Bathing your baby is a lovely opportunity for bonding, sensory nourishment, connection, and relaxation at the end of a long day.
However, bathing your beautiful little one does come with two very significant risks: drowning and scalds. The good news is that these risks are avoidable if you follow the four golden rules for safe bath times:
Bathtime Safety tips:
1. Always supervise your baby (never leave an older sibling to supervise).
2. Ensure that the water temperature is 37-38℃. Use a water thermometer or test it with your elbow or wrist.
3. Be prepared with everything you need in the bathroom with you, so that you don’t have to run out.
4. Let the water out as soon as the bath is over.
Tips to keeping your baby safe from drowning in the bath:
Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for Australian children. 20 seconds and a few centimetres of water is all it takes for a child to drown. It’s sudden, silent, and quick, so you might not even realise it’s happening.
- Remove all distractions, such as your mobile phone.
- Always keep a hand on your slippery and wriggly little person.
- If your phone or doorbell rings, scoop up your bub, wrap them in a towel, and take them with you (no matter how much they protest).
- Only use enough water to reach their belly button if they’re sitting up independently.
- A bath seat or cradle isn’t a safety device, so you must be supervising them and be in arm’s reach at all times. You can skip using one of these devices altogether as they can tip over easily, and instead place a smaller baby bath in the big bath.
- Use a non-slip bath mat.
- Wet babies are slippery so take them out of the bath using a towel rather than your hands.
- Keep all bathroom, laundry, and toilet doors shut when you’re not using them. Mobile babies love to explore!
- Keep plugs out of reach so that older children can’t fill up baths or sinks.
- Know what to do in an emergency by completing a baby and child first-aid course.
Tips to keeping your baby safe from scalds in the bath:
Baby skin is very sensitive so a scald can happen easily and quickly. Adults tend to prefer a temperature around 41-42℃ for baths, but the safe temperature for young children is 37-38℃. Always test that the water is comfortably warm first.
- Keep your baby away from the bath until the water is a safe temperature, and don’t put them in while the taps are running.
- Always run cold water first, and gradually increase the temperature by adding more warm water (not straight hot water).
- If you have a mixer tap, run cold water at the end so that the tap isn’t hot to touch, and leave it pointed to the cold setting.
- If you have separate taps, swirl the water in the bath so there are no hot or cold spots. Make sure the hot tap is turned off tight.
- Ensure your baby or older siblings can’t get to the taps, or even better, cover them with tap protectors.
- Consider asking a plumber to install devices that keep hot water at a safe temperature.
- Never leave a child alone in the bathroom or bath as they may be able to turn the hot tap on.
- Accidents happen every day, so be prepared. Know what to do for burns and scalds by completing a baby and child first-aid course.
More bathtime safety tips for babies
If you’re finding baby bathtimes stressful or anxiety-inducing because you’re tired, your baby is super squirmy or trying to stand up, or they really don’t enjoy it, here are some bonus tips:
- There’s no need to bath them every day. Instead, you could give them a warm sponge bath or a quick once-over with a washcloth and some gentle baby wash.
- Change the time of day when you bath them. The end of the day can be too much for both of you. Your baby might be more open to it in the morning after a nap and a feed, and you might feel less tired.
- Consider having a bath with your baby for some extra bonding and relaxation time for you. Ensure that someone is there to bundle your bub up in a towel and take them from you rather than you trying to get out whilst holding them.
- Make bathtime comfortable for you too. All of that bending over can be painful, so get a good cushion for your knees or a small stool to sit on when you are next to the bath.
- Read our solutions for overcoming baby bathtime fears if your baby doesn’t love it.
- If you have a newborn, read why it’s best to delay baby’s first bath, and then check out our step-by-step guide to bathing your newborn when you’re ready to get started.