Bathtime is such a fun time for babies. They splash in the water, giggle when you pour water over themselves and play with their toys. What’s not to love about bathtime? You look away for one second and suddenly baby has the soap in his mouth, that’s what.
If your baby accidentally ate a little bit of soap or shampoo during bathtime, go ahead and give him some clean water to drink. Don’t panic, but keep an eye on him. If he starts vomiting or has diarrhea, you might need to head to the ER. If you think he swallowed more than one mouthful or you’re not sure how much, call Poison Control immediately.
Read on for the different types of soap your baby might ingest, baby-safe soaps and shampoos, and how you can keep your little one from eating the soap.
What happens if baby swallows a little bit of soap?
If your little ones swallows a little bit of body wash, bar soap, or shampoo, he’ll probably be fine.
Although it’s no guarantee, soaps and shampoos that don’t contain these ingredients are far less likely to make your child sick:
No matter what type of soap your little one consumed, give him some clean water to wash his mouth out and dilute the soap. If you have any doubt about how much or what she ingested, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
If he starts to throw up or has diarrhea, it’s best to call go ahead and take him to the emergency room.
Can eating soap harm my baby?
If baby eats soap, it could be harmful, but your baby is probably going to be okay, especially if it’s a small amount.
Some soaps and shampoos are going to be more dangerous than others, so it’s a good idea to make sure that the only soaps and shampoos within baby’s reach are the ones just for him, that have only safe ingredients.
If you’re looking for a recommendation for baby-safe washes, we’ve included some below.
In general, shampoos and conditioners are pretty mild, but could cause some issues if baby swallows it.
A basic shampoo or conditioner may have some ingredients that will upset your little one’s tummy, but a medicated shampoo will have stronger, potentially harmful chemicals.
If your baby consumes a little bit of body wash, there is very little cause for concern.
All-natural body wash ingredients will be less of an irritant for your baby’s belly, but the real concern with this one is the chemicals added to make the soaps smell good will make your little one sick.
Most bar soaps are going to be okay, but it’s important to look at the ingredients in the bar soap since some ingredients can be more harmful than others if they are ingested.
Bar soaps are also solid and easy to grab (when they’re dry) so it’s more likely that your little one will take a bite out of it rather than just a lick. In that case, it’s possible they’ll ingest more of this type of soap, and it is also a choking hazard.
Cleaning soaps and other chemicals can be dangerous and even poisonous if your baby were to swallow them.
Soaps that are used for cleaning your home are likely going to contain more ingredients and probably more chemicals than a soap intended for baby’s bathtime and should be kept locked away and out of baby’s reach.
Do shampoo and soap contain unsafe ingredients
Unfortunately, some shampoos and soaps do contain ingredients that are not considered safe.
Laboratory tests have confirmed many children’s bath products contain formaldehyde and/or 1,4-dioxane, both of which have been shown to be linked to cancer and skin allergies.
Several years ago, Johnson & Johnson came under fire as a report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics was released that revealed the dangerous ingredients in their baby shampoo. They have since rebranded and changed their ingredient list.
Medicated shampoos aren’t usually poisonous if ingested, but they can definitely irritate baby’s stomach, causing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Ingredients to avoid
So let’s talk about what you want to avoid in soaps and shampoos for baby.
For the most baby-friendly soaps and shampoos, avoid:
- Fragrance – Although the soap will smell nice, it can lead to allergies for baby and irritate his skin.
- Phthalates – Phthalates actually hide within fragrances, so you won’t see this one specifically listed on the shampoo or soap label. They aren’t recommended since they are associated with asthma and other respiratory problems.
- Parabens – Parabens are synthetic preservatives, and unfortunately, they are found in a lot of products. You will want to avoid these since they’re linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and skin irritation.
- 1,4-dioxane – This is a tricky one that shows up in a lot of soaps and shampoos for babies, particularly the ones that are marketing as being “tear-free.” It’s linked to cancer, reproductive issues, as well as kidney and liver damage.
- Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It is definitely something that you want to avoid as an ingredient is baby’s soap and shampoo.
Buying baby-friendly soaps
With how common some of the potentially harmful ingredients in soaps and shampoos can be, it can feel like it’s difficult to find one that’s safe to use on your baby.
When buying baby-friendly soaps and shampoos, keep in mind that most of what’s on the front of the carton is marketing (not science), the shorter ingredient lists are better, and “all natural” doesn’t really mean anything. Some websites will break down the function of every ingredient in their product to help you make your own decision.
Here are a couple of my favorite baby-safe shampoos and soaps:
Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby 2-in-1 Shampoo & Wash – This one is fragrance-free, made in the USA, and carries the EWG Verified seal.
California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash – Family owned and operated, this is made in California and is free of added fragrance, common allergens, and irritants.
Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo & Wash – It’s fragrance-free and tear-free while leaving out harmful ingredients like phthalates, parabens, petrolatum, and SLS. Plus, unlike many natural or organic brands, Burt’s Bees is available at most major retailers.
What to do if baby ate soap or shampoo
If your baby eats a little bit of soap or shampoo, it will more than likely be okay.
If he ate more than a mouthful or is sick and showing signs of a negative reaction, you should go ahead and call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
Signs and symptoms
If your baby swallows more than a little bit of soap or shampoo, it can upset his stomach.
Signs that your baby consumed a potentially dangerous amount of soap or shampoo:
If your baby shows these symptoms, you should call your pediatrician or visit the ER, depending on the severity of the reaction.
If you see that your baby has ingested a small amount of soap or shampoo, you should give him water immediately.
It’s important to try and keep him (and yourself) calm. If she doesn’t show any symptoms of an upset stomach like vomiting or diarrhea, then you just need to keep an eye on her.
When to visit ER
If baby swallowed more than a mouthful or is having symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea, you should take baby to the ER.
What does it mean if baby likes to eat soap
If you find that your baby keeps eating the soap, it could simply mean that he needs more iron or calcium in his diet.
The amount of calcium and iron a child needs will increase as they grow. If this need isn’t being met, he may develop pica and begin eating non-edible substances.
Feeding baby foods that are loaded with iron and calcium can help. Some iron-rich foods include lean meat, fortified cereals, beans, spinach, and eggs. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, and beans.
You can always consider giving her a supplement as well, but you’ll want to talk with your pediatrician before doing so.
Keeping baby from eating soap or shampoo
The best way to avoid the panic of worrying if your baby has poisoned himself by eating soap or shampoo is to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place.
Although babies are well-known for getting into any and everything, there are some easy ways to make personal cleaning products less tempting:
- Keep soap/shampoo out of baby’s reach during bathtime – Rather than keeping the soap and shampoo on the edge of the bathtub, it may be a good idea to leave it on the floor, out of baby’s reach during bathtime. That way, he won’t have such easy access to it and won’t be as inclined to treat it like a toy.
- Avoid soaps that smell delicious – While it may seem like a good idea to use a fruity shampoo or soap, baby may just think it smells so good that he needs to eat it (especially if it smells like a food he likes to eat)! Sticking with a mild scent or even fragrance-free is probably best.
- Store soap and shampoo in a locked cabinet – When bathtime is over, it’s a good idea to keep the soap and shampoo locked away in a cabinet that baby isn’t able to get into.
- Lock the pump – If you have a soap or shampoo bottle that has a pump, it probably allows you to turn the nozzle completely open or closed (locked). If you have the option to close it when you aren’t using the soap, by all means, close it.