Transcript: How to Bath a Newborn Who Hates Bathtime

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How to Bath a Newborn Who Hates Bathtime and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Bath time is an important time for your baby, keeping them healthy and clean. It can also help teach them independence for when they’re older. To keep clean, toddlers need a bath 2 – 3 times per week, and it is a special time and an excellent bonding for parents. However, I often talk with parents who are finding bath time challenging with a little one who clearly is not enjoying the experience.

When I was studying to be a childcare educator way back in the eighties, I learnt all sorts of tips and tricks to help with bath time, and it is one of the reasons why I have since become a baby massage instructor and fast forward to today and things have not changed that much.

In this week’s episode of First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m going to share a number of ideas relating to bath time, which you can include in your daily bath time routines. I’ve used these during my many years working as a childcare educator, and they have always been popular with both parents and babies.

Before I get into it, I’ve got a few important points for you to watch out for, including safety, before you get started.

You can do this as little as 3 times per week until your baby is more mobile.

There is no need to give your newborn baby a bath every day. You can do this as little as 3 times per week until your baby is more mobile. In fact, bathing them too often, can dry out your baby’s skin and decrease their natural bacteria count and make them more susceptible to infections and rashes.

I suggest only giving your newborn sponge baths until the stump of their umbilical cord falls off, which usually happens by the time they are 1 – 2 weeks old. If the cord has still not fallen off after that, then there may be other issues which need to be addressed by your pediatrician or doctor, particularly after they are 2 months old.

Babies love to be around you and hear your voice during their bath time, so make sure you are in the room at all times. Always keep talking to them and do not leave them unattended at any time. This is also of course an issue of safety, ensuring that you are close by in the event of any problem or emergency.

Something that I teach in my baby massage trainings, which I thought important to include here. Please avoid bathing your little one if you have just massaged them. This is to ensure that you do not lose hold of them by accident, as a result of their skin being slippery from traces of massage oil. Leave bathing them until another time when there is no accident risk.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s some tips that I’ve picked up over the years and have used on many occasions, which should help reduce the stresses often associated with bath time.

I suggest delaying your baby’s bath time if they’re feeling hungry, since this will simply cause them distress. I suggest always feeding them before you bath them or ensure they are not due to be fed before their bath time. I suggest planning their feeds around bath time.

Babies, not surprisingly, may start to have a negative association with their bath time if the temperature of the water isn’t right for them. So please ensure the temperature of their bath is right, so they are not cold, and of course do not run the risk of getting burnt. The temperature should be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37.8 in Celsius. You can always use a thermometer to get an accurate reading of the temperature or just use your elbow or wrist to test whether it feels comfortable, warm, but not too hot.

I also suggest that you make their whole bathing process as relaxing as possible by filling their bath before bringing them into the bathroom and empty it after they have been dried, dressed and are no longer in the bathroom.

There is little points in taking the time to get the bath water, the right temperature only for your baby to end up being cold after being removed from the bath due to you being unorganized. It is important that you are well organized before you get started. So please ensure that the bathroom is a warm temperature and you have everything you need before considering placing your baby in their bath. This is likely to include washcloths, nappies/diapers and nappy cream and a warm towel for when they come out of the bath. For reasons of safety, always ensure that everything you need is in easy reach so that you can keep a hand on your baby at all times.

Some babies will have issues with being bathed due to their startle reflex. This is an involuntary response called the Moro reflex, which is a normal reflex for an infant when they are startled or feel like they are falling. Your baby does this in response to being startled and it is intended to keep them safe. You may have seen this reflex in action when your baby is suddenly startled while sleeping. When this occurs, they will have a startled look and their arms will fling out sideways, with their palms facing up and the thumbs flexed.

If you’ve tried everything and your baby is still unhappy, then you could also try getting them to suck on something. Babies love to suck on things, whether they are teething or not and it’s extremely soothing for them when they suck on their hands or a dummy/pacifier, their brain releases the hormones dophine, as well as endorphins. I’m personally not a fan of pacifiers, but I know they’re a godsend for some babies as well as their parents. If they like sucking their hands, then you could always raise them up slightly using a bath raiser, so that they can put their hands in their mouth.

If your baby is clearly having issues bathing due to this, here is something to try, which I’ve found very effective. Try lowering them gently into the bath with their feet first. Alternatively, you can try a baby bath support, which will help their position in the water. They are not completely immersed in the water, but can still be washed easily. Just make sure you cease using one once your baby is able to start sitting up, since they are then unsafe. I’ve included an example of a baby bath support that is available via Amazon on the episode page and I’ll let you know where you can find this at the conclusion of this episode.

Make sure that you put in the right quantity of water so that it sits around your baby’s shoulder height when they are seated in the bath. Some parents have told me they’re uncomfortable with this volume of water, due to dangers of drowning. If you feel this way, then I suggest putting a warm face washer, or flannel on their chest to ensure they are warm enough.

Once they have been removed from the bath and dried with a warm towel, dress them quickly to ensure they remain warm. The best way to go about doing this is to only expose the area of their body that you are drying at the time when possible.

You can also take steps to lessen their time needed in the bath, if it is causing them stress and they are clearly not enjoying it. You could do this by washing their hands and face before you place them in the water and a nice way to do this is to wrap them in a warm towel as you wash their hands, face, hair, nose and ears.

You could have a bath with them, which can be very comforting and they also get the important skin to skin time with you, which is so, so beneficial. This will not only calm them, but it also reduces their heart rate and stress levels.

I’ve also find it helpful to either sing or speak in a calm voice to your baby when they’re distressed and this can also help during their bath time. Your baby loves to hear your voice, whether you are singing or talking to them. They may try to mimic you or you could get an amazing smile from them.

My final suggestion if they clearly don’t like baths is to give them a sponge bath and come back to it later on.

I hope you’ve found the tips and suggestions covered in this episode of assistance. I’ve drawn on my experience over many, many years working as a childcare educator, and I’d love to hear about your experiences with bath time and whether you’ve found any of the tips presented of assistance to you. You can contact me via email at, that’s

I also share each episode on the First Time Mum’s Chat Instagram page, and you’ll hear me chatting live with folks I’ve interviewed from time to time. Please support me by following me, and I look forward to meeting you during one of my lives.

The episode show notes, the link to my Instagram page and the baby bath support example on Amazon that I mentioned earlier can be found at, that’s

Next week I’m going to be chatting with Infant Craniosacral Therapist, Meaghan Beames, who will be sharing how she helps babies improve their latch, neck mobility and so, so much more. Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you get quick and easy access to all of our episodes when they are live.