When Should I Stop Using a Baby Bath?

How and When to Make the Transition

Mum pouring soap on hand, baby in bathtub
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The baby bath is the perfect vessel in which to wash up your little one, but at what point does your child outgrow it? There's really no fixed rule about when you should stop using a baby bath, but most babies are ready for the bathtub at around 6 months or whenever they're able to sit up and support themselves on their own.

Your child's size might have a lot to do with why you haven't switched. Some children quickly outgrow the baby bath, while others still fit inside comfortably at one year old. There are also other factors: Maybe your baby can sit up but doesn't have complete control of her body just yet. Maybe you want to save water by sticking to a small baby bath. Do whatever you're comfortable doing and what works best for your child.

Here are some tips that might be helpful if you've started thinking about leaving the baby bath behind.

Transitioning to the Tub

A small, constricting baby bath is a lot different than a huge bathtub, and your little one will probably notice. Try putting the baby bath into the bathtub to transition. If you've been using the baby bath somewhere other than the bathroom, move it into the bathroom for a while to familiarize your child with the environment before putting it into the regular bathtub.

Another trick to make the transition easier is to skip the baby bathtub altogether and simply place your baby on his back on a towel in the bottom of the bathtub. Use just a few inches of warm water and another warm, wet towel over her body (or use a large towel that you can place her in between). Lift the towel as needed to clean each area. To keep him warm, occasionally pour some of the bath water over the towel. You can start doing this at any time before your baby is sitting up to help make the move to the big tub just part of the usual program.

The first few times in the tub can be a bit scary, especially if your child isn't fond of baths in the first place. This is especially true if you've been using a European-style baby tub that offers a very tight, comfortable fit and back support; a far cry from a wide-open tub. If this is the case, or if your baby isn't quite able to sit up yet, try making the move to the big tub by using a bath seat. In addition to supporting your child, it will also prevent her from lying down in the water and moving about freely, which may help her feel more secure until she's ready and used to bathing in the big tub.

Take Appropriate Safety Measures

Make sure you have everything you need at your side—diaper, clothing, towel, baby shampoo and/or soap, and washcloth—so you're not tempted to leave the room or turn your back on your child. He might be old enough for the big tub, but he certainly isn't ready to be unsupervised. Your child will need your constant supervision during every bath in the regular tub just like she did when you had her in the baby bath since babies can drown in just an inch or two of water. If you do need to leave for any reason, wrap your baby in a towel and take him with you.

Make sure the bathroom is warm and fill the tub with just an inch or two of water. You can add more water as your child grows and is better able to control her body. Test the water before placing your child in it and throughout the bath. It should feel warm, but not hot. You may also want to turn your water heater down to 120 degrees F so your baby won't get burned if he somehow manages to turn the water on.

Be sure to place him on a non-slip mat in the tub since wet bathtubs are notoriously slippery. Purchase a faucet cover as well so she doesn't hurt her head if she bumps into it.

To Ease Back Pain

Some parents are reluctant to transition from a baby bath to a big tub because all of that bending over causes major back strain. If that's the case, use the kitchen sink, as long as your child still fits. You'll be able to stand, which will reduce stress on your back. If this isn't possible, keep baths short, but just long enough to get the job done. Or you can also consider using a special sling for bath time, like the Bathing Buddies shower sling. Just pop your baby in the sling and hop in the shower together, saving wear and tear on your back.

Soaps and Shampoos

A quick word of advice on soaps and shampoos: Consider using tear-free products for as long as possible. They're very effective and it really does take toddlers a while to master getting their hair rinsed out without getting anything in their eyes. Little ones also tend to be splash-happy, and soapy water manages to get into their eyes that way, too.

Once you've experienced the burning, stinging, soap-in-the-eyes, screaming, crying meltdown it'll be hard to regain that trust from your toddler again. Avoid making bath time a battle by sticking with tear-free soaps and shampoos.

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