A cooing baby, a warm bath and the smell of baby wash is a peaceful scene, but when your little one suddenly decides that baths are not their thing it can make bath time a major stress time for the both of you. Let’s discuss common reasons why your baby hates the bath and how you can make bath time something you both enjoy.
Fear, discomfort, and overstimulation are the most common reasons babies may hate taking a bath. As babies develop, they begin to interpret their surroundings differently and they can suddenly become scared of the sounds and sensations of bathtime such as draining or splashing water and hot or cold temperatures.
For more insight on how to make bath time a fun bonding experience for you and baby, consider both psychological and environmental factors contributing to your child’s fear or anxiety…
Why would a baby hate taking a bath?
From the minute they’re born, babies learn, grow, and change daily, which means that something they enjoyed yesterday, like a warm bath, could be something that upsets them today. This can make things a bit tricky for us as parents. Consider some of the following ideas about this behavioral change in your child to discover why bath time is creating trouble for your little one…
A negative experience. Perhaps your child had a bad experience in the bath recently that is still fresh in their mind and creating anxiety. A fall in the tub or face full of water causing them to cough and choke could be leading to a sudden fear or resistance to bath time. Help baby feel more comfortable by ensuring they’re secure in the tub, using lots of encouraging language or try having them help fill the tub while explaining how the tub works, which could make them feel confident during bath time.
Sensory overload. Your child may simply dislike some of the sensory experiences associated with the bath, like body temperature changes or perhaps even the loud noises related to the tub (think faucets or drains). To minimize the effects of overwhelming your child at bath time, try filling and draining the bath without your child in the room. Creating smooth transitions throughout bath time can help minimize body temperature fluctuations, so keeping the rooms you use during this time at an even, warm temperature can help with any shock.
Bad timing. It could even be that the time of day they take a bath is not ideal for them making it harder for baby to tolerate the tub. Some children are more receptive to baths at different times of the day depending on their mood. If evening baths are becoming troublesome for your child, try switching to a mid-morning or afternoon bath and see how they react.
Are you triggering your child’s anxiety? Consider your own mood and behavior surrounding bath time. Children are receptive, so if doing bath time at the end of the day when you’re tired and eager to be off your feet causes you stress, it could also be stressful for your baby or toddler. Experiment with your routine to make this a more relaxed experience for both of you.
The fear of water is common in childhood and can be a phase of your baby or toddler experiences for weeks, months, or more. Now that you’ve got a few ideas as to why your baby seems upset at the mention of a bath, you can check out the list of tips, tricks, and advice I’ve created below for easing a child who is scared of the bath.
Tips, tricks, and advice for helping a baby that is scared of the bath
Here are a few things you can do to help understand why your child suddenly hates the bath and make it a more comforting, fun experience:
- Be sure to address this bath time checklist:
- Is the water the proper temperature? According to the Mayo Clinic, the ideal water temperature for a baby’s bath should be 100 °F or 38 °C. Be sure to test the water with your elbow or use a bathtub thermometer to ensure it’s not too hot or cold before placing baby in the tub. I’ve written more about this topic here.
- Is baby secure in the water? Use a baby tub or sink and support baby with your free hand. You can also use a non-skid mat for additional security to keep baby from sliding around in the tub.
- How does the room feel? Is the bathroom cold? Try letting the hot shower run while you prepare the bath to warm up the room making temperature changes more tolerable for your little one.
- Choose the ideal time of day for baths. If evening baths are not going well lately, try a morning or afternoon bath instead. Your child may be overstimulated or tired at the end of the day making a bedtime bath more stressful for them.
- Grab a rubber ducky! New toys or bubbles can make bath time more fun and distract from any fear or discomfort.
- Get in the tub with your tot. Your baby may feel more secure if you’re in the water too!
- Be prepared. Set out the towel, toiletries, and lay out fresh clothes and diaper before you start the bath, so you’re prepared for a quick transition afterward.
- Be a soothing presence. Talk with your baby in a soothing voice, sing or play quiet music to help keep baby calm.
- Adjust the depth of the water. Try using a little more or a little less water in the tub to see what will help baby feel more comfortable.
- Get ready solo. Try preparing the bath before bringing your child into the room and draining after bath time is completed. The loud noises associated with a bathtub could be overwhelming or hard for your child to understand.
