Give your baby a bath, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Right…
My firstborn loved baths. Washing her was the most adorable activity in the world. My second daughter, not so much.
Have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz? Remember the part where Dorothy throws a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West? As she melts into nothing, she lets out this awful, shrill scream. That was fairly close to the scream that my baby let out every time I tried to bathe her.
It was awful.
And if you’re experiencing something similar when you try to wash your little one…Oh, Mama, I feel for you.
Don’t worry, though. This phase does pass! My daughter (who is still the most sensitive soul) now loves baths. From one mom to another, here are a few handy tips you can try when your baby hates baths.
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Why Do Newborns Cry During Baths?
In a nutshell: it’s new. Some babies come from the womb ready to experience just about anything. These little angels roll with pretty much whatever you throw at them. Other children need a little more time to adjust.
This is a completely new experience! Bath water is warm and relaxing, but before, after, and even during, there’s a high chance that they’re experiencing a sensory overload. Too much light, too much cold. Unfamiliar bath towels, weird bubbles popping around their bodies.
Let me say it again: this is a totally new experience. Our babies are asking us to consider aspects of bath time that we’ve had a lifetime of practice adjusting to.
So, this post is going to help you reduce that overload and give them the calm, relaxing experience they need.
I’m not going to lie to you, Mama, there’s a chance that your baby may not stop crying for bath time any time soon. But at the very least, you’ll be more aware of what may be bothering your little one. Which can give you the patience to endure until he finally adjusts.
So, let’s get right into it: how can I get my newborn to like baths?
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Help! My Newborn Baby Hates Baths: 10 Tips to Make Baby’s Bath Time Easier
1 Dim the Lights
Generally speaking, bathrooms are well-lit. This is great for putting on makeup, but for the baby that is used to a cozy, warm, DARK environment, not so much.
Analyze where you’re giving your baby a bath. Are the lights blinding his sensitive little eyes? You’ll need ample light to wash your baby but try to use indirect light.
One little trick I tried was moving her bath tub (we used a plastic baby bath) into a bathtub with a curtain. This blocked the bright ceiling light from her view but gave me enough light to wash her.
2 Mind the Faucet
Your baby has no clue what a faucet does or how it’s essential to his bath time. He just hears a raging waterfall behind him. This might seem like a simple thing, but that gushing water can be scary!
Try to prepare your water before bath time so you don’t have to turn the sink on again. I liked to fill the tub and a bowl of clean water for rinsing.
3 Get the Right Temperature
What is the right temperature for baby bath water? Most experts agree around 100 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, check the water with the “elbow test.”
Basically, you just dip your elbow into the water. If it’s uncomfortably hot or cold, adjust the temperature. Here’s the tricky part though, babies have different tolerances. Especially sensitive babies. Even though the bath water might be about 100 degrees, it may be too cold or too hot for his specific tastes. Try to be cognizant of when your baby cries during a bath. Is it at the start? Or is it when baby’s bath water has cooled down past his comfort level?
4 Keep Temperature Constant
On that note, let’s talk room temperature. Do you know that uncomfortable feeling when you leave the shower and feel a cold draft? If we hate that feeling, can you imagine how much a baby might?
You want to avoid any shocking temperature changes before and after your baby’s bath. Try wrapping your baby in a hooded bath towel (like these adorable towels!) before and after the bath. If your bathroom is drafty, try employing a space heater.
Once your baby is in the bath it’s important to immediately keep his body warmed by the water using a washcloth or small cup. Try to keep the entire experience warm and cozy.
5 Put on Gentle Music
Sometimes the echoes in the bathrooms are distracting. Sometimes gentle music can help your baby relax and take his attention off all the unfamiliar. If you can, try to play something that he associates with comfort. Lullabies and even a white noise machine can do the trick.
I liked to play our favorite lullaby album, Scripture Lullabies, while giving my daughter a bath. It was a great way to send the message that bedtime was starting soon.
6 Try a Different Baby Soap
Some babies are incredibly sensitive to soaps, particularly when the scent is strong. Try to choose a gentle, aromatic scent, like lavender.
Keep an eye out for skin rashes as well. This is a good indicator of sensitive skin.
I love Baby Dove’s unscented soap for this reason. I love the quality, how gentle it is on my baby’s skin, and how affordable it is. If you want to check it out, Dove is offering $5 in coupons for free.
7 Have a Sibling Assist
Sometimes having big bro or big sis help with bath time is exactly what you need when your baby hates baths. This is usually the case with older babies, when they become more interested in their surroundings, right around three months and up.
You’re going to have to gauge your baby’s reaction to your little helper though. Sometimes it’s better to do bathtime alone, without the crazy noises or enthusiasm.
8 Experiment with Baby Tubs
This is another easy one to miss! Think about what you’re giving your baby a bath.
I used to bathe my baby in the sink. I didn’t take into account the awkward angle she was forced to sit at or how cold the surface of the sink could be where it wasn’t filled.
If your baby hates baths, consider experimenting a little with bath tubs. The Summer Splish ‘n Splash worked great for us. I loved that I was able to transition to the toddler side once she got older and it contained a separate area for clean water.
9 Try a Baby Bath Sponge
On other hand, some babies hate the feel of plastic. A a lot of moms have had success with a baby sponge bath seats, like the Blooming Bath Lotus (for sinks only).
