If you’re a first-time mom and you want to make memorable moments with your baby in the tub, you’re in the right place. I’m mom to 4 daughters, and I was clueless and anxious the first time around – 21 years ago!
I didn’t have any prior baby experience and I remember taking a baby bath class with a doll during pregnancy. Bath time can feel daunting for new moms. So I’ll share a bit of what I learned then – the basics. But I’ll also learn what I’ve learned from countless bathing baby sessions and from my own desire to make bath time a positive experience, both for my babies and for myself.
Why Baby Bath Time Matters
Baby bath time is so much more than just cleansing their body. We can transform this necessary parenting task into an opportunity for emotional bonding, playful learning, and even relaxation with your baby or toddler.
Studies have shown that because all the senses are engaged during bath time, it can impact a baby’s cognitive and emotional development. With a little effort and the right mindset, moms can make the sweetest memories, make bathtime safe, and help baby’s brain, too!
7 Top Tips for a Positive Baby Bathtime Experience
From baby’s first baths to the last time you bath your child, you can follow these meaningful tips to turn bathtime into an enjoyable experience for both baby and mom.
- Make it Work for You
- Keep Safety In Mind
- Enjoy the Sounds
- Play and Laugh
- Chat and Learn
- Practice Mindfulness
- Tap into Physical Touch
Make baby bathtime work for you
Babies are very sensitive to your mood and tune into your emotions, so it’s a good idea to make sure bathtime is working for you. These tips can help you be calm and make the most of out of bathtime:
- I know you’ve heard that the baby bath needs to be part of a bedtime routine, but it’s much better to pick a time of day when both of you are calm, fed and rested, so you can both enjoy it. I particularly love baby baths after nap time, when I’ve had a few minutes to myself and she’s more alert.
- Have everything you need for the before, after, and during bathtime ready before you start the water running and get the baby in the baby tub. Having the baby’s towels, soap, a soft washcloth, bath toys, baby lotion, clean clothes or pajamas, etc. ready and near the baby bathtub helps avoid unnecessary stress and helps create a safe environment.
- You don’t have to spend hours in the bathtub, but you benefit greatly if you give yourself plenty of time for the experience. Rushing through bath time is going to prove frustrating for both baby and mom.
- Whether you are bending, standing, or sitting, make sure you are comfortable as you care for your baby. I am very short and I need to kneel near the big tub as I give my babies baths, so I bought this “bath kneeler and elbow rest pad set” I found on Amazon to make sure I am not struggling and hurting through bathtime. Adding a little ease in different ways is a great idea. We must care for our own emotional health, especially in those difficult motherhood days when nothing goes our way!
Keep Safety In Mind
The most essential tip on this list and the one goal we all have as moms is to keep baby safe.
The first thing is to remember that a sponge bath is recommended until the stump of the umbilical cord falls off. This milestone usually happens within the first two weeks of birth. Then we can gently start to give them a traditional baby bath, being very mindful of baby’s head.
One of the most important safety measures when it comes to giving young children a bath is to make sure the water temperature is just right – lukewarm.
Some moms use a bath thermometer, but whether you do this or not, you want to test the temperature of the water so you know it’s comfortable and safe before putting baby in the tub. Test the room temperature and baby’s body temperature, too.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your water temperature at the faucet should never exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent accidental burns in your household. Many water heaters have a setting you can adjust on the unit itself.
All eyes on baby
It’s essential that your eyes – and at least one hand- are on baby the whole time. This is another reason why keeping everything within arm’s reach is necessary. Never leave kids unattended in the bathtub or lose sight of them. If you really need to step away, take the baby along with you.
Constant supervision and attention are key to keeping infants, young toddlers, and small children safe. Besides the drowning risk, there could also be slipping and falling.
These safety tips can avoid tragedies and also help you be present and bond with your child, creating a secure attachment.
Ricitos de Oro
Another very important aspect of safety is to think about the baby’s delicate skin. We want to avoid skin irritation and use baby soap and baby shampoo that will be gentle on baby’s sensitive skin. In my home, we use the Ricitos de Oro (Goldie Locks) Chamomile line, which provides moisture to her scalp, protects her hair, and provides shine and softness. Ricitos de Oro is dermatologically tested and helps our little ones’ skin not lose its natural moisture. And when washing baby’s hair, you might use a rinse cup or plastic cup to keep soap away from baby’s face; however, Ricitos de Oro is a hypoallergenic and tear-free formula that does not irritate baby’s eyes or baby’s skin.
Enjoy the Sounds
You might want to try playing soothing music during baby’s bath time or sing lullabies or nursery rhymes together. This will create a fun atmosphere and will be very beneficial for baby’s brain at any developmental stage.
Music boosts language and you might want to try working on sounds, like onomatopeias for splashing, pouring water, popping bubbles, and other fun bath sounds.
I have found that when these sounds are accompanied by silly facial expressions, babies respond in a very positive way. Fun sounds will help babies love bath time and might even help them develop a musical appreciation, too!
The Ricitos de Oro has a fun rattle cap that can help the bath be even more fun for the baby and a joy to the parent. I love these simple ways to make special memories together!
Play and Laugh together
Playing and laughing together is definitely the best way to bond with babies, toddlers, and even older children! Bath time can be the best time to do this because it can be the only time we have sometimes.