- Try a sponge bath. Getting a baby used to the sensation of bathing can be done by trying a sponge bath. Place your child on top of a towel in a baby tub or sink, and, using a warm bowl of water and cloth, gently wash baby to get them used to this new experience.
- Help baby feel warm and secure. A handy trick to help keep baby feeling secure and warm in the tub is to cover baby’s body with a washcloth while you bathe them continuing to keep it wet and warm through bath time.
How to calm a newborn during a bath:
Finding an enjoyable bath time routine with your newborn can take some trial-and-error as you get to know your baby. Here are a few tips to help start off on the right track with bathing your newborn:
- Eliminate shock. When you lower baby into the tub, do so slowly. Starting feet-first can help in transitioning from your arms to the bathtub.
- Keep them warm. Again, keep the water the proper temperature and keep the environment warm and calm. Have your towel and change of clothes ready to go for afterward.
- Babies need support. Keep them supported at the head and neck using your free hand to bathe them. Again, using a washcloth to cover baby can help them feel secure protected in the bath.
- Take note of baby’s mood. Pay attention to how your baby reacts to bath time to help choose the best time of day for bathing. Some children are invigorated by baths while others begin to feel sleepy and relaxed afterward.
- Have a chat. Talking or singing with your baby can help them feel comforted and can be a nice bonding experience for the both of you as well.
It’s important to remain patient and attentive to your child’s emotions surrounding any fear or anxiety at bath time. Take notes and monitor your child’s behavior in other activities to look for patterns or clues with anxiety or stress. If you feel you’ve tried to make your child comfortable and nothing seems to work or perhaps things worsen, be sure to check in with your pediatrician for additional ideas and information.
Why does my one-year-old suddenly hate baths?
Toddlers are notorious for their changing moods and behaviors. This is a signal of their growth and development.
Did you know there is a term for the fear of water? It’s called ablutophobia. While a “phobia” is generally used to describe an extreme fear, toddlers can experience these types fears or anxieties as they grow, like being afraid of the dark (nyctophobia), disliking loud noises (phonophobia) or separation anxiety.
If your one-year-old suddenly hates baths, it’s important to address the situation with empathy and care. The reason your one-year-old hates the bath could be that as they are becoming more aware of their surroundings, they’re experiencing some new fears or uncertainty in everyday situations.
You can help calm your child’s fear of the bath by approaching bath time calmly, asking for their help and explaining the bathtub, helping them feel stable and safe in the water, and through a little trial-and-error (and lots of patience) discover what makes them feel comfortable.
Why does my two-year-old suddenly hate the bath?
Just when you thought you’ve avoided any baby bath time chaos, your two-year-old suddenly hates baths! Why does your two-year-old meet bath time with resistance?
As children grow, they seek to become more autonomous and assert control over their life and daily routine. Now that your child can do most things without your help, their desire to become even more independent is increasing, including during bath time. They may want to pick out their clothes, choose which foods they want to eat, and what toys they want to play with.
When it comes to bath time, your two-year-old may decide they don’t feel like taking a bath today or they may not want to stop what they are doing to take a bath. If you generally do bath time at the end of the day, it can be a signal that bedtime is on the way, which some children begin to resist at this age too.
Trying to foster independence, but also remain firm can be challenging for parents. Try giving your two-year-old some choices during bath time such as picking out their bath toys, having them help fill the tub, allowing them to add in some bubbles, and picking out their clothes for afterward. Giving them some control and choice in the situation can help them feel independent and help bath time run smoothly.
Why does my baby cry after a bath?
If your baby is calm and generally enjoys bathing, but the crying starts after their bath it could be your baby is just uncomfortable. A few ways parents can help ease the temperature and sensory overload associated with bathing is to try keeping the room warm by allowing the hot shower to run while you prepare the bath, keep lotions or toiletries you use after bath warm before applying to baby’s skin and be sure your towel, clean clothes and diapers are nearby for to decrease time spent in a wet towel afterward.
Try keeping the atmosphere consistent throughout bath time by keeping lights low, the temperature even, and noise to a minimum in the room you bath them in and the room you dress them in if they’re separate spaces.
I’ve written a lot more about why babies cry when they get out of the bath with seven powerful tips that you can use today!