Bathtime is a great opportunity to bond with your baby. However, a newborn’s first few baths can be nerve-racking (for both of you) until you get the hang of it.
Handling a slippery little one who’s squirming, crying, or kicking — or all three — takes skills you never knew you had!
A few simple tips and techniques can make bathtime relaxing and even fun for baby and you. Here’s what the experts say about baby bath temperature, how to keep your wet baby warm while bathing them, and more.
A baby’s tender skin is super sensitive to heat, so it’s important to have the bathwater temperature just right — not too hot and not too cold. Remember, your baby’s skin is about
A bath temperature of 98.6°F (between 37°C and 38°C) is best for most babies. This temperature also helps them feel calmer and relax. Maybe it reminds them of floating in the womb!
To ensure that the temperature is just right for your little one, consider these tips:
- Always draw the bath for baby and check the water temperature before gently plopping them in.
- Never turn on the tap or run the water while your baby is in the bath. A sudden burst of hot water could cause burns.
- Check the water temperature by dipping in your hand or an elbow. Or take the guesswork out of bathtime by using a bath thermometer. Many baby bath thermometers are disguised as bath toys, so you can keep an eye on the water temperature while they pull double duty as baby’s entertainment.
Ideally, you want to finish bathing your baby quickly, before the water begins to cool. But if the bathwater cools down before baby is finished splashing around, take them out of the water and wrap them in a warm fluffy towel.
Place them safely out of the way in a bassinet or crib. Then remove some of the cold water and add in more hot water until the temperature is warm enough again.
Babies’ tiny bodies can get hot quickly but also lose heat quickly. This means that even if the bathwater is the right temperature, they may still start to feel a little chilly.
Here are some tried-and-tested tips to keep baby warm before, during, and after bathtime:
- Make sure the bathroom or room where you’re bathing your little one is warm before you begin.
- Use a space heater if needed to warm up a cool bathroom.
- Try bathing your baby in a smaller room that’s enclosed, rather than a large open area like a kitchen.
- Keep all doors and windows closed to avoid drafts.
- Before beginning bathtime, have all your supplies lined up and within reach, including a fresh towel and set of clothes for baby.
- Bathe your baby in the sink or a basin, or use a small baby bathtub instead of a regular large tub.
- Fill the basin or small baby bathtub with water and check the temperature before bringing your baby in.
- When the water is ready, get your baby undressed and slide them into the water.
- Use a washcloth or small towel to cover parts of your baby that you’re not washing to help keep them warmer.
- Keep bathtime short to avoid letting the water cool down too much.
- Give your baby a sponge bath with a clean, warm washcloth if it’s very cold or your baby is not feeling up to a bath.
- When bathtime is over, immediately wrap your baby in a soft fluffy towel and cover their head with a hood.
- Pat baby dry before dressing them.
- Warm up baby’s clothes and towel by tossing them in a dryer or letting them hang over a heating vent right before bathtime.
The first bath
If you’re getting ready to deliver your new bundle of joy, you don’t have to rush to baby’s first bath right away. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends waiting for at least 6 hours after birth before bathing your baby the first time.
Babies are born covered with a natural cheesy substance called vernix caseosa on their skin.
This “wax” helps protect them in the womb — and helps them slide out a bit more easily during birth. It also keeps baby’s skin healthy right after birth.
Ask your doctor and nurse to clean your newborn by wiping with a soft cloth. Then you can cuddle and feed for a few hours before your nurse bathes them.
Once you’re home, you’ll want to stick with sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump falls off.
Remember, babies don’t need to bathe every day. A routine of 2 to 3 baths each week is plenty for a baby. Newborns need even fewer baths.
Babies have their own natural skin oils. Bathing a baby too much can dry out their skin.
This is also why doctors recommend keeping bathtime short. In between baths, you can give baby a sponge bath or wipe down.
Spot-clean as needed on their head, face, body, or diaper area. For an explosive diaper situation, you can do a quick partial bath to rinse off their skin.
How much water to use
You also don’t need to fill the basin or tub very much. About 2 inches (5 centimeters) of warm water is enough. If you’d prefer, you can use more water — just enough to cover your baby’s shoulders.
Other kinds of baths
If your baby has very dry skin or a skin condition like eczema, ask your pediatrician about adding breast milk or oatmeal powder to the bathwater to help soothe and protect baby’s delicate skin.
Finally, never leave your baby alone or with another child during bathtime.
Don’t leave them even for a minute. If you need to step out, take your baby out of the bathwater, wrap them in a towel, and either take them with you or leave them in a safe place like their crib.
Baby’s bathtime can be stressful, especially the first few times. However, with a few expert tips, you — and your little one — will soon be bathing pros.
Learning how to get the bathwater temperature just right will keep your baby safe and comfortable during bathing. Other bathing tips like heating up the bathroom before beginning bathtime also help keep things toasty.
If your baby has dry skin or any kind of skin rash like eczema, ask your pediatrician about the best way to bath or wash them.