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How to Bathe a One Year Old

by Chelsea Fitzgerald

Many 1-year-old babies enjoy bath time, but since they are generally too big for a baby bath or the kitchen sink, bathing them in the bathtub is necessary. This is often a scary process for many first-time parents. If you ensure the baby’s comfort, this time of day can be quality time for you and your child, and quite soothing for the baby.

Check the setting on your water heater and reset it if it is too hot. Prevent scalding temperatures in the bath water by keeping the temperature to 120 F or less.

Check the temperature in the bathroom, and turn up the heat in your home if it's chilly. Wait a few minutes for the room to warm. Another option is to use a small space heater in the bathroom to ensure the area is comfortably warm. Follow the directions on the heater and keep it safely away from the tub or any other water source. It is difficult to enjoy a bath if your child has goose bumps.

Place a soft, clean bath towel, washcloth, liquid baby soap or a mild bar of soap, and baby shampoo near the bathtub. Put the baby’s clean clothes, a fresh diaper, cotton balls and cotton swabs in the area as well. This prevents you from having to get your wet baby out of the tub to go collect these articles before the bath is over.

Place a baby bath seat in the tub if you have one. This helps keep him in one area and allows you to use both hands to bathe him. Another option is to put a folded towel in the bottom of the tub to help prevent him from slipping during the bath time.

Run the bathwater before you disrobe the baby. Only a few inches of water are necessary to do the job well. Test the water before placing your child in it. It should feel comfortably warm, not too hot or cold. A soothing water temperature is one of the best ways to ensure that your baby finds bathing a pleasant experience.

Disrobe your baby and place him in the tub. Singing songs to a baby often helps him enjoy bath time. This is also a perfect time to teach your baby his body parts. Say things like, “Now mommy is going to wash your little fingers; let’s count your fingers, okay?”

Pour warm water over your baby frequently while he is in the tub using a small plastic bowl or cup, or a plastic bath toy with a scoop. The warm water is soothing and helps prevent him from becoming chilled.

Dampen a cotton ball with warm water and squeeze it out. Swipe the cotton ball from the inner corner of the baby’s eyelid to the outer corner to clean any accumulated discharge.

Clean the outer folds of the baby’s ear with a cotton swab, but do not insert it into the ear canal.

Squirt a small amount of a baby bath product onto the washcloth. Rub the product into the cloth so it does not feel cold to your baby. Baby bath products are generally tear-free and do not irritate or dry out your baby’s skin. Another option is a mild moisturizing soap recommended by your pediatrician.

Wash your baby’s face and neck with the soapy washcloth. Take care to clean behind the ears and any folds in the neck. Rinse the washcloth with warm water and then rub it over the baby’s face and neck to rinse them.

Support your baby's neck and head, and slowly lower his head into the bath water to wet his hair if he needs a shampoo. You can also wet the hair with a damp washcloth or gently place his head under the faucet while supporting him.

Place a drop of baby shampoo on his scalp. Rub the shampoo in circular motions over his scalp.

Hold the palm of your hand over your baby’s forehead and eyes while you use the scoop to rinse his hair. Another option is to support his head and shoulders while sticking his head under the faucet. You can also use the wet washcloth to rinse his head if he doesn’t have much hair. It is not necessary to wash his hair every day. Give him a shampoo about once a week unless he gets his hair sticky from foods or it gets dirty in other ways.

Rub the washcloth over the baby’s chest area, arms and gently in between each finger. Work your way down his body. Pay special attention to the genitals and any folds in the skin on his legs, arms or other body parts.

Rinse the baby’s body using the scoop or the washcloth saturated with warm water. Removing all the soap helps prevent skin irritations.

Drain the bathtub and then wrap a clean towel around your baby to remove him from the tub. Do this carefully since wet babies are slippery and hard to hold. Praise him for being such a good boy while you gently rub away the moisture from his body.

Items you will need
  • Soft, clean bath towel
  • Washcloth
  • Liquid baby soap or mild bar of soap
  • Baby shampoo
  • Clean clothes
  • Diaper
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Baby bath seat or folded towel (optional)
  • Small plastic bowl or cup or bath toy with a scoop

Tips

  • Avoid vigorously scrubbing your baby’s skin. Regular bathing prevents dirt and grime buildup. Soft, gentle rubbing with the washcloth is all that is necessary to keep your baby’s skin clean and healthy.
  • Bubble baths help entertain babies while taking a bath. In some babies, the products may irritate the skin, particularly if he has sensitive skin or eczema. If your baby has skin problems, avoid using bubble bath products or giving him long baths that may dry out the skin.
  • If splashing in the tub fascinates your baby, wear clothing that you don't mind getting wet. Place some extra towels around the tub to absorb the water and prevent you from slipping on the damp floor.

Warning

  • Never leave your baby in the bathtub while you answer the door or run to get a forgotten item. It only takes a few seconds for infants to drown, even in a small amount of water. Wrap your baby in a clean towel and take him with you.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images