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Bathing an infant

Alternative Names

Bathing safety tips; Infant bathing; Newborn bathing; Bathing your newborn baby

What to do at Home

Bath time can be fun, but you need to be very careful with your child around water. Most drowning deaths in children happen at home, often when a child is left alone in the bathroom. DO NOT leave your child alone around water, not even for a few seconds.

Ways to Prevent Bathing Accidents

These tips can help you prevent accidents in the bath:

  • Stay close enough to children who are in the tub so that you can reach out and hold them if they slip or fall.
  • Use non-skid decals or a mat inside the tub to prevent slipping.
  • Use toys in the tub to keep your child busy and sitting down, and away from the faucet.
  • Keep the temperature of your water heater below 120°F (48.9°C) to prevent burns.
  • Keep all sharp objects, such as razors and scissors, out of your child's reach.
  • Unplug all electric items, such as hair dryers and radios.
  • Empty the tub after bath time is over.
  • Keep the floor and your child's feet dry to prevent slipping.

Extra Tips for Newborns

You will need to be extra careful when bathing your newborn:

  • Have a towel ready to wrap your newborn in to dry and keep warm right after the bath.
  • Keep your baby's umbilical cord dry.
  • Use warm, NOT hot, water. Place your elbow under the water to check temperature.
  • Wash your baby's head last so that their head does not get too cold.
  • Bath your baby every 3 days.

Bathroom Safety

Other tips that can protect your child in the bathroom are:

  • Store medicines in the child-proof containers they came in. Keep the medicine cabinet locked.
  • Keep cleaning products out of reach of children.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed when they are not being used so your child cannot get in.
  • Place a door knob cover over the outside door handle.
  • DO NOT ever leave your child alone in the bathroom.
  • Place a lid lock on the toilet seat to keep a curious toddler from drowning.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk with your child's health care provider if you have questions about the safety of your bathroom or your child's bathing routine.

References

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. Standard 2.2.0.4: Supervision near bodies of water. In: Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards, Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education; 2011. cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/2.2.0.4. Accessed May 17, 2016

Weiss J, American Academy of Pediatrics: Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics. 2010;126(1):e253-e262. PMID: 20498167 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20498167.

Wesley SE, Allen E, Bartsch H. Care of the newborn. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 21.

Review Date:5/18/2016
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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