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Bath time safety for babies: 6 tips parents need to know

Many parents look forward to their baby’s first bath and from there, a love of water can grow for your child. But there are many hidden dangers lurking when your child is in the bath, such as scalding or drowning. Don’t worry though, they can all be avoided as long as you follow some basic precautions for bath time safety for babies that will keep your baby safe while they splash.

We’ll cover all of those bath time safety precautions in this article and explain how to avoid them so you and your baby enjoy bath time safely.

Table of Contents

bath time safety

1. Set up for safety

One of the easiest mistakes to make when you’re bathing your infant is to forget a towel. Even if you think that nipping to grab a towel is risk free, it can take a matter of seconds for your child to fall face first into the water.

Before you put your child into the bath, make sure you have everything to hand; a fluffy towel, bath products such as body wash and shampoo and lay clean clothes out on their bed. Another top tip for bath time safety for babies is to learn basic infant CPR so if the worst was to happen, you’d know what to do while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

When your baby has had enough in the bath, wrap them in the towel and keep them close to you. Make sure the room is a good temperature and dry them immediately. Now would be a good time to practice some baby massage to calm them down and help with the bonding process.

2. Fill the bath safely – right temperature and water level

Baby skin is more sensitive than an adult’s so what seems cool to you could be too hot for an infant. One of the ways you can check the temperature of a baby’s bath water is so stick your elbow in as the skin is more sensitive there. However, a more accurate way is to invest in a bath thermometer. The ideal temperature is between 37°C and 38°C. If it’s a hot night and you’re trying to keep your newborn cool, then lean towards the lower end.

Never put a baby in the bath while the water is still running. The reasons for this are that the water temperature can fluctuate from a running tap so it could become too cold or too hot for your baby. The noise could also be too much for a young baby and they could associate bath time with feeling scared, meaning they won’t enjoy it and you’ll have a fight on your hands to get them clean.

If you’re bathing a newborn, don’t fill the bathtub more than around 8-10cm of water. When your child is older and sitting independently, hip height is ideal.

Another tip for bath time safety for babies is that you can set your water heater to the ideal temperature for your baby. This way, you’re not worried that it’s going to be too warm as it comes out of the tap and it’s an easy precaution to take before you start filling up the bath.

3. Never leave baby unsupervised

Perhaps the most important tip for bath time safety for babies (and water safety in general) is to never leave your baby unsupervised. As mentioned above, it can literally take a matter of seconds for your baby to drown in a few inches of water. Babies won’t make any noise if they get into difficulty so you wouldn’t know until it was too late.

Even if your baby is in a bath support or a seat, they could still wriggle off. Older children don’t understand the dangers of water and they could slip over while playing and drown.

As your baby gets older, teach them to always sit down in the bath. Make sure you explain to them, in an age appropriate way, the dangers of the bath so they understand the importance of following the rules. It’s also a good habit to empty the bath as soon as they’re done so the risk of drowning is gone.

4. Use baby safe soaps and shampoos

Baby skin isn’t just sensitive to heat, it’s pretty sensitive to everything which is why their clothes are so soft and we’re told to use non-bio when washing their clothes. This also extends to the products that we use on them in the bath.

However, it’s not only their skin that can be delicate. Their eyes are also really sensitive. The best thing to use on their face is a soft washcloth or flannel that has been soaked in warm water; the same temperature that you’d make their bath water. Gently wipe their eyes from the inner corners outwards and then do the rest of their face.

You don’t need to apply any product to the actual bath water. Bubble baths are great for toddlers because the bubbles can entice them into the water but for a newborn, additional products aren’t necessary. Choose a gentle body and hair wash that you can apply to your baby and keep the water clear.

There are loads of baby shampoo and body wash options out there, such as this one from Weleda Baby. Take some time to look around and find one that works for your baby’s sensitive skin.

