Top 10 Safety Tips for Bathing Your Baby

January is Bath Safety Month, so here at Ready. Set. Food!, we wanted to offer tips for parents and caregivers to keep baby safe while you bathe them.

January is Bath Safety Month. Bath time is supposed to be fun for baby, but it can quickly become dangerous if the proper steps aren’t taken to protect them.

Most worryingly, babies can drown in 1-2 inches of water. And as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports, “this can happen silently, and within seconds. Infants don't have much neck and muscle control. If even a small amount of water covers their nose and mouth, they won't be able to breathe.”

“If even a small amount of water covers their nose and mouth, they won't be able to breathe.” - AAP

So, it’s essential to know how to keep baby safe during their bath.

We’re here to help with these top 10 baby bath safety tips, for peace of mind when baby is exploring the water.

1. Know when baby is ready for a baby tub.

As long as baby’s umbilical cord is still attached, give them a sponge bath, as that’s the safest way to bathe them at this stage. (If your baby was circumcised recently, you should also stick to sponge baths until that heals.)

After the umbilical cord falls off, they’re ready for a bath in a baby tub, which is the safest way to bathe baby until they can sit up on their own. Choose a tub with a contoured design and non-slip surfaces, to keep baby from sliding around. A supportive sling or cushion may also keep baby in place.

2. Know when they are ready to sit in a standard bath.

Once baby is sitting unassisted (around 4-6 months or so), you can start to transition to the big tub. If they aren’t quite sitting up consistently on their own, wait until they’re consistently sitting up to move them to the big tub. Don’t use a bath seat to support baby, as these seats can be dangerous.

3. Properly prepare the bath, and make sure it’s drained of water when not in use.

To keep baby from slipping, add non-slip grips or a mat to the bottom of the bathtub. It’s also recommended to buy a faucet cover so baby won’t bump their head on the faucet during a bath.

Also, when the bath is not in use, it should be completely drained of water. Never leave water in the bathtub when you aren’t using it. This way, your little one won’t be at risk of drowning if they explore and find their way to the bathroom. Keeping the bathroom door closed is also a good idea.

4. Always supervise baby during a bath.

Never leave your baby alone in the bath, even for just a few seconds. As mentioned above, babies can drown quickly in only 1-2 inches of water. You’ll need to supervise baby at all times during a bath to keep them safe.

If you feel the need to leave the bathroom to answer the phone or the door, you’ll need to take baby out of the bath, wrap baby in a towel, and take them with you.

Do not let an older child supervise baby’s bath when you aren’t around, either.

5. Keep one hand on baby at all times.

Keep at least one hand on baby at all times to support them. Ideally, use one arm to cradle baby’s head while you bathe them with the other hand. Be sure to have everything you need within arm’s reach, including shampoo, body wash, a washcloth, and a towel, before you start the bath.

6. Stay away from bath seats.

Bath seats are not safety devices. Rather, they actually pose dangers to baby and should be avoided. If a bath seat’s suction cups fail, the seat could tip over and trap baby underwater, potentially causing drowning. Also, baby could tip forward or sideways into the water, another drowning risk.

Bath seats also give many parents a false sense of security. They seem like a way to keep baby still and keep their head above water, so they make some parents think that their baby is secure and can be left unsupervised (when you really shouldn’t leave baby alone in the bath under any circumstance).

Bath floaties don’t pose the same problems as bath seats, but they are still no substitute for supervision. Always supervise baby when you’re bathing them, even when using a float.

7. Keep your water temperature warm, but not hot.

This will help you prevent scalding. Fill the bath with a few inches of warm water, then dip your elbow or wrist in the water to make sure it feels warm but not too hot. A bath thermometer may also help you check that the water temperature is not too hot.

Keep checking the water temperature frequently as you bathe baby, and end the bath when the water seems too cold.

If you can, you should also adjust your water heater so the highest temperature for hot water is not over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

8. Learn baby CPR.

Learning baby CPR will help you respond quickly to save their life in case of a bath emergency (or any other emergency where baby stops breathing).

Learn how to give infant CPR in this video:

9. Choose soap that won’t irritate baby.

Use a mild liquid baby wash on a washcloth to bathe baby. As for shampoo, stick to a mild, tear-free option made for babies. You’ll only need to use the shampoo once or twice a week---no need to run the bath more often than that for their hair, as you can just wet it down with a washcloth without the soap.

If baby has cradle cap, gently scrub their head with a soft-bristle baby brush during the shampoo, to loosen the scales.

Stay away from any body washes and shampoos that have perfumes or dyes, as they can irritate baby’s sensitive skin. (This is especially important if your baby has eczema. Check out more tips for bathing eczema babies here.)

10. Dry your baby immediately after bathing.

When baby’s bath is over, immediately wrap them up in a towel. This way, baby won’t lose too much body heat. Then, dry baby thoroughly, including in the creases, before you dress them.

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.