Bathing a tiny, slippery, crying baby is one of the first challenges of parenthood. I don’t know of one new Mum or Dad who didn’t find the whole ‘first bath’ experience challenging.
When we first bathed my baby son he cried so much and so loudly that he set the toddler off and we were all soaked with tears, bathwater and bubbles by the end. Thankfully bath time soon became one of our favourite hours of the day.
It can be joyfully relaxing to gently wash a tiny baby in lavender scented bubbles, dry them in a soft fluffy towel ready for a snuggly feed and (hopefully!) a sound sleep. Older babies and toddlers just love splashing and the glorious, funny, bubbly mess is a brilliant way to end the day.
As with all aspects of parenting having an eye on safety in the bath is important.
Never leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bath.
Use gentle bath bubbles, wash and shampoo.
Don’t let them drink the bathwater, especially if it has bubble bath in it.
Make sure the baby bath temperature isn’t too hot or too cold.
Use a baby bath thermometer.
What is the best temperature for a baby’s bath?
In the ‘old days’ mums would test the temperature of the bath with an elbow. I’m still not sure why…an elbow hardly compares to the soft skin of a tiny baby!?
Relying on this old-fashioned test is not a good idea, no matter what your well-intentioned Nana says. Why? An adult’s skin can deal with much hotter water than babies and children. Also, the idea of ‘hot’ in one person’s mind may be different to another. My husband can’t bear to sit in a bath I’ve run and would happily wallow in, he’s worried his skin will fall off!
The ideal bath temperature is 36-38 degrees. (Body temperature)
The water shouldn’t feel either hot or cold.
Put cold water in first, then the hot and mix thoroughly.
Don’t put your baby into the bath until the water has been run and checked.
How do you maintain the bath temperature?
There’s no rule as to how long a baby or toddler can be in the bath. If a small baby is being soothed by the warm, fragrant water or a toddler is laughing at the soapy game they have invented it’s a shame to get them out. Keep the water warm and the fun can continue for as long as you wish.
Choose a bath thermometer with a clear ‘too cold’ temperature indicator.
Don’t add hot water into the bath with the baby still in it, even with a bath thermometer monitoring the temperature.
Keep the bathroom warm and free of drafts.
How deep should the bath water be?
Toddlers will want more water than babies so they can play with their toys and SPLASH! it out onto the bathroom floor.
New arrivals and babies up to six months only need 5-6 inches of water to wash them and keep them warm.
A baby lying back in the bath should have their shoulders covered.
Waist high water is high enough for older babies and toddlers to enjoy playing while staying safe.
A bath time checklist
Run the bath first – checking the temperature.
A bath thermometer is essential. Choose one with a clear display, hot and cold indicators and which floats.
Washing, holding and playing with a baby while they are in the bath can make you feel like you need five arms. Bath supports and seats are helpful, just make sure you never leave your baby unattended even with an older sibling.
Toys make bath time fun for older babies and toddlers. A rubber duck, water wheels and boats are all perfect for simple games.
Keep toys clean and free of mould and mildew.
Don’t buy toys with ‘fiddly bits’ that water can collect in.
Rinse toys after each bath.
Replace toys which water won’t escape from on a regular basis.
Choose gentle washing products made from natural ingredients especially if your baby has sensitive skin. Childs Farm, Burt’s Bees and Green People all have some lovely products. Lavender is the perfect scent for a calming bath.
Have a big, soft towel ready to envelop your little one in a big hug that will have them dry and warm quickly. Hooded towels are great as they keep your child’s head covered and that’s where they will lose heat the quickest.
Our recommendations – the best bath thermometer for your family.
No young family should be without a bath thermometer to keep bath water at a safe and comfortable level. These two are our favourites.
Avent digital dual-purpose baby bath and room thermometer.
Approx £18.00 from Mothercare and John Lewis
Avent are an established nursery brand who have been trusted by parents and health professionals for years.
A simple, neutral, classic design to suit any bathroom or nursery.
Take the temperature of the bath water or room quickly and accurately.
Clear digital display.
Floats the ‘right way up’ so that you can see the temperature display at a glance.
Safe and fun for your little one to bob about on the ‘high seas’ with the rest of their bath toys.
Dream Baby Crocodile Bath and Room Digital Thermometer
Approx £12.99 from Amazon and Precious Little One
A cute crocodile shaped design that is certain to delight your little one as you ‘chase’ them around the bath with it.
Very easy to read. A green indicator to show that the bath is an ideal temperature and a red indicator to show that the water needs to be cooler or warmer.
Makes it easy to maintain the temperature of the water. This clever croc re-checks the bath temperature every ten seconds.
Battery saving automatic switch off after 30 minutes.