5. Baby proof your tub

Have you ever slipped while getting in and out of your tub? Everyone has, whether it was a little stumble or it resulted in something bigger. If an adult can lose their footing in the bath, it needs to be made safer if you’re bathing a baby in it. Invest in a non-slip bath mat such as this one from Munchkin. It can create a better surface on the bottom of the bath and reduce the risk of slipping, especially if your baby is able to sit in the bath without a seat.

A bath thermometer was mentioned above, this will always come in useful when bathing a baby. They don’t have to be boring either; this Nuby bath thermometer is shaped like a turtle!

Another way to make your tub baby friendly and enhance bath time safety for babies is to get a spout cover. Tap spouts have sharp edges that could seriously hurt a baby or child, not to mention the burns that could happen if a child touched it.

There’s also the topic of making bath time more comfortable for you. It’s really unpleasant kneeling on a hard floor reaching over the bath to hold your baby. Try a kneeling pad or even a stool; your back and knees will thank you for it.

6. Keep bathtub clean – avoid mould and bacteria

It goes without saying that your bathroom should be clean. It’s where your entire family cleans themselves so a lot of dirt can build up quite quickly. However, when you’re cleaning your bath and bathroom, try and use products that don’t contain harsh chemicals. Even after rinsing it away, the chemicals can linger and really irritate skin.

Another thing to remember is to avoid bleach as much as you can. If you must use bleach to clear a blocked drain or remove a stubborn stain, make sure it’s not near bath time.

Believe it or not, kids bath toys are massive harbourers of germs and mould (and even poop). Most of them have a hole in where the water gets sucked inside, goes stagnant and mould grows. A simple way of dealing with this is to glue the hole closed before giving it to your child.

Invest in a bath toy storage, gather up the toys and bath books when your child is done in the bath and pop them into it. The water will drain and mould won’t grow. Give them a wipe down with some dish soap and a cloth every time you clean the bathroom to remove any lingering germs, or we cover other ways of deep cleaning your bath toys here.

Frequently Asked Questions: Bath time Safety for Babies

bath time safety

When can I first give my newborn a bath?

You can give your baby a bath from the day they’re born but most parents prefer to wait until the umbilical stump has fallen off (and newborn is healed if circumcised) as it can be tricky trying to avoid it. You can give them a top and tail bath, though if you feel they need it. Simply wet a flannel and gently wipe your baby. Plain water is best for a baby’s skin for a few weeks.

How often can I bath my baby?

It’s entirely up to you but bathing your baby too much will result in their skin drying out. Around 2-3 times a week is enough, some parents do it less frequently though. Make sure you follow their bath with a baby lotion or baby oil to keep their skin baby soft.

Can I take a bath with my baby?

A lot of parents use bathing with their baby as a bonding exercise, especially dads. Make sure you feel comfortable in bathing your baby first and if you feel you need it, have someone nearby who can hand you the baby and take them away when they’ve had enough.

How often should I wash my baby’s hair?

You can wash your baby’s hair every time they have a bath, it’s good for them to get used to the sensation. If they have cradle cap, you can wash their hair more frequently to try and get rid of it. Try a specialist cradle cap shampoo and a gentle bristle brush. These two combined should shift it fairly quickly.

Do I need a baby bathtub?

A baby bathtub can be useful for those first few weeks while you’re getting used to your baby. They’re a lot smaller than a regular tub so babies can feel more comfortable in them, plus they’re portable so everyone can join in with bathing the baby. However, they’re not necessary. As long as you feel confident, you can bath your baby in a regular tub right from the beginning.

How do I safely support a young baby in the bath?

If you’re using a bath seat, follow the instructions provided with it to ensure you and your baby are safe. If not, gently lower your baby into the water with one hand firmly on their bottom and the other hand under their shoulders to support their head. When they’re in the water, gently slide the hand out that was under their bottom and use this to wash them. 

Wrapping Up

Bath time can be fun and exciting for both parent and child. There’s no reason that it has to be dangerous as long as the points listed above for bath time safety for babies are followed. Enjoy bathing your baby, use it as a bonding experience and an excuse for you and your baby to play together.