Bathing a baby is a bit different of an experience from bathing a toddler. An infant is going to scream bloody murder and tremble in response to being wet and cold. That is just a hardwired survival response.
There is no hard research behind the idea that babies will sleep better if they are bathed at night. However, if bath time becomes a regular part of a bedtime routine, as the child grows older, they will look forward to bathing and be less anxious about the experience.
Some studies in older children show that bedtime baths create passive warming, which may be relaxing and promote a sense of sleepiness.
Babies do not need to be in a full-size bathtub if they cannot sit up on their own. Never lay a baby flat in the water, either. Use a baby-sized plastic bathtub or a sink that is appropriate for the size of the child.
A fabric sling or plastic baby backboard that is higher on one end than the other is helpful to keep the baby’s head out of the water and to secure its body while bathing. You can also just keep a baby in an infant carrier or a baby seat and give them a sponge bath without immersing them in water.
You can wash the head, body, and legs while they are wearing a diaper, then take the diaper off to clean their bottom. Baby boys are notorious for urinating as soon as the diaper comes off. This is often due to the cool air hitting their body, so be prepared with a washcloth or something to block the stream, so you don’t become a target!
The most important things to do when you are preparing to bathe a baby is to keep the room and the water temperature warm, be organized, keeping everything within arm’s reach before you undress the baby.
Think ahead before starting
Before putting the baby into the bath, think ahead about:
- Non-soap cleaners
- Clean diapers
- Pajamas or clothing
Be sure to work quickly. You should be able to wipe the baby down from head to toe with soapy water, rinse, and wrap your little one up in a towel in just a few minutes.
Babies three months and up love to look at themselves in the mirror. Consider placing the baby bathtub next to the mirror in your bathroom. It’ll likely be at a height that is comfortable for you, preventing you from having to bend over too much, and works doubly to keep the child entertained.
Many parents bathe their babies at night to be sure they are clean of all allergens that may cause nasal congestion or itching. Other parents like to bathe their babies in the morning when the house is warmer.
Either way, babies should be bathed at least two or three times a week. Be sure that you wipe behind their ears and in the folds of their necks and legs. Formula or breast milk that drips from their mouth can find its way into every crevice in their skin and cause irritation and build-up of bacteria.
Regardless of when you decide to bathe a baby, make the experience one that is as safe, simple, and as enjoyable for you both as possible. Enjoy!