Taking Baby in the Bath with You

Bathing with your baby is a convenient way for you to mix play, skin-on-skin contact, warmth, and massage all at once. In this article, we show you how to do so in ways that are safe and enjoyable for both of you.

Playing it safe

Here are some tips to help you make bathing with your baby safe:

  • Always check the water temperature before you bring your baby into the tub.
  • Plan ahead for the bath and have everything you need nearby: shampoo, washcloth, car/infant seat (to place your baby in while you get in and out of the tub), towels (one for you, too!), soap, and tub toys.
    If you plan to give your baby an after-bath massage, place a diaper and change of clothes near where you will be giving the massage, such as near the changing table.
  • If you're bathing with a newborn, have your partner or a helper nearby.
  • Check the perimeter ledge of the tub beforehand and make sure that everything your little one can reach with her hands is safe. (Move those razors!)
  • Keep in mind how slippery your little one will be when she's soaped up!

Bathing with a newborn

A baby's first bath can be very stressful: Your baby may be terrified of being placed in a small tub of water, and you may feel like a bad parent for making him cry. You may be able to skip the stress by taking your baby in the bath with you. Most newborns love this experience; the combination of feeling the warm water and hearing your heartbeat and voice makes your baby feel as if he is back in the womb.

Be sure you wait until your baby's umbilical cord falls off before giving him a full bath. If you are unsure about this, ask your family doctor or pediatrician. And keep in mind that newborns need to be bathed only once or twice a week.

The first couple of times you bring your newborn in the bath with you can be a little nerve-racking because of the combination of your baby's slippery, soapy skin and lack of head control. But with practice, you can make the experience comfortable and fun. Here are some tips to make it a safe and pleasurable experience for both of you:

  • For your first couple of baths, have someone with you who can help you bring your baby in and out of the tub and soap him up.
  • Fill the tub approximately two-thirds full before you get in, and check that the temperature is warm but not too hot.
    Be sure to watch the water level when your baby is placed on your chest. If it's too close to his mouth and nose, let some water out.
  • Keep an infant or car seat near the tub, and place your baby's towel inside the seat. Before you get in the bath, put your baby in the seat.
  • Get in the tub first by yourself. If you're taking your first bath since giving birth, go ahead and take a few minutes by yourself before bringing your baby in with you. You will really appreciate the break!
  • Have your partner (or helper) slowly and gently place your baby chest-down on top of your chest.
    Your baby responds to your emotions. If you are calm and relaxed, your baby will be, too.
  • Gently hold your baby and feel him relax and melt into your skin.
  • Have your partner or helper soap up a soft baby's washcloth and gently wash your baby. Keep a squirt bottle nearby to help rinse your baby off.
    In the early days, it may be difficult to wash the front side of your baby's body. You can wash his belly on the changing table with a sponge bath if necessary.
  • Spend a few minutes just holding your little one and rubbing his back.
  • When it's time to get out of the bath, have your helper or partner take the baby out first and immediately place him in the car seat. Wrap the towel around him (like a cocoon) to keep him warm.

Some people recommend breastfeeding during the bath. It is a very pleasurable experience for your baby to be nursed and surrounded by warm water. However, most newborns' elimination process occurs immediately following a feeding, so nursing in the bathtub may not be so pleasurable for you!

Bathing with your older baby

When your baby begins to gain some head control, you can bring eye contact and play into your bath. By bending your knees and placing your baby with her back against your thighs, you and she are in a good position to give and receive smiles, laughter, and love. You can also wash her belly!

Here are some tips to make bathing with your older baby fun and safe:

  • Place a car/infant seat (with your baby's towel inside) next to the tub.
  • Put your baby in the car/infant seat, and after you are in the tub, reach over the side and pick her up. You will be able to put her back in the car/infant seat the same way after you've finished bathing.
  • Have some brightly colored floating toys in the tub for her to play with. Encourage splashing!
  • If your baby is 6 months or older, place him or her in a seated position on your extended legs, facing out. This will make your baby feel like a big boy or girl!
  • Finish the bath chest-to-chest with your baby. Let her feel her legs and arms floating, and watch her relax.
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