttons.
- Gently lower your baby into the bath, always keeping a hand on your baby.
- If you’re bathing your baby in the big bath, kneel or sit on a low stool so that you don’t hurt your back.
- Use a soft washcloth and water to gently clean your baby’s face. Then use a clean washcloth and mild baby cleanser to clean your baby’s neck and body, leaving the genitals and bottom until last.
- Wash your baby’s hair once or twice a week. It’s best to do this after you wash the rest of your baby’s body, so your baby’s head doesn’t get cold. While you support your baby in the bath, gently splash water onto their head and wipe their head with a clean washcloth. Use shampoo only when your baby has more hair, oily-looking hair or is more active.
- Gently lift your baby out of the bath and wrap them in a soft dry towel to keep them warm.
Avoid soap and bubble baths, and try to keep shampoos to a minimum – they can all irritate skin and cause nappy rash.
As your baby gets older, they’ll probably try to pull themselves up or stand up in the bath. If you can’t stop your baby from doing this, at least make sure you’re holding them so they can’t slip. This is why it’s good to use a non-slip bath mat or have a non-slip surface in your bath.
Keeping babies clean between baths: top and tail baths
If your baby doesn’t like baths, you can give them a ‘top and tail’ bath one day and a proper bath the next.
A ‘top and tail’ bath is when you clean only your baby’s:
- eyes and face
You can leave most of your baby’s clothes on for a ‘top and tail’ bath. Or you can take off your baby’s clothes, and wrap your baby in a soft towel.
To clean your baby’s eyes and face, use cotton wool or a soft washcloth and warm water.
To clean your baby’s hands, bottom and genitals, use fresh cotton wool or a different washcloth and warm water with a mild baby cleanser.
‘Topping and tailing’ means you can concentrate on the areas that really need a wash, and your baby can stay warm in their clothes or wrapped in a towel while you do it.