As a new parent or someone who is undertaking caring extensively for a baby, toddler, or small child for the first time, all of the things that you are having to learn and remember can be overwhelming, and sometimes even the most seasoned of caregivers have their moments of forgetting something or not being on top of their game for one reason or another.
Baby’s first bath is an important milestone in their little lives and bath time can be a fun time for both parents/caregivers and the baby, but how hot should a baby bath be? Water temperature is critical when it comes to bathing little ones because of their fresh, delicate skin. A safe bathtub temperature for an infant will differ slightly from the safe water temperature for toddlers or even a small child, so let’s take a look at the safest bathwater temperature for babies as well as safe bathwater temperatures for toddlers and children and how to properly bathe and dry your child.
Bath Time Safety
When caring for a child of any age, bath time is a critical part of it that comes with its own set of hazards such as drowning, potentially dangerous chemicals that can poison, electrical appliances, and burns and scalding from temperatures that are too hot.
Before even putting your baby in the bath, make sure that the temperature is no more than 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 36 degrees Celsius. For toddlers and small children, the ideal bath water temperature is between 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), and the best way to ensure that the water is exactly these temperatures, use of a floating bath thermometer or this scoop bath thermometer one are ideal. Temperature can also be checked with an elbow or wrist, but even though the temperature is comfortable for you, it’s not guaranteed to be the right one for a baby or small child, so a thermometer is really the best option.
Don’t just fill the bath with hot water; run some cold in with it as well and keep the child away from the water until it’s the right temperature. Before placing the child in the tub, make sure that you run cold water through the tap so that if the tap is accidentally turned on during the bath, hot scalding water won’t be the first bit of water to come out.
Even after babies start sitting up on their own, if children are under five years of age it’s important to closely supervise bath time because of the potential risks. Make sure that you have all of the bath time essentials before you even begin the bath so that you don’t have to run off to get anything and leave the child alone. If the child is old enough to sit up on their own, only run enough water to wash and play, which is right around belly-button height.
Don’t stray from arm’s reach even if they’re in a bath seat or a cradle. It’s also critical to remember not to leave an older sibling in charge of bath time because their reflexes aren’t as quick and they might not even recognise if the small child is in danger. Ignore anything that could distract you from staying with your baby throughout their bath; if there is a lot going on, we suggest putting off bath time until things have calmed down enough that you can focus solely on them. Drain the tub as soon as bath time is over and don’t leave the child alone in the bathroom at any point; just because the water is drained doesn’t mean that there aren’t other dangers to consider, like electrical appliances, toilets, or medicine and cleaning product bottles.
What You Need at Bath Time
Here is a great checklist to keep in mind when you’re about to give your baby or young child a bath to ensure that you have everything you need before starting the bathing process:
• A clean tub
• A soft washcloth
• A couple of bath towels
• Disposable or cloth diaper, your preference
• Safety pins or holders for cloth diapers, if applicable
• Clothing for the baby or child
• Baby’s or child’s shampoo
• Comb and brush
• Baby scissors for any grooming needed
• A mild soap good for delicate, sensitive skin
• A nice, comfy cotton receiving blanket
How to Bathe and Dry Your Baby
When it comes to newborn babies, they may be given a sponge bath on a towel until their umbilical cord falls off or even until they’re old enough to sit up if you prefer it that way. They can get away with one full bath a week because they don’t tend to get especially dirty. Make a comfortable bath mat from a towel laying on top of a folded blanket. It’s important to get bath time over with as quickly as possible so that baby doesn’t get cold.
Step-by-step, this is how you should be bathing your baby:
• Wash your hands thoroughly, then fill a clean basin or bath tub made for baby with around three inches of water at the correct temperature, 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 36 degrees Celsius
• Make sure all of the items that you will need are within easy reach
• Undress baby and place them on the mat you made or in the tub
• Begin by gently washing baby’s eyelids with a corner of the washcloth, making sure to start at the inner corner of the eye and working toward the ears. Make sure each corner of the washcloth is fresh for each eye
• Wash baby’s face with just water and a washcloth, no soap
• Use plain water and a washcloth to wash the outer part of baby’s ear and pat dry
• In order to wash the hair and scalp, pick up baby and hold them with their buttocks on your hip. Wet baby’s head with plain water and then make a soapy lather with the baby shampoo in your hands and begin rubbing it gently in a circular motion on baby’s head, even at the soft spot. Then, hold baby over the bath or basin and rinse by using a washcloth with plain water or cupping your hand and gently pouring it overt their head, being careful not to get it in their eyes
• For the body, place baby back in the tub or on the pad and make a soapy lather with your hands, then starting at the neck clean your baby’s entire body. Don’t miss the folds of their skin, around fingers and toes, and their private parts. You can then rinse with plain water and washcloth and dry baby with the a soft towel
How to Bathe and Dry Your Toddler
Now that your baby has become a toddler and moves around more, bath time can be a little more challenging, so here are some tips and dos and don’ts for bath time with a toddler:
• Make sure that the water temperature is between 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius)
• First, unless they get dirty, toddlers should only be bathed three or four days of the week
• Make sure you have everything that you need for your toddler’s bath; you can reference the checklist we made for infant bath time because the list is much the same
• The safest place for your toddler to be when bathing is sitting on their buttocks in the tub, with no more than belly-button height water. Throw in bath toys and even cups to make the prospect of sitting in the tub for bath time more fun
• When bathing your toddler, go like you would with an infant – from the top down. • Begin with their face and go from there, making sure to pay special attention to behind the ears, neck, and any other folds in their skin and make sure to remember the privates and buttocks
• Wash their hair last, and when you go to rinse it, have them stand up so that the shampoo doesn’t irritate their private parts and so that it goes ahead and washes all the leftover grime from their body down to drain from the tub
• Once rinsed, dry them completely from head to toe. Keep your toddler’s bath time to no more than about 10 to 15 minutes and use a fragrance-free moisturizer afterward to keep their skin from drying
How to Bathe and Dry Your Child
At five or six years of age, children can usually begin bathing themselves. Once they’ve gotten out of the toddler stage and are able to take a bath themselves, it’s important to make sure they get a bath once or twice a week or more frequently to combat the dirt and grime they may get into while playing and exploring, after playing in a lake, the ocean, or a swimming pool, or if they have been sweating and/or deal with body odor.
For independent bathers, keep going with the water being around belly-button height and have all of the supplies they will need such as soap, shampoo, washcloth, towel, comb and brush, and clean, dry clothes to change into once they’re done right there in the bathroom with them. Supervise the first few baths to make sure that they are properly washing and drying themselves.
Don’t stray too far away from the bathroom as they begin to bathe themselves, and encourage them to keep the door open so that if they need assistance or if they get quiet, it will be easy for you to get to them.
Having your child use a soap that doesn’t contain any fragrance will help to keep their skin from drying out, and of course go by the 10 to 15 minute bathing rule to further prevent dry skin.
Final Thoughts About Bath Time for Children
Bath time for infants, toddlers, and small children isn’t just about getting clean; when bathing your baby, you are bonding with them and enjoying the little moments.
No matter the age of your child, regular baths at the correct temperature are important for keeping clean and healthy, and teaching them to bathe properly will ensure that they keep up with their hygiene as they become independent bathers.