What is an ideal bath routine for a baby or toddler?

Nov 12, 2023

Bath time is the best time, at least here in the Zentz house it was. Now that my kids are 7 & 9, they look back on those baths and giggle at how big their head was {especially Max}, the bubble bath beards or their tiny tushes splashing, drawing, launch,ing or playing every night {or every other} when it was bath time.

In today’s blog, I want to share more about the ideal bath time, especially if it’s happening in the bedtime hours vs. as a fun activity in the day to break things up a bit. So, let’s start with baby’s then move on to toddlers, shall we?

How often should a baby take a bath?

This is going to be a personal choice and somewhat directed by where you live, your baby’s skin {as you have to watch over-drying}, and also what their day looks like.

My two littles took a bath every night, but that was because they were at daycare all day, five days a week, and came home generally gross. However, there were also nights when they were SO tired that we didn’t have time for a bath, so we just washed their face and hands with a warm soapy washcloth and called it a day. When they are ready to sleep, they need to sleep.

What do I do if a bath dries baby’s skin?

Dry skin, eczema, and issues like cradle-cap can be a challenge. I loved coconut oil massages or oatmeal baths to help. If you baby struggles with dry skin, speak with the Pediatrician and determine the best and more hygienic plan for your family.

How long should a bath be with a baby?

The duration of a bath for a baby should be relatively short. Typically, 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient for a newborn or young baby. Prolonged time in the water is unnecessary and could be counterproductive, as babies can lose body heat quickly and their skin is very delicate, making it prone to irritation if soaked for too long. It’s also important to keep the bath time enjoyable and calm, ensuring that the baby does not become overstimulated or uncomfortable.

Here are a few guidelines to consider:

  • Newborns: For the first week or so, until the umbilical cord stump falls off, you should only give your newborn sponge baths with a warm, damp washcloth. After that, you can start with tub baths that last just a few minutes.
  • Infants: As your baby grows, you can gradually increase bath time, but it should still remain between 5 to 10 minutes, especially if the baby has sensitive skin.
  • Older Babies: If your older baby enjoys bath time and has no skin issues (like eczema that can be exacerbated by prolonged exposure to water), you can extend bath time a bit longer, but it should still not be too lengthy.

Always keep an eye on the baby throughout the bath to monitor their comfort and temperature, and never leave them unattended. If the baby starts to look chilled or fussy, it’s time to end the bath.

What is the best temperature for a bath with a baby?

The best temperature for a baby’s bath water is typically around 98.6°F (37°C), which is close to the average body temperature. This ensures that the baby does not lose body heat too quickly and is not at risk of getting cold during the bath. It’s also important to make sure the water is not too hot to prevent scalding. A good way to test the bath water is by using your elbow or the inside of your wrist, as these areas are more sensitive to temperature than your hands. If the water feels warm but not hot in these areas, it should be comfortable for the baby.

  • Always check the water temperature with a reliable bath thermometer if available, to ensure accuracy.
  • Fill the bath with just enough water to cover the baby’s shoulders. Babies and young children can drown in very little water.
  • Mix the water well to avoid hot spots.
  • Always keep the baby supervised and never leave them unattended in the bath, even for a moment.

Can we bathe the baby in the kitchen sink?

Yes, you can bathe a baby in the kitchen sink, and many parents find it a convenient option, especially for newborns and small infants.

Here are some tips to ensure it’s done safely:

  • Cleanliness: Make sure the sink is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before use to avoid exposing your baby to bacteria and cleaning agents.
  • Non-Slip Surface: Use a non-slip mat or a sink insert designed for baby baths to prevent slipping.
  • Water Temperature: As with any baby bath, ensure the water is lukewarm, around 98.6°F (37°C), to keep the baby comfortable and safe.
  • Water Depth: Fill the sink with just enough water to keep the baby warm, usually no more than 2 to 3 inches.
  • Support: Always keep one hand on your baby for support, as babies can be slippery when wet.
  • Faucets: Be mindful of the sink’s faucets to prevent the baby from hitting them.
  • Supplies: Have all your bath supplies within reach—towel, washcloth, baby soap, and a change of clothes.

After Bath: Immediately wrap the baby in a towel to keep them warm after the bath.

Supervision: Never leave your baby unattended in the bath, not even for a second.

Many parents choose the kitchen sink for its comfortable height, which can be easier on the back compared to bending over a low bathtub. As long as you take the necessary precautions, the kitchen sink can be a perfectly good place to bathe your baby.

Bathing a newborn or infant is an art. Some babies will love the bath, others will hate it and some will come around. Luckily, my kids all loved to take baths, so it made that part of the day an excellent bonding time, even if it only lasted a few minutes during those first moths.

What is the ideal bath routine for my toddler?

Creating an ideal bath routine for your toddler involves several steps that can make the process enjoyable and safe.