When we work long hours, especially if we are single moms, and feel like we don’t have time to play and have fun with our children, bath time can help!
Some tips for playtime at bathtime are:
Add toys that are safe for the baby right in the bathtub and get ready to use your imagination. Think beyond rubber ducks – although they are still amazing!
You can bring fish and sea creatures that swim or other animals who’ve been granted swimming as a superpower! And you don’t even have to get fancy – you could use kitchen utensils and containers to create a new story and experience. Just make sure the toys you bring are clean and don’t present any choking hazards, and you’re good to go!
Using bubbles is a simple way to get babies engaged, and as they grow you can get more creative. We’ve had pretend tea parties in the bathtub by bringing plastic tea cups and saucers.
The princesses loved mixing, stirring, pouring, and saying “¡Salud!,” which is “cheers!” in Spanish. I specialize in funny voices and fancy accents, and little ones love those!
Food coloring is not healthy when consumed but can do wonders for creativity. Find a brand that won’t stain the bathtub and add the color to the water to add to the imaginative play.
You can even use bath bombs and glowsticks to bring color, when appropriate for their age. We use bath crayons with my 4-year-old daughter and it’s quite a hit, I tell you!
Babies love to look at themselves – which is something to learn from! Adding a baby-safe mirror to the bath can help you add silliness that they’ll truly enjoy. Think shampoo hairstyles and beards!
As you make bath time playful, they will start to get more comfortable with getting their hair or faces wet. In time, they will even start splashing games and ask you for more bath time fun!
Which reminds me… I like showers, not baths, but I love getting in the bathtub with my children. And in the early months, if they haven’t yet “warmed up” to the idea of a bath, you can use a sink or hold your baby as you take a shower.
Chat and Learn
Bathtime is a great opportunity to talk to or talk with your child. You can use this time to pour your heart at your baby or chat about your day. You can ask questions and practice active listening if your child is now able to chat and tell stories!
For moms who work and have a lot on their plate and might miss milestones or events, this time in the bathtub allows for heart-to-heart conversations with children.
“Parentese” is the name of the parent language where you speak directly to the baby in a sing-song way. Babies will love it as you maintain the rhythm and the eye contact, and draw out your vowel sounds. Babies are more responsive to high-pitch tones than regular ones.
For little ones, it helps when you are talking about what you are doing using a rich vocabulary.
Use these 7 simple tips as you bathe your child:
- Verbs: “drip,” “ripple,” “pour,” “spray,” “float,” “pop,” and “splash,”
- Adjectives: “hot,” “cold,” “wet,” “slippery,” “deep,” “shallow,” “sparkly,”
- You can point at colors in the space and ask questions about color.
- Name their body parts out loud as you wash them. Don’t forget the “head-shoulders-knees-and-toes … and eyes and ears and mouth and nose” nursery rhyme!
- Concepts like “under,” “over,” and “on,” as well as “big,” and “small,” can also be discussed as you bathe your child. And using containers, you can demonstrate concepts like “full,” “empty,” “half,” “overflow,” “capacity,” etc.
- Introduce numbers as you count toes, fingers, toys, and more!
- Read plastic bath books together.
When age-appropriate, you can also try fun sensory activities that relate to the child’s interests, too!
These activities promote a stronger bond between you and your baby and they have both cognitive and emotional benefits. You could even help them master their motor skills.
We are all different and have different babies, so it’s normal that we all have different daily routines. And no matter when you bathe your baby, it can be a relaxing time for both baby and mom. It can be a time to practice mindfulness together.
Bathtime can be an opportunity to connect to yourself and to that precious child!
The first step is to put the phone away. Turn it off, if you can, or keep it in another room, to avoid distractions.
As you focus on this moment and allow yourself to be fully present, face-to-face with your child, magic happens.
This means feeling every breath and taking it in with every sense: sight, touch, sound, and smell…
This child is a marvel, a miracle, a masterpiece… and so are you.
Bathing your baby can become a ritual of nurturing your soul and your baby, at the same time. We know that babies need nurturing for survival and we strive to provide opportunities for babies to feel loved, and cared for, and develop a secure attachment with us as caregivers. However, we forget that this meaningful connection is never outgrown. These intentional moments, slowing down to connect, can be enriching for you, as well – especially if bubbles are involved!
Tap into Physical Touch
At the end of the bath, you can swiftly wrap the baby up in a soft towel to keep them warm.
We know that physical touch is part of the baby bath routine by default, as you gently wash your baby’s body. And, because physical contact is key for your child to feel safe and attached, it can be incorporated into your post-bath wind-down, too!
As you gently dry the baby off, you can apply a bit of fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion on their skin and try infant massage. Rub the lotion using your hands so it’s warm. Some experts consider the skin to be the external nervous system, so skin contact is magnificent!
Building Attachment and Trust with Your Baby During Bath Time
As you can see, with a little preparation, bath time can be an enjoyable time. These strategies can help baby’s safety and baby’s development while making the sweetest memories. Take advantage of this time whenever you are able to.
The beautiful bond you are building is laying the foundation for creating a safe space and becoming a safe place for your child to turn to when struggling.
What do you do or say to make bath time a positive experience for your newborn baby, a time your toddler loves, and a time to give your child the special attention they need? Share in the comments below!
Elayna is a homeschool educator, single mom of 4, founder of the Positive MOM Community, award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 3x TEDx speaker. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.
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