Where can I bathe my newborn baby?

When it comes to caring for your newborn baby, bathing is probably the one thing that new parents feel more nervous about. New babies seem so tiny and fragile, and we, as parents, are aware of being so ‘new to the job’ that it’s completely normal to feel a little anxious and nervous. We’ve all been there!

Of course bathing is covered in our BabyNatal Practical Baby Care classes and, for the teachers who offer it, in our Caring for your Newborn courses, which also include Paediatric First Aid, Colic and Calming and Sleep. One of the things we cover when talking about bathing is where you can bathe your little one. As with many other things baby-related, parents have different options. And as always, we like to encourage parents to consider and discuss the choices available to them, in order to make decisions that work for them as a family.

But before we go into any more details, here are a few key safety reminders for you.

  • Make sure the water temperature is right for your baby, before you put the baby in.
    • You can check the water temperature with your elbow. As you put the elbow in the water, it shouldn’t feel too hot or too cold.
    • If you’re unsure use a bath thermometer – most thermometers will indicate an ideal temperature of 37 degrees C to 38 degrees C, which is around body temperature.
    • If you use separate taps to fill up the bath / baby bath etc. consider putting cold water in first and then adding hot water afterwards. This is because hot water can easily reach scolding temperatures.
  • Ensure that the baby is immersed in the water up to shoulder level.
  • Be careful of taking a wet, slippery baby out of the water.

So, with those important safety considerations at the forefront of our minds, where can we give our babies a bath?

  1. In the bath tub

If you have a bath tub at home, you don’t have to necessarily buy a baby bath. Nothing stops you from using ‘the big bath’. Here’s are a few points to keep in mind if you decide to use the family bath tub.

  • It may be uncomfortable for you (and your back) to hold your baby in the water over the side of the bath. If it is, you can either consider another option or keep bath time nice and short at first. After all, babies don’t roll in the mud, so they don’t need a lengthy soak!
  • Remember that your bath tub is a larger area than the smaller baby baths, so you’ll have to use more water to cover your baby up to shoulder’s level.
  • Once you are confident about the best way to hold your baby in the water, you will probably feel that you don’t need anything else. But if you do feel a bit nervous at the idea of bathing your baby in the bath tub at first, consider bathing as a team or using baby seat that you can place in the big bath. Please always ensure that you don’t leave your baby unattended in the bath. Even when using a baby seat that stick to the bottom of the bath tub, you will still be required to hold them.
  1. In a baby bath

Baby baths are probably the most common choice for new parents. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You can use the baby bath inside the big bath tub, which makes it easier to fill up with the taps. Compared to just using the family bath tub, by using a baby bath you can use a lot less water at each wash.
  • The beauty of the baby bath though is that you can also use it elsewhere (by placing it on the bathroom floor for example) to avoid having to lean over the side of the bath, which can be really uncomfortable for your back and knees. If you do use the baby bath elsewhere, you can consider filling it up with the shower head (if the shower hose reaches), or you can fill it up with the taps in the bath tub and then take it out. If you do though, be careful as it’ll obviously be full of water and heavy!
  • Having a smaller area to wash your baby in might make you feel more confident, especially if you’re also a bit more comfortable and relaxed sitting on the floor, for example.
  • If you find that the traditional baby bath is a bit too bulky, you can buy foldable or portable baby baths.
  1. In a tummy tub

A popular alternative to the baby bath is the tummy tub.

  • Tummy tubs allow the baby to bathe in the very familiar (to them) foetal position, and are therefore perfect for the first 3 months of your baby’s life, as they really help you to recreate the conditions that your baby experienced while in the womb. In fact, being in water and in a position that is so familiar to them can have incredibly calming and soothing effects for your baby – they will feel warm, reassured and secure. This is why the tummy tub is especially recommended for premature babies, who need that little extra time to adjust to the big world.
  • Tummy tubs tend to be quite easy to handle and clean. They’re lightweight when full of water compared to the more traditional baby baths and therefore are a lot easier to move out of the bath tub once you’ve filled it up. It’s also a lot less bulky, so it’s easier to store and even transport if you decide to go and visit Grandma and Grandad’s over the weekend.
  • Tummy tubs are said to be very helpful for colicky babies too.
  1. In the sink

An option that divides parents is the kitchen sink. Whilst some swear by it, others believe that the kitchen sink isn’t clean enough for your baby.

If you don’t want to place your baby directly in the sink you can use a cushioned sink insert. Then you just place the insert in the sink, place your baby on top of it and wash your baby. This way you can rest assured that your baby is comfortable and not sitting directly in the sink.

  1. Last but not least, the shower

If you don’t have a bath tub in your home, or if you’re away for a few days and don’t have access to your usual facilities, you could always give your baby a shower. However, here are a few things to keep in mind if you do:

  • If your baby is very young, consider one of the alternatives above.
  • If you give your baby a shower, of course one of the parents will need to be in the shower and hold the baby at all times. And it may help if the other parent is on hand to gently shower the baby.
  • As always, be mindful of the water temperature but in this case also of water pressure – it shouldn’t be too much for your baby, and the water should probably avoid the face (eyes, mouth and nose).
  • If you do give your baby a shower, try and also be mindful of the baby’s temperature. Because they are not immersed in water, they won’t feel as warm. Remember that during the newborn stage babies can lose heat very easily, so perhaps consider a very quick wash, or wait to try this option until your baby is a little older.

Do you have any further suggestions? Where have you given your baby a bath? What works for you?

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