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What Temperature Should You Make Bath Water for a Baby?

by
author image Sarah Harding
Sarah Harding has written stacks of research articles dating back to 2000. She has consulted in various settings and taught courses focused on psychology. Her work has been published by ParentDish, Atkins and other clients. Harding holds a Master of Science in psychology from Capella University and is completing several certificates through the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association.
What Temperature Should You Make Bath Water for a Baby?
Babies need a little help regulating body temperature during the first year of life. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

A baby may enjoy the bath or it may be a time of distress. The temperature of bath water can contribute to the overall bathing experience for the infant. Risks are associated with bathing the infant in water that is too hot or cold. Kids Health recommends keeping the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees F to prevent accidental burns and testing the bath water before placing an infant in it.

Frequency

Daily bathing isn't always necessary for infants if you clean well at diaper changes. HealthyChildren.org states that three baths per week during the first year is usually fine. When the baby becomes mobile, including crawling or walking he may need bathed more frequently. Starting solid foods can give parents another reason to bathe the baby more frequently. Until the infant learns how to use the spoon and get food directly into her mouth, solids will likely end up in nearly every crack or crease on a baby's body. Regardless of the frequency of baths, the temperature of the water and the room should be pleasing to the infant.

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Method

During the first few weeks KidsHealth website recommends giving the baby a sponge bath just to clean up residue from spit up and to keep the diapered area free of feces or urine. All babies should be given sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off, which occurs between one and four weeks after birth. A circumcised baby should also be given a sponge bath until the surgical site heals completely, approximately one or two weeks after the procedure. A small infant tub or the kitchen sink allow caregivers to maintain a suitable bath water temperature and handle the baby safely. Bending over a regular bath tub and cleaning a slippery newborn can be difficult for the parent, especially a mother recovering from delivery. The baby may be overwhelmed by the space and quantity of water in a large tub. Two or three inches of water is sufficient for cleansing the baby.

Temperature

The ideal bath water temperature can vary from one infant to another. No baby should be bathed in luke warm water or water that is hot. BabyCenter website recommends bath water that is between 90 and 100 degrees F. Caregivers can test the water by inserting an elbow or a wrist into the water. Simply touching with the hand is not accurate as the hand is less sensitive than the baby's entire body. Parents may find that an actual thermometer or sophisticated bathtub temperature monitor gives them more confidence in bathing the baby in the right temperature.

Various tools can help measure the bath water. Some are built into toys or the baby tub itself. Parents should never rely solely on the measuring device in case it is faulty. Even if the device indicates a desirable temperature, the caregiver should test the water again by inserting the elbow or wrist before placing baby in the water. Caregivers should periodically check the water to see if the temperature has decreased to a temperature that is no longer comfortable to the infant.

Warning

Water that is too hot can easily scald or burn a baby's sensitive skin. The infant's skin should not be red during or following the bath. A baby may cry a little bit when placed into the tub or he may cry the whole time. This may indicate the water temperature is too hot or cold for the baby's preference or he may simply dislike the bath itself. Cool water can lead a baby to shiver or his lips, finger and toe nails may turn blue.

Considerations

In addition to making the bath water comfortable, caregivers should attempt to bathe the baby in a room that doesn't have a draft or that is warm. WhattoExpect.com suggests a room that is between 70 and 80 F. Directly following the bath the infant should be dried off to prevent shivering or coldness. As the baby gets older she will be able to regulate her body temperature more effectively.

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References

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