Babies don't need a lot of washing—really only every few days. You won't give your baby a true bath until after the umbilical cord falls off. The best place to bathe your newborn is