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keeping water out of baby ears in the bath or pool

Keeping Water Out of Baby Ears in the Bath or Pool


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There are lots of reasons for keeping water out of baby ears during a bath or at the pool, but tubes in their ear rank near the top. If they are prone to swimmer’s ear, in general, it’s also a good idea to avoid the water if you can. One of my nephews struggled this so much that I decided to do a little digging when my son was born to make sure that we were ready if we had the same issues.

Parents trying to keep water out of their baby’s ears in the bath or pool can use vaseline-soaked cotton balls or moldable earplugs to keep them dry in most cases. There are also some alternative accessories that can work for babies that refuse to let you put something inside their ears or plan on spending a long time in the water.

While it can be annoying to do extra prep work before a baby’s bath or a trip to the pool, it will be far less troublesome than dealing with a child that feels bad due to swimmer’s ear or an ear infection. Let’s see how we can keep water out of baby ears as quickly and efficiently as possible!

Keeping water out of your baby’s ears can be done!

Babies aren’t always the easiest to deal with.

In fact, they usually try to do the opposite of whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. You might even be patiently explaining to them how what you are trying to do is better for them in the long run and it will help them avoid trouble in the future. Then, they laugh and smile while they continue to misbehave. They might not understand your words, but they know what they are doing!

If you are a parent trying to keep your baby from dunking their heads in the bath water to avoid their umpteenth ear infection before the age of two, then you might be getting frustrated with your baby’s tendency to pour water on her head or lay back in the water with their ears submerged. If you do things right, however, it won’t matter what that little hooligan does in the bath because he will come out with dry ears.

Old-fashioned ways to keep water out of your baby’s ears in the bath

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to plug up your baby’s ear involves cotton balls and petroleum jelly (Vaseline). In fact, it’s even the recommendation at the Ear Institute at Stanford Medicine. Here’s what you do:

  1. Take the cotton ball, or half of one for little babies, and roll it into a tablespoon of the jelly. This particular Vaseline is hypoallergenic and made for babies (affiliate link).
  2. Make sure that it is completely saturated and there are no dry areas for water to sneak past.
  3. Place the cotton ball into the main bowl of the outer ear, but do NOT shove it down into the ear canal. You’re just looking to cover the opening here.
  4. Smooth out the edges of the ball to make a watertight seal around the opening to the ear.

If you do it right, you won’t have to worry about much getting into the ear during bathtime. Of course, you’ll have to fix up a new cotton ball every time you put your baby in the bath because they can’t be washed and dried and won’t hold up to repeated use.

Ear plugs can work well for older babies and kids

Earplugs are really the only option for babies because, but the traditional styles are going to be too big for their ears and the moldable ‘putty style’ ones might not be easy to use with a fussy baby.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options on the market today that are meant for just this purpose and can do a great job. The best earplugs are going to be easy to use and clean while making a watertight seal in the ears without falling out all of the time. If you are going to be in the pool, you’ll also want them to be brightly colored and float so that you won’t lose track of them when they inevitably come out of your baby’s ears (or get thrown!).

Here are a couple of options that I’ve personally used or had friends and family recommend:

  • Mack’s Pillow Soft Ear Plugs – This particular style is recommended for ages 6 and under and they are made from moldable silicone putty that will form a tight seal around the outer ear. This particular brand is often recommended by doctor’s after babies get tubes put into their ears. Many reviewers say that these have done a great job keeping water out of a baby’s ears during bathtime without issue. My only gripe with the putty style is that while they are great for the bath, I would avoid using them outside in the hot sun. I’ve read reports of this kind of earplug melting into children’s ears and causing serious issues. These problems only popped up in extreme conditions, however, so there should be no problems indoors!
  • Hearprotek swimming ear plugs – Starting at about age 3, you can use this style of plugs for your baby. These are pre-molded to fit the natural shape of the ear but aren’t soft enough to change shape or melt in hot weather. They come in bright colors and can be worn all day without irritation or other issues under normal circumstances. The biggest downside to this style if that they will not float so if they come out in the pool you’ll have to dive in and get them. If they fall out in the ocean, good luck!

The best way to keep earplugs in place is with a headband

Babies tend to pitch a fit when you try to put things on them they don’t want and trying to stick something in their ear is likely to cause some fuss. Heck, my son often pitches a fit when we’re just changing his diaper or putting clothes or shoes on him. I swear he just wants to be naked all of the time!

Headbands work great for keeping those earplugs in place once you’ve got the perfect fit. They will prevent water from easily dislodging them and discourage little hands from constantly tugging or messing with their ears. Normally they will have an adjustable velcro strap to get them sized perfectly so they won’t fall off.

We’ve had positive experiences with the Ear Band-It brand of headbands through my nephew and it always seemed to do a great job. He was constantly jumping into the water, standing under waterfalls in the play areas, and otherwise doing pretty much everything that people would probably recommend avoiding to keep a headband on. In nearly every case, it stayed on tight and kept his earplugs firmly in place so that he could enjoy the water park even with tubes in his ears.

Simply trying to avoid the ears while bathing probably won’t work

I realize that it sounds like a lot of work putting in earplugs before a bath and it’s just one more thing to add to the list of things to do before bed. Unfortunately, there just aren’t a lot of other reliable ways for keeping water out of baby ears without using something to seal them up.

Using a towel or washcloth to block the ears while you wash your baby’s head and hair is an option, but she will probably just dump water on her head a minute later when you let her play with whatever cup or thing you are using to rinse her off. In the long run, it’s probably worth the hassle to just bite the bullet and pick up some earplugs to use at home. They aren’t very expensive and anything that saves me a trip to the doctor is well worth it in my book!

Related Questions

Can my baby wear a regular diaper in the pool? I’ve already dived into the difference between swim diapers and regular diapers in another post!

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!