Bath sponges absorb water and heat and cushions your baby comfortably. All this adds up to a more relaxing, warm environment that your little one might tolerate easier.
10 Have a Warm Towel Ready
Remember that hooded towel we talked about earlier? Try having someone warm it up in the dryer! Once again, we’re creating a comforting, womb-like environment that helps solidify in your baby’s brain that bath time=amazing.
We need all of the feel-good emotions when your newborn hates baths.
And let’s be honest, don’t we all wish we could come out of the shower to warmed towels?
11 Use a Washcloth to Rinse Baby
How are you washing your baby? Are you using a cup? A faucet? Sometimes the rush of water is a little startling. Try using a soft sponge or a washcloth to wash your baby, especially over his head. This actually serves two purposes: slow, trickling water is always less jolting than the rush from a cup or faucet. It also reduces the risk of getting water in your baby’s ear and developing an ear infection.
Personally, I like to use baby washcloths. They’re a lot more soft than a regular washcloth and less bulky too.
12 Don’t Bath When Baby is Overtired
If your bathtime is part of your sleep routine, don’t worry. Baths can be an effective way to calm your baby.
Having said that, if your baby is overtired, the stimulation from a bath may be too much for his little baby brain.
If you want to make bath time a part of your night routine, do it before your baby is getting fussy. Keep an eye on your baby’s sleep cues. Ideally, you’ll want to start bath time before your baby is displayed sleepy cues, such as yawning, rubbing his eyes, fussiness, or zoning out.
Distract with Toys
Just like allowing a sibling to help, you’ll need to gauge your baby’s reaction on this one. You want to avoid waving a toy in your baby’s face, but sometimes something soft can give him security.
If your baby is afraid of baths, maybe it’s the water! Water is a completely new thing to your baby. It’s hot. It’s cold. It feels weird. Maybe they just need a little time to get used to it. So, when your baby is in a completely safe, chill mood, try gently moving your baby’s hand over water in a bowl.
Maybe in a few days, sprinkle some water on his feet. Make sure you give him time to get used to all aspects of the water: touch, sight, and even the sound.
You can also try bathing with your baby, or if you’re paranoid about getting peed on (please tell me I’m not the only mom), try going to the pool. A baby’s tolerance level seems to improve dramatically whenever they’re safe and secure in your arms.
Other Bathing Tips
Tips for Older Babies
Is your baby suddenly afraid of baths past three months? There’s a good chance this is simply from development and, as annoying as this might be right now, it’s actually a good thing. It means that your baby is becoming more aware of his surroundings! Unfortunately, the transition into this higher level of reasoning can be a difficult one.
Don’t lose heart though, there are several super fun things you can try to help your baby ease out of this phase.
This is where you get the siblings involved, play peek-a-boo, or point out fun things in the room. I started putting my daughter’s little bathtub in front of a mirror. She barely noticed the water because she was too busy staring at the little cutie in front of her!
I love these things. When my eldest baby suddenly feared the bath, color drops made her love it again! Crayola makes baby-safe, non-toxic water tablets to make your baby’s bath colorful and fun. Just stay away from the yellow. Trust me on this.
The trick is to find the right toys for your baby’s personality. Think about what your baby likes to play with outside of bath time? Does she prefer dolls? Stuffed animals? Aquatic bath animals are totally the way to go. Or does she enjoy more interactive toys and games? Grab some watermills or wind-up boats!
Snack after bath
I’m not saying you should bribe your baby but…sometimes a snack after bath time can help. It can subtly (or not so subtly) let your kiddo know that bath time is for fun and it means that good things are coming.
Experimenting with different times
We kind of touched on this a little above, but nailing that perfect time to wash your baby is essential. Sometimes, your baby just will not enjoy baths if you try to do it right before bed time or nap time. This time can also change as your baby grows. For example, my youngest loved bathtime right before bed. But as she grew older and bath time became more fun, it actually made sense to do it much earlier in the day.
But Wait! My Baby Hates the Bath Still!
Sometimes you can try all the baby bath tips in the world and still your newborn baby will hate the bath.
It just happens. Sometimes their nervous system can’t handle all of the sensations.
Luckily for you, babies don’t really sweat. If you need to give your baby sponge baths for a while, it’s not the end of the world. Your job is to create a relaxing, enjoyable environment for your baby. You have zero control over whether or not your baby actually enjoys it.
Baby Bath Safety Tips
I’m sure at this point you’re probably familiar with all the baby safety tips, but I don’t feel like I can end this post without mentioning some general baby safety tips. Here are a few essential reminders, but I highly recommend reading this helpful post to ensure that your baby is safe!
- Never EVER leave your baby in water unattended. Not even for a second.
- Always check the water temperature (using the elbow or wrist test)
- Err on the side of caution when using new bath soaps. Try to perform a patch test first.
- Dump water after use.
- Fill the tub with no more than 2 inches of water (for infants)
You CAN Calm a Baby During Bath Time Without All the Tears!
Alright Mama, if your baby hates taking baths, please don’t beat yourself up. It’s likely not even you! Babies are so quirky, this might just be one of his things. Try a few of these baby bath tips and see if they help. If not, think of the situation through your baby’s eyes and be patient. This phase will pass!
I hope the tips and tricks help! Let me know if you have any good advice you’d like to pass along. 🙂
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