If you’ve ever seen a social media video of baby bath time, whether you have a baby you need to bathe or not, you know it’s just about the sweetest thing ever. Not only is it incredibly adorable to watch a pair of tiny hands splash around in all the bubbles, but it’s also a great way to bond with your baby (or the baby you’re caring for).
Establishing bath time as a positive, cozy experience with your baby is crucial when it comes to creating a routine, and avoiding every bath becoming a nightmare later as your baby gets older and is more able to cause absolute chaos if they don’t consider bath time a positive time in their day.
But when it comes to bathing your baby, there are so many question marks as far as the best way to do it. Do you need a special baby bath to use? Is the sink acceptable? What kind of soap is gentlest on your baby’s skin and eyes? And more importantly, what temperature should baby bath water be?
That last one might not sound like a big deal—you intuitively decide how warm your own water should be when you shower, right? The problem is, your baby’s skin is much more sensitive than yours. In fact, it’s about 20 to 30% thinner than an adult’s skin! So it’s much easier to cause discomfort if the temperature is off, or even cause burns.
So let’s talk about how warm or cool your baby’s bath water should be so as to create a positive, relaxing experience when bath time comes around. Trust us—it’ll make your life much easier once the baby is big enough to slip out of your grasp and go running through the halls soaking wet if they don’t like bath time?
So What Temperature Should Baby Bath Water Be
The ideal temperature for baby bath water is actually between 98 and 99°F, which is between 37 and 38°C if you live anywhere other than the US. That might sound really warm, but it’s actually in the neighborhood of your body temperature, so once you test out that temperature, you’ll likely find it isn’t as warm as you imagine.
It’s important not to let your baby’s bathwater get much warmer than this because, as we mentioned, baby skin is much thinner and less tolerant than adult skin. So even if the water is around 99°F and feels too cool to be comfortable to you, it’s perfect for a baby! Allowing the water to get warmer than this can make your baby uncomfortable, and at worst can scald their sensitive skin.
You also don’t want the bathwater to become too cool. While it’s unlikely you’ll have your baby in the bath long enough for them to be at any serious risk if the water’s too cold, it can possibly cause some health issues… and even if it doesn’t, there’s nothing worse than a cold bath. Since the goal here is to make bath time a happy and healthy part of your baby’s routine, keeping the water from feeling like a polar plunge is key!
How Do You Ensure Your Bath Water Is the Right Temperature?
As with most things, part of this will just be practice and experience. After you’ve bathed your baby a number of times and have gotten familiar with what the proper water temperature feels like, it’s probable that you’ll be able to test the water temperature with just your hand and recognize when it feels about right. To start off, however, we recommend getting a bath thermometer to start!
That way, you’ll be confident that your baby’s bathwater is at a healthy temperature. You can continue using it, or you can start to rely on your own sense of the temperature over time. But there’s nothing wrong with taking that one extra step to be sure everything is correct!
When it comes to running your baby’s bath, it’s important to run the bath before you put your baby into whatever tub you're using. As your baby gets older and is more able to move around and sit up on their own, especially if they love bath time and you’re in a hurry, it can be tempting to set them down in the tube and let them play while the water fills up. But if you’re trying to be mindful of the water temperature, we’d recommend not doing this.
You’ll need to fiddle with the hot and cold water controls to get the bathwater to the happy medium you’re looking for, and it’ll be hard to control the temperature while the water is still running. If there’s any sudden burst of hot or cold water, it could easily undo all the hard work you’ve done to make bath time pleasant—plus, no one likes when their shower suddenly runs cold. Why would your baby?!
How Do You Keep Your Baby’s Bath Water Warm?
Because we’ve advised not to run bath water with your baby in the tub, you won’t be able to do what we usually do when our bath starts to go cold: turn on the hot water and revive it. So figuring out how to keep your baby’s bathwater at a comfortable level might seem confusing! While you likely won’t be able to maintain an exact temperature throughout bath time, there are a handful of things you can do to make sure your kiddo stays warm and cozy throughout.
First, you’ll want to make sure the room you’re bathing the baby in is warm to begin with. Whether it’s your bathroom or another space, make sure all windows and doors are closed, and maybe turn the heat up a little bit before you begin. If the room you’re using doesn’t have heating, you can always use a small space heater to ratchet up the cozy factor, especially in a small space like a bathroom.
We’d also recommend using a designated baby bathtub or a (clean!) sink because the smaller volume of water will allow it to stay warmer longer. The other key thing you can do to keep your baby warm during bath time is making sure that everything stays within reach—make sure any towels, blankets, or robes you intend to use when you take your baby out of the water are nearby and ready to go, so your baby doesn’t spend too much time in the open air!
You can also keep a separate basin of even warmer water in which to dip sponges or washcloths, so as you’re washing your baby, there’s a little extra keeping them warm without making their bathwater uncomfortably hot.
The other key to making sure the temperature is consistent is keeping bath time quick! While as an adult, creating the perfect long, luxurious bath experience is the height of pampering, your baby doesn’t have this same need. Wash your baby gently but quickly with a gentle cleanser, allow them a small amount of time to splash around or get comfortable, and then get ‘em out of there.
Not only will this keep the temperature of the water from becoming unpleasant, but it will also keep bath time as a positive in your baby’s routine because it won’t be some long and drawn-out ordeal they dread.
If you’re a new parent, you know just how stressful it can be to figure out how to adjust to life with a whole new person you’re entirely responsible for. No amount of talks from your own parents or reading parenting books can fully prepare you for the journey you’ve just started, and so it can feel totally overwhelming when you realize that something that is totally simple and intuitive to you as an adult can have all sorts of challenges and extra steps when it comes to doing them with your baby. All you need to have a great, relaxing bath is a Serenity Bath Bomb and some time alone—it’s a different story for your newborn.
Even still, baby bath time can be a fun and relaxing bonding experience for you and your baby, but it also comes with a lot of little things you’re going to need to wrap your head around first. Even if you’re not a new parent, but instead take care of infants, or are a new aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling, you might be worried about getting it all right. There’s even some serious debate about when to bathe your baby for the first time at all—talk about a learning curve!
Luckily, the biggest things when it comes to bathing your baby are just making sure the water is at a safe temperature, and paying attention the whole time. And since the new addition to your life is important enough to make you read about the right temperature for their bathwater to begin with, we’re pretty sure you’re going to do just fine!
Baby Bath Basics: A Parent’s Guide | Mayo Clinic
Infant Skin Microstructure Assessed In Vivo Differs From Adult Skin in Organization and at the Cellular Level | National Library of Medicine
Newborn’s First Bath: Any Preferred Timing? A Pilot Study From Lebanon | BMC Research Notes