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 him 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 her 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 her 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. And it’s best to avoid bathing your baby when he’s hungry or straight after a feed.
If your baby likes a bath and it seems to relax her, you can use bathing as a way to help settle her in the evening. Some babies sleep longer after an evening bath.
Where to bath your baby
By now, your baby might be too big for a plastic baby bath. This means it’s probably time to make the change to the big bath.
Some babies love having the extra space in the big bath. But some babies are a bit upset by it. You can help make the transition easier 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 him (while keeping safe and having an extra person around to help). Mum can even breastfeed baby in the bath if you want.
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. But your baby doesn’t need lots of toys in the bath, and toys can be very simple. For example, your baby will love to watch you pour water from a plastic cup, or might like to play with the washcloth. Or you could take her for ‘swims’ up and down the bath – just support under her body and head (or chin, if she’s lying on her 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 at hand – 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.
- Check the water temperature is 37-38°C before you put your baby in.
- Place your baby in a safe area like a cot when you take him out of the bath.
- 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 floor and one in the bath.
- Fill the bath to about 8 cm.
- Use warm (not hot) water, about 37°C or 38°C. Turn the water off and test the temperature 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 her at all times.
- 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 your baby on his back and gently rinse his hair.
- Use a soft washcloth to gently clean your baby’s face, then her neck and body, leaving her genitals and bottom until last.
- Gently lift your baby out of the bath and wrap him in a soft dry towel to keep him warm.
Although your baby is older now, it’s still a good idea to keep soap, shampoos and bubble baths to a minimum – they can irritate skin and cause nappy rash.
Your baby will probably try to pull herself up or stand up in the bath. If you can’t stop her trying this, at least make sure you’re holding her so she can’t slip. You might like to use a non-slip bathmat and have a non-slip surface in your bath.