Bathtime should be a relaxing chance to bond with your child—and to take hundreds of adorable pictures to send to grandma. Unfortunately, for some parents, bathtime is anything but serene.
Some babies seem to love the water right away, while others are terrified of it. In fact, your baby might cry or scream every time you bring out the tub. It’s actually not at all uncommon for babies to hate baths, but don’t worry. There are lots of tricks you can try to get your baby used to the water and comfortable with bathtime.
Here’s how you can make bathing more of a joy and less of a terror, so your little one can get clean — and happy — come bathtime.
Do a Dry Run
If your baby’s waterworks start every time you turn the water on, try placing your baby in her tub without any water, so she can get used to sitting in it. A few minutes at a time should do the trick. After a few days of that dry run, your baby may be ready for the real deal.
Keep in mind that it may take your little one a bit longer to stop hating bathtime, and that’s normal too. “For some, it takes just one bath experience —whether it’s the feel of the water, the temperature or the soap — for them to fear bathing,” says Dr. Alison Mitzner, a board-certified pediatrician in New York. So be patient if it takes your baby a little more time to start loving the bath ritual, or at least tolerating it.
Find Fun Distractions
As all parents know, distraction is a powerful strategy to keep in your baby-raising toolbox. If your child cries in the tub, try distracting him to make bathtime more fun. Bath toys or even a colorful bath mat can go a long way in making bathtime feel more like playtime. (If you’re bathing a newborn, one parent can hold a toy up for the baby while the other focuses on giving the bath.) When bathtime is over, store toys in a bath bin to keep them dry and ready for next time.
Check the Temperature
A water temperature that seems OK to you might feel too hot for your little one. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing the water with the inside of your wrist or elbow. It should feel warm, not hot. (Around 100°F is ideal to prevent chilling or burning your baby.) You can also get a thermometer to check the temperature if you aren’t sure. Once you’ve got the perfect temperature, use a tub stopper to keep all that just-right water where you need it.
Also, if you live in a home that tends to get chilly, you might want to turn the thermostat up a few degrees at bathtime. That way your baby won’t get as cold right before or after the bath.
Watch Your Baby’s Eyes and Head
Those areas may be especially sensitive to the water, so it’s important to be prepared. “Have a dry towel or washcloth nearby to dry their eyes if they don’t like having water near their head,” Dr. Mitzner says. Try adding a bunch of different towels, washcloths and sponges to your baby shower registry to see which one your baby responds to the most. If your baby still doesn’t like water poured near his head, try cleaning his face and hair (if he has any) with a wet washcloth until he’s ready.
Create an Exciting Routine
For older babies, toddlers and young kids, bathtime is about more than just getting clean. When bathtime is part of your baby’s nightly routine, she’ll come to expect it more and it won’t be so traumatic. Read a book to your baby before or after bathtime — or even during the bath, if you can manage it — so she has something fun to look forward to when it’s time to get clean. You can also look out for books that are specifically about bathtime, as well as waterproof baby books that can handle getting soaked.
It might not seem like it now, but your baby won’t hate the bath forever. Once she gets used to the ritual, bathtime will turn into a chance for you both to unwind, play and bond at the end of a busy day.
Check out the OXO blog for more tips on creating fun and comforting routines for your little ones.