Here’s a general routine that you might find useful:

  • Preparation: Gather all necessary items before starting—towel, washcloth, gentle soap, shampoo, toys, and a clean diaper plus clothes. Make sure the room is warm enough to prevent your child from getting cold.
  • Safety First: Use a non-slip mat in the tub and test the water temperature to ensure it’s warm, not hot, to prevent burns.
  • Play Time: Allow your toddler some time to play in the water with bath toys, as this can make bath time fun and something to look forward to.
  • Washing: Use a gentle, tear-free shampoo for their hair and a mild soap for their body. Be gentle and quick to avoid getting soap and water in their eyes or mouth.
  • Rinsing: Carefully rinse off all the soap and shampoo. You can use a washcloth or a small cup to pour water over their body. Make sure no soap is left, as it can be irritating to the skin.
  • Post-Bath: Once bath time is over, wrap your toddler in a towel immediately to keep them warm. Pat them dry, being careful with sensitive areas.
  • Moisturizing: Apply a gentle moisturizer if their skin tends to be dry.
  • Dressing: Put on a clean diaper and clothes.
  • After-Care: Give your toddler some cuddle time after dressing to help them feel secure and loved, before they lay down, to settle to sleep.

Remember, the key to a good bath routine is ensuring it’s a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience for your toddler. Adjust the routine as needed based on your child’s likes and dislikes. If your toddler has any specific skin conditions or needs, it’s always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician for tailored advice.

How long should my toddler’s bath last?

I always love a good bath to be about 20 minutes. It’s a nice way to unwind before bed, is a great step in the bedtime routine that bedtime is coming and gives them a chance to wash away the day, dirt, and dust that many toddlers bring home. I typically like that 20-minute cap because often, we are rushed, and with a long bath, you don’t want to end up getting a little one overtired just for the sake of a bath; sleep is more important.

Can they take a shower, or does it have to be a bath?

Either – toddlers might prefer a shower, and that works just as well to get them clean, and ready for rest.

How do I get my toddler to take a bath without protest?

Try to make the bath fun for them, and add things like buddles, music, shaving cream, bath crayons, etc., to make it an enjoyable time. In our house and with many of our toddler sleep coaching clients, I advise they purchase these on Amazon. Then, they say whoever is upstairs first gets to pick the color of the bath.

Sometimes, I also have them {and me} fly upstairs like a bat or pretend to be a dinosaur as we roar to the bath and hop in.

Sometimes, I go up, and tell them they can come up when they are ready, then leave them. The 9 times out of them will be a few steps behind once they realize you weren’t kidding.

How do I get my toddler out of the bath without protest?

I love the use of these timers on Amazon. They are a great transition piece for you to use, in redirecting behaviors with a toddler who could start to push boundaries.

I set it for 20 minutes, for example, or whatever works in your schedule, and when it goes off, the water immediately goes out. Once that water is gone, your kids will want to get out; it gets cold, and they get bored.

When is the best time of day to do my toddler’s bath?

There is no right or wrong for timing, so long as you have a nice bedtime routine. If they don’t do a bath every night, I know ours don’t, we incorporate reading, back massages, prayers, meditation, or unwinding time with the lights off and everyone tucked in.

Toddlers must decompress from the day, so you must find the best outlet to allow them to do it without overt stimulation. Should that overstimulation happen {like it did here from time to time when daddy played WWF with them at bedtime}, we would use our breath and unwind easily with a Zenimal meditation.

 What things can I do during toddler bath time?

Toddler bath time is always a great day to get a pulse on their day. During toddler bath time, there are many activities you can do to make the experience enjoyable and educational for your child.

  • Play Games: Simple water games like “sink or float” with various waterproof toys can be both fun and educational.
  • Use Bath Toys: Provide a variety of bath toys to encourage imaginative play. Floating animals, cups, and boats are popular.
  • Practice Pouring: Give your toddler cups and containers to fill and empty, which is great for motor skills.
  • Explore Colors: Use bath drops that change the water color without staining the skin or tub to teach about mixing colors.
  • Learn and Sing: Sing nursery rhymes or songs that involve actions like splashing or cleaning different body parts.
  • Blowing Bubbles: If it’s safe, blow bubbles and let your toddler pop them, which can also help with motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Read Waterproof Books: Introduce waterproof bath books to encourage a love of reading.
  • Alphabet and Numbers: Use foam letters and numbers that stick to the bath wall when wet for some educational play.
  • Teach Hygiene: Use this time to teach the importance of cleaning their body, like scrubbing their toes and washing their hair.
  • Relaxation: For a calm end to the day, make bath time a soothing experience with quiet conversation and gentle water play.

It’s also a great time to always check for ticks; here in Philadelphia and at our beach house in Brigantine, they are everywhere and do a great job hiding in the grass and the dunes. I have found ticks behind my daughter’s ear, on both kids’ scalps, and even once on my scalp when itching my head. It is so good to check the many cracks and crevices when washing them, or when they wash themselves, to know something is off.

As always, we offer Complimentary 20-minute calls to discuss your child’s unique sleep struggles and how we can support you. As the nation’s leading baby & toddler sleep coaching agency, Tiny Transitions is here to help. Get Started Today.