Why Does Your Baby Hate The Bath?

baby in a bath towel

When it comes to the bedtime routine, bath time is a personal favourite of mine.  However, it hasn’t always been the case. Both my kids went through phases of literally screaming when they went in their bath tub, and even worse when I tried to use the shower. It was a very stressful experience at times! I remember my son clinging on to me with his arms around my neck! Now he’s a toddler he actually hugs me or my wife when we’re washing him, which is quite sweet.

If you’re faced with a screaming baby or toddler when you try to wash them in the bath, don’t worry as it’s perfectly. They all grow out of it in the end and learn to love splashing around. Let’s talk about why this happens and what you can do to make bath time a special time.

Related Post: 11 Things That Babies Hate

Why does your baby dislike having a bath?

Newborn babies do not like to be messed with and especially don’t like to feel temperature changes. In all likelihood they won’t like getting dressed and undressed and then put in and out of the bath. Other reasons why your baby might cry during a bath are that the water may irritate their sensitive skin, go in their eyes or the water might be too cold or too hot.

Try not to worry if your baby cries during their bath when the water is the right temperature and everything else is okay. It can take time for your baby to get used to the feeling of having a bath and soon enough they will splash around and have fun!

How can you stop your baby crying during a bath?

  • Make sure your baby is well-fed, well-rested and calm before bath time begins. It’s also a good idea to wait 20 minutes or so after your newborn has eaten before you give them a bath. This will help avoid spit up in the bath water. It will help to start bath time with a relaxed, happy baby.
  • Get everything you need for the bath ready before you undress your baby. This means you can focus your full attention on your baby and comfort them throughout the bathing process, as well as making bath time safe. Lay out a towel, any soap you are using, a washcloth and a clean diaper by the bath. Use a small bath or bath support, as a small space helps babies feel safe.
  • During the bath, comfort your baby with your voice and gentle touch. You can sing, talk or hum to your baby. Pour water on their head with care and keep water out of their eyes the best you can. Maintain eye contact with your baby and reassure them. Make sure you stay with them at all times.
  • Use a soft washcloth to gently wash their body and as soon as they are clean, pull them out and give them a big snuggle. There is no need to keep your baby in the bath for a long time especially if they are crying. You can build up to longer baths as and when they are ready.

Why do they cry after a bath? How can you calm them down?

By far the most common reason is because they feel cold. Babies do not like changes in temperature and moving from a nice, warm bath to a cool room is not popular with them! They feel a loss of control in a new situation and feel helpless because they can’t do anything to change it themselves.

Keep an eye on your room temperature, particularly in the winter months, as you prepare to run the bath. It will help afterwards for your baby to get out of the bath into a warmer room. As soon as you take them out of the bath, wrap your baby up in a towel and hold them to your chest. Comfort them as you usually would before getting them dressed.

Why does your baby suddenly hate baths now?

If this has happened to you, I feel your pain! However, it’s perfectly normal. Your baby has probably developed a sense of their surroundings and is now aware of what is happening. They might not like the temperature change, the water in their eyes or something similar, but what’s worse is that they understand what’s coming. Work with them to get used to being in the bath again, take it slow and repeat all the steps you took the first time round. They will soon feel safe and comfortable again.

child in the bath holding a rubber duck

What happens if the water is too hot?

Your baby will tell you straight away and cry in most cases. Before you lower your baby into the bath, check the temperature with your hand or thermometer to make sure it feels good. Your baby might still think this is too warm for them and might try to wriggle out. Take them out, add more cold water and then try again.

Also children have a different threshold when it comes to feeling hot or cold. My daughter loved a warm bath and having fairly hot water when she was a baby and toddler. My son is the completely opposite. He wails and says ‘Hot, hot!’ when the water is barely lukewarm!

How hot is too hot?

There are some obvious visual signs that a bath is too hot that you would expect such as steam rising and the temperature itself. Otherwise, look at your baby’s skin when they are in the bath and notice if it turns very pink or red. This is usually a clear sign that the bath is too hot for your baby. Take them out, cool them and the water down and try again.

There are bath thermometers and other gadgets available to buy to check the temperature of your baby’s bath, but usually you can use your common sense. The prime temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

How long should bath time be?

For newborns about 5-10 minutes is long enough for a bath. However, it can be shorter. My son barely lasts 2 minutes at the moment, but I still make sure I wash him thoroughly. As babies get older and they start to sit up and play in the water they can enjoy the bath for up to 20-30 minutes.

How often should babies bath?

Babies should bathe less than you think they should. Use a washcloth daily to clean their hands, face and diaper area. The general rule of thumb is to give your baby a full bath every few days. This way, the natural oils from their skin can work to protect them without being washed away too often.

That being said, if your baby enjoys it or it becomes a part of their bedtime routine there is nothing stopping you washing them more. In the case your baby has dry or itchy skin you might find fewer baths help.

Should you bathe or feed your baby first?

Try to find the middle ground here where your baby is not hungry or has just eaten before they get into the bath. A baby who is too hungry might be grumpy in the bath and a baby who is too full might spit up or more likely poop into the water.

When can you start bathing your baby?

Once your baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off you can start bathing your baby. Bath time can be a special time for you and your baby. There is often an adjustment period for you both so take your time and ease into bath time together.