Most babies enjoy having a bath. It can provide a sensory experience, a distraction to end a tantrum and one of the only times children are permitted to make a (contained!) mess. But does it really matter what you put into the water?
The baby aisles in supermarkets are filled with various types of baby bubble baths, all claiming to have different benefits to your baby. But have you ever considered adding Epsom salt? Read on to learn about the healing and relaxing properties of an Epsom salt bath for babies and how to safely draw one for your infant.
Table of Contents
What is Epsom salt and how does it work?
Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulphate. It’s a chemical compound which is made up of magnesium, sulphur and oxygen. When it’s dissolved in water, Epsom salt releases magnesium and sulphate ions which can be absorbed through the skin.
Despite it’s name, Epsom salt is quite different to the table salt that we add to food. It’s believed to have received its name because the chemical structure is similar to regular salt and to the naked eye, it would be easy to mix the two up. But while some people will add Epsom salt to water and drink it, it’s got a bitter taste which won’t appeal to most. This is why Epsom salt baths are ideal.
As mentioned, Epsom salt releases magnesium and sulphate. A lot of the health benefits are attributed to the magnesium, mainly because humans don’t absorb much of this mineral in their daily lives despite it being the fourth most abundant material in the human body. Magnesium sulphate supplements are available but these aren’t recommended for babies. This is where an Epsom salt bath for baby comes in.
What are the benefits of an Epsom salt bath for babies?
When considering whether or not to give your baby an Epsom salt bath, it’s important that you learn the benefits to your baby.
Let’s go through some of the benefits of Epsom salt baths for babies.
1. Helps with sleep
Most parents struggle with sleeping when they have children. It’s very rare to hear a new parent bragging about how much sleep they’re getting so anything to help your baby to sleep has to be great right?
The magnesium in Epsom salt is believed to stimulate the release of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. It also has a calming effect on the body which is ideal before bedtime. But it’s worth noting, these effects haven’t been clinically proven.
2. Exfoliates the skin
There’s nothing like baby soft skin is there? As your baby becomes used to life outside of the womb, their skin starts to lose the softness they were born with.
The sulphate in Epsom salt removes the dead skin cells and encourages the growth of new ones. This could be a benefit to sharing an Epsom salt bath with your baby.
3. Healthy joints
Every parent wants their baby to grow up big and strong. Sulphate can help build and strengthen joints which is a great benefit, especially as your baby learns to roll over, crawl and walk.
4. Improves brain activity and focus
From the moment your baby is born, their brain is working hard to learn how to survive in the new world they’ve just arrived in.
Proper levels of magnesium can improve concentration and help babies be more alert. This is ideal as they grow out of that sleepy newborn phase and you start to see their personality more and more.
5. Helps with oxygen flow
When your baby has a cold, they can struggle to breathe. Magnesium has strong oxygenation properties which are fantastic for respiratory tracts. This can also be beneficial if your baby had some breathing properties when they were born.
These are just five of the known benefits of Epsom salt baths. There are also medicinal benefits too, such as:
- Helps with constipation
- Regulates digestion
- Repairs muscles
- Treats eczema
- Relieve psoriasis
- Remove toxins for a stronger immune system
- Helps with irritability
It is worth noting though that a lot of the benefits of Epsom salt baths haven’t been clinically proven. There’s scientific proof behind the theories and many healthcare professionals will recommend Epsom salt baths alongside medical treatment.
So, it’s down to you to decide if an Epsom salt bath could be beneficial to your baby, without science behind it.
Potential risks and precautions of Epsom salt baths for kids
As with most things, if an Epsom salt bath is given too often, it can have some side effects. This is due to the magnesium and sulphate found within Epsom salt.
Some side effects are:
- Stomach cramps
- Skin rash
Many of these side effects aren’t considered common but they are something to look out for. It’s also worth remembering to stop your baby from drinking water which has Epsom salt in. It’s unlikely that they’ll take in enough to be harmful but keep an eye on your baby if you think they’ve swallowed the bath water and contact your GP if you become concerned.
Speak to a medical professional or a pharmacist before you start giving your baby Epsom salt baths. They can advise you on the frequency, which brand you should buy and how much Epsom salt to add to an infant’s bath water.
How to prepare an Epsom salt bath for babies
Now that you’re informed with the benefits and risks of Epsom salt baths, let’s run through how to safely prepare one for your baby.
How much Epsom salt for baby?
This largely depends on how much water you’ve added to the bath. If you’re only bathing your baby in a few inches of water, start with ¼ cup and go from there. You’re looking for a slightly soapy feel to the water so keep adding until this is achieved.
How often can my baby have an Epsom salt bath?
It’s difficult to say how often your baby should have an Epsom salt bath. It is known not to do it too often as it can dry out skin and have adverse effects from the magnesium and sulphate. Once every fortnight will probably be enough.
Remember not to leave your baby in an Epsom salt bath for too long. Between 10-20 minutes is plenty of time for your baby to reap the benefits.
Steps to making an Epsom salt bath
1. Fill a tub with water
Just as you would with a normal bath, fill a baby bath, sink or adult tub with a safe amount of water. It should be enough to cover your baby’s bottom and no deeper (remember to follow our baby bath safety tips). Also remember to check the temperature. If you don’t feel confident, there are plenty of baby bath thermometers available to buy to ensure you don’t scald your baby.
2. Add the Epsom salt
Pure Epsom salt is ideal. Avoid any brand that has added fragrance or dyes to it, this could irritate sensitive newborn skin. Add the desired amount of salt (as above, start with ¼ cup) and wait for it to fully dissolve before placing your baby into the water.
3. Put your baby in the bath
If this is the first time you’ve given your baby an Epsom salt bath, place them into the water carefully and watch their reaction. If they’re happy and no rash has occurred, you can leave them to soak for 10-20 minutes before taking them out.
If they become distressed or you notice a redness on their skin, take them out and rinse them off with clean, warm water. Contact your GP if the rash persists or if your baby remains irritable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Epsom salt baths safe for babies?
Yes, as a general rule, Epsom salt baths for babies are safe. But as with everything, make sure you do your research, buy a good brand of pure Epsom salt and don’t leave them in the bath for too long.
How much magnesium do kids absorb in an Epsom salt bath?
There’s no straightforward answer to this. It depends on how much salt is used, the size of the tub, how long your baby remains in the tub…a number of variables can affect the answer.
Because the exact amount isn’t known, it’s important that you stay with your child as they have an Epsom salt bath so you can monitor any adverse effects. It’s also important to remember not to give them an Epsom salt bath too often.
Can I add baking soda to my child’s Epsom salt bath?
Again, this has a mixed response. Many adults will add baking soda to their Epsom salt baths as baking soda has cleansing and immunity boosting properties.
However, while some believe baking soda can help treat and prevent nappy rash, others believe it can dry out sensitive newborn skin. If you want to add some to your baby’s Epsom salt bath, try 1-2tbsp to begin with.
The Bottom Line
When done correctly, an Epsom salt bath for babies can have many benefits. As long as you follow the safety tips and guidance above, your baby will reap the benefits of Epsom salt and hopefully have fun in the process.