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How to Bathe Your Baby Through the Stages

Updated on February 11, 2020
Britteny Perry profile image

Britteny Perry is the proud mother and bather of one baby girl!


This is a personal account and my own personal solutions. I hope it can be helpful, but in no way want to mislead anyone into thinking that I have any authority on this matter. How you bathe your baby/toddler is entirely up to you. Please be safe and true to your own values!

My daughter at 1 month old

Tips for Washing your New Baby!

  • Keep their head supported.
  • They can not be submerged completely, at first, due to their healing umbilical cords.
  • The water should be kept warm, but not hot.
  • They will get cold quickly, so cover their chest/belly (if umbilical cord is healed) with a warm wet washcloth.
  • Be prepared. Keep the bathroom and what ever room you are dressing them in warm. If possible, just dress them in the bathroom. Have their towel, diaper and clothes on hand.

  • Don’t dwell on mistakes. If you slip up somewhere, don’t dwell. Learn and move forward. Your baby will take more cues from your own tension, than from anything else.
  • Find a way to make the experience a good one. There are already a bazillion things to think of and carry, so keep it simple. Light an aromatherapy candle or play some music on your phone.


We purchased a plastic infant tub with a netting hammock, for our daughter. It worked well for us, but it was still terrifying bathing a newborn. She was so small and slippery and keeping her head from falling forwards when you lifted her was difficult. I never looked forwards to bath time at first and I realize now that I should have. I just needed to find a way to relax. My daughter didn’t mind bath time, most nights, but she hated getting cold. As soon as I pulled her from the water she was balling and then it was a slippery screaming race to get diapered and dressed and fed.

My daughter at 5 months

Tips for bathing a 3 to 6 month old!

  • Try bathing with your baby.
  • Introduce a bath toy.
  • Try a shower.
  • Try nursing in the bath.

3 to 6 Months

This stage was easier in so many aspects. At this stage we tried bathing together a few times. By bathing together, I mean I was in the bath, but I couldn’t actually wash anything, because my hands were busy supporting my baby. It was a lot of fun, but it made being prepared for getting out twice as important. I would suggest a terrycloth robe for mom and the babies towel laid out on a soft bathroom rug. That way you can carefully get baby wrapped up on the floor, to free your hands and throw on your towel/robe before continuing your process. Bathing together is also a good time to try nursing and get some skin to skin mommy baby time.

We also tried a shower together. This was only because I had gone to the beach with my daughter and she was a sand monster, so was I. She was not a fan of the spraying water, but I let her nurse which calmed her down. It was a really important bonding moment for me, because she showed so much trust as I rinsed her off.

My Daughter at Two Years

Tips for Bathing your 6 to 12 Month Old...and Beyond!

  • Get a no slip tub liner and a faucet cover.
  • Cups are the best toys!
  • Don’t let the water get too high.
  • Make it fun and relaxing for you too!
  • Use lots of communication.
  • Let them tell you what to wash first.
  • Talk to them about how to close their eyes
  • Teach them to rinse their eyes if they get soap in them.

6 to 12 Months and Beyond

At around 6 months my daughter was a proficient crawler. She was starting to get bored with the baby tub. It restricted her movement. She started trying to get out of it. It was exciting and stressful. She was clumsy and kept slipping around, trying to get out. I ordered a no slip mat to line the tub with and a faucet cover. We tried just using the adult tub around 7 to 8 months. At first it was very stressful. She kept slipping, either hitting her head or somehow sliding sideways under the water. Then she would get angry and just want nothing to do with the bath.

At this point I started taking baths with her again, almost every other night. It made it easier for me to have my hands at the ready, while she spazzed out. It also calmed her down while I washed her hair. She would snuggle up and nurse, which put her head at exactly the right angle for me to rinse her hair, without getting water in her eyes. I found that changing the routine was a good way to snap her out of a pattern. So, if she freaked out one night because water got in her eyes, I would bath with her the next night.

Around 24 months I was weaning her, so I stopped bathing with her, to avoid temptation. By that time, she really didn’t need me in the bath at all. It was getting crowded and she had toys to slay with. The biggest transition was how do I wash her hair if I’m not nursing her. Some nights it went OK, but others she still fought it. Around this time, she found a giant rubber duck, which she loved and so we started washing her toys as I washed her. A cup of water for Quack-Quack and then a cup of water for my daughter. It’s the current routine. She stays sufficiently distracted by washing her duck and lets me wash her hair. We also have a cup of clean, cold water on hand. If she starts to freak out over water or soap in her eyes, she knows to wash them out with the cold water, and they will be OK. It’s weird that it works, but I think it gives her a sense of control.

Lastly, this can seem like the opposite of a relaxing time, but in reality, whether you are in the water or out of it, your child is entertained, which gives you a breather. This is a great chance to enjoy a cup of tea or look through that magazine that you’ve been too busy to read. I also use it as a time to wash my face, try a face mask and generally get ready for the night. It’s an important part of my routine, because it’s a small reprieve in the last stretch of the day.


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