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Your baby's bath isn't just for getting clean. It's supposed to be a warm, soothing ritual. It gives parents and babies one-on-one time that's enjoyable for everyone – or is it?
If your baby screams at the sight, sound, or touch of a bath, you're not alone. It can be distressing for both of you, but eventually this phase will pass.
In the meantime, here are solutions that have worked for other moms and dads.
Bathe only when fed and well-rested
"What worked for us was making sure our baby isn't tired or hungry at bath time."
Try a bath pillow
"My son is 8 months and he hated taking a bath until I got him a great bath pillow. It's really cushiony and it stays as warm as the water in the tub. The one I got is made of fabric instead of rubber, so he's really cozy. His feet hang off and he can splash around. He'll stay in there as long as he can, or until I wash his hair. Then the fun's over."
Transition gradually to the baby tub
"I would place our son in the baby tub with no water in it and fill another tub with warm water. I'd start by pouring the water on his toes with a cup and work my way up. That stopped most of the crying because we weren't dealing with very much water. If I did get some whimpers, I'd sing to him. I always had a heater on in the bathroom to make it nice and cozy. My son hated the loudness of the running water, too, so I'd prepare everything before we entered the bathroom. Now he's 8 months old and sits on the floor of our stand-up shower while we take one."
"My daughter hated baths too. Then I realized that it was the water immersion that she hated. Now we put her in her baby tub and then fill the tub with water. That seems to help ease her into it. It totally stopped the screams and tears."
"My daughter hated bath time until just before she turned 8 months old. She has always been amazed by running water, though, so finally I sat her on my lap while running the water in her tub and then let her put her hands in and splash. We played like that for a few minutes, and then I sat her in the water. She still clung to me, but we were able to get through bath time without screaming."
Forget the tub for now
"Until my son was 2 1/2 months old, he took a 'counter bath.' I laid a towel out on the counter. In the sink, I had a bucket in the sink full of warm water, baby soap, and a washcloth. I would wash him really well with the washcloth, squirting soap on the cloth and running it over his little body. I used only a little soap, so there was no need to dunk him in water. I had a dry towel ready to wrap him in so he could be all warm and snuggly afterward. When I did finally get him into the tub, as long as the water was warm he didn't have a problem with it."
"I gave my baby washcloth baths until he felt comfortable in a tub. I just squirted some baby wash on the cloth with some warm water and cleaned him up. It was fast, there was no screaming, and he always smelled good to me. Some struggles are not worth having. Eventually he liked baths."
Distract your baby with songs and conversation
"Ever since my son's first bath, I've talked to him and told him what I was doing ("First we wash your left eye, then we wash your right eye..."), and I sing songs in between. He has never once fussed at bath time because of the constant entertainment."
"After the first few times of screaming, I left my baby in her diaper as I gave her a sponge bath and sang to her softly and she stopped screaming. Now I prepare for her bath while carrying her and explain things as I lay them out, and then she watches as I fill up the tub. As I developed a routine with her, adding bath toys and singing as I bathed her, she gradually relaxed, and now she loves bath time."
"At first my baby didn't like the bath. So I started playing music and talking to her during the bath and splashing the water around her, and now at 3½ months, she loves it."
Mind the air and water temperature
"I run a nice warm bath. I hold my son and wipe him down with a wet washcloth from the tub so he can feel the temperature of the water. Then I place him in the tub feet first. Once in the tub, he's fine kicking his feet in the water. But if water splashes his face, I have to hurry and get him out of the water – because there's no calming him down after that."
"My baby screamed as soon as I put him in the water until I finally realized he was startled by the temperature of the water. I started making it just barely lukewarm, and sometimes would add warmer water later after he was in, and he stopped crying."
"Try altering the temperature in the room. I tried everything, until I thought to bring a mini space heater in there and bring it up to almost 80 degrees. It worked!"
"Make sure the bathroom and drying area are nice and warm. I run a small heater with the door closed for a few minutes before putting my baby in the bath. I also have one running in his bedroom for dry-off and dressing."
Try a shower
"I take a shower with my 2-month-old son in a baby sling that's made to go in water. He really enjoys the shower."
"We just switched from baths to 'showers' for our 10-month-old. We have a non-slip mat down in the bathtub, and we use one of those handheld sprayers. Now bath time is all fun instead of the crying we used to deal with."
Stick to a routine
"I've kept a strict routine of bathing my son at the same time or close to the same time every night. There are toys in the tub to distract him, and when he's done with his bath, he gets to go 'flying.' I wrap him securely in a towel and fly him around the bathroom and bedroom, stopping at mirrors to look at himself and toys for him to kiss. Now he is used to the routine and even gets a little frustrated if his bath doesn't start on time."
Bundle for warmth
"I soaked my baby's hooded bath towel in the warm bath water, laid it in his bath seat and wrapped him up. Uncovering and re-covering each little limb, head to toe until he was clean. He stayed warm and happy without ever being immersed in water until he was around 4 months old, when he was ready for a bath in an infant tub."
"When my baby was very small, he cried a lot at bath time. I swaddled him in a receiving blanket after taking off his clothes and diaper. Then slipped my hand in here and there to rub on the soap and put him in the warm water, still swaddled in his blanket."
"One idea that might help is what the nurse did for my son during his first bath in the hospital. She wrapped him all up in a receiving blanket and gently put him into the warm tub water. Then she slowly and carefully unwrapped him, little by little, as she washed each part of his body. He was fine and didn't cry. We did the same thing at home for the first couple of weeks, until he started liking the bath, and then we stopped using the blanket."
"My daughter doesn't have problems with bath time now because I bathe with her. She has the comfort and security of my skin and the warmth of my body when the water loses its heat., I can feel the water too, so I can adjust the temperature if it feels too cold."
"What finally worked for us was laying my son on a bath pillow with my husband in the tub talking to him and playing with him while I sat outside the tub and bathed him. We also had to have the water pretty warm."
"The bath scared one of my boys, so I took baths with him. I would start nursing him as we got in, and then just hold him close the whole time we were in there. I took maybe four or five baths with him. After that he was fine with the bath."