COVID-19 Information Center: get the latest on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support >>
Bathing. It’s a part of life. As adults, we know what to do, but bathing our babies and kids can get tricky.
When it’s time to bathe your newborn for the first time, will you do it right? Many parents build bath time into their child’s nightly routine. It’s a great tool to get your child to relax, unwind and prepare for sleep. But how often should you really be bathing them?
Let’s review 10 common questions about the correct way to bathe your child:
One in 5 parents have left their child alone in the bathtub or pool, and 2 in 5 admit being distracted while their child was in the tub. Never leave your child unattended or turn away from her during bath time — not even for a second. A small child can drown in an inch of water.
Have all the bath time supplies ready ahead of time and at arms-reach, such as:
Bath water should be around 100 degrees F to avoid burns. Fill the infant tub with no more than 2 inches of water. Check the water with your hand before putting your child in the tub. Never add water to the tub with your baby inside.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your newborn should have only sponge baths during her first week or two, until the stump of the umbilical cord falls off. Here’s how to sponge bath:
Once your baby’s umbilical area is healed, you can switch to a normal bath. Fill the tub before putting your baby in it, with a water level in the tub of about 3 or 4 inches. Make the first baths as gentle and brief as possible.
Experts recommend using a sturdy, hard plastic child bathtub. Avoid infant bath seats (which are capable of tipping over), or inflatable tubs (which may be more likely to collapse). Drain the tub completely after each use to avoid rust and mold.
The AAP offers some practical tips for bathing your baby:
Over-bathing your child can dry out or irritate her skin. Babies do not need to be bathed every day— three times a week or less during the first year is usually enough. Children should be bathed once or twice a week, or when they are dirty (e.g., after playing in the mud, swimming or sweating). Most kids will start to bathe daily once they hit puberty.
Most newborns, if not all, don’t need moisturizers. In fact, some can cause rashes on newborns’ sensitive skin. Ask your pediatrician if using a moisturizer is recommended (e.g., some babies with eczema should use one). Often, a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer is best.
It’s usually best to follow your child’s lead for when she shows an interest in showering. Most children don’t start taking a shower until around age 6 or 7. When she does, make sure you put a nonslip bath mat in the tub and stay nearby.
With a little practice, you can make bath time a comfortable and fun experience for your little one. And remember, always stay present and alert when your child is in the tub.
Darius Radvila, D.O., is a pediatrician at Elmhurst Clinic. Read his profile and schedule an appointment online.
Learn more about pediatrics at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Wash those hands; save yourself a trip to the doctor’s office
How to keep your kids safe in the water
Are dirt and germs as bad as we think?
If you have reached this screen, your current device or browser is unable to access the full Edward-Elmhurst Health Web site.
To see the full site, please upgrade your browser to the most recent version of Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you cannot upgrade your browser, you can remain on this site.