Like the stereotypical advice to avoid swimming soon after eating, some new parents may hear that they should allow time after feeding before bathing their baby. Do you really need to wait before bathing your baby? And how long should you wait?
When bathing your baby after feeding, wait at least 30 minutes (or, ideally, 1-2 hours) to allow your little one to digest their meal. Depending on your family’s schedule, you may prefer to bathe your baby before their last meal or even shortly before it. Either way, make sure your baby stays upright in the bathtub to avoid digestive problems.
Read on to learn more about incorporating bath time into your nightly routine, when to bathe before feeding, when to bathe after feeding, and tips for a successful bath after a meal.
How long after a feed can a baby have a bath?
Some parents choose to give their baby a bath every evening as part of a nightly bedtime routine. Others prefer to bathe their little ones during the day or whenever they get dirty.
For both parenting styles, a key concern is whether or not there are any issues with bathing a baby just after a feeding. Is it just like swimming?
Ideally, it is recommended that babies wait 1-2 hours after feeding before having a bath because taking a bath raises your body temperature, affects your circulation, and diverts energy away from digestion.
This is not a major issue for most people, but for newborns and colicky babies, rescheduling bath time may be a necessary accommodation.
Best baby routine: bath or feed first?
The best routine for your baby will depend on what works best for your family and which schedule incorporates your little one’s bedtime preferences. For example, if your baby can only fall asleep while nursing, then the bath will have to come first.
On the other hand, there are some advantages to bathing your baby after feeding. It definitely offers the quickest way to clean up your baby after a bottle or nursing session and deal with any spit-up. Your baby may also be more cooperative and ready for a bath if their stomach is full and are no longer hungry.
Some babies enjoy baths and want to play. Others become relaxed and ready for bed, while others cry and don’t enjoy bath time. If you have a baby who gets very excited during bath time, bathing first will make more sense for your routine. If you have a baby who hates getting a bath, you will also want to bathe them first to not upset their stomach by crying.
Another consideration is that if your little one suffers from colic, reflux, or other feeding issues, it may not make sense to bathe them after eating, as they may need extra time to allow their stomach to settle.
Should you bathe a newborn before or after feeding?
Baths are very calming and can be a great way to help your newborn settle for bedtime and even sleep through the night. Newborns are still acclimating to life outside the womb, and a warm, soothing bath can help replicate it. Therefore, many parents choose to schedule a bath as the last event for the day.
Newborns, in particular, may experience issues with baths after feeding due to the need for them to assume a reclining position in the tub. Since they can’t yet sit up on their own as older babies can, the likelihood of reflux issues is higher. Just as adults can have issues with lying down just after eating, it may not be the best idea to lay your little one down for a bath after a feeding.
Some newborns also need to be burped extensively after each feeding, which would make a post-meal bath more cumbersome. For these babies, getting bath time out of the way before an evening feeding session makes more sense. This is also the case for babies who have trouble settling and prefer to nurse or suckle a bottle to fall asleep.
Newborns often fall asleep while eating, so if a daily nighttime bath is important to you, then you may want to be sure bath time occurs first to avoid having to wake a sleeping baby.
Another consideration is that newborns often poop just after eating, especially breastfed babies whose digestion occurs quite rapidly. Waiting for this bowel movement and then giving a bath can be a more convenient option than giving a bath before a meal and needing to change a diaper again 30 minutes later.
When is the best time of day to give a baby a bath?
Ideally, you’ll want to give your little one a bath in the evening, at a time that is convenient for you and can allow for both parents to be involved. However, you don’t want to wait until too late at night when your little one is more likely to be overtired and fussy.
Choosing the right time to give your baby a bath is going to depend on many factors that are unique to your family, such as individual work schedules and bedtime preferences.
You will also need to work around your family’s dinnertime and keep your little one’s feeding times in mind too.
Tips for bathing your baby after feeding
If you decide you want to bathe your baby after feeding, like many parents, here are a few tips to keep in mind for a successful routine.
Bathe your baby after her last feeding
Since bath time tends to make babies sleepy, it makes sense to bathe your little one right before bed. Many parents choose to bathe their baby right after their last feeding of the day.
Depending on your family’s unique needs, this may not work for you. For example, if you nurse your little one to sleep, then bath time needs to occur before the final feeding of the night.
Allow time for burping and digestion
You’ll want to wait at least a little while after feeding before getting bath time started, especially if your baby needs to be burped after each meal, is a newborn, or struggles with reflux.
Allowing time for proper digestion to occur is always a good idea at any age.
Keep temperatures mild
To reduce any potential digestion issues, keep the water temperature lukewarm to help aid with temperature regulation and circulation.
Bundle your baby up quickly after bath time and avoid lingering in the bath long enough for them to get cold.
Consider the tub
Lying completely flat after a meal is never a good idea, even if your baby isn’t colicky or subject to reflux.
Keep your baby as upright as possible to avoid any potential digestion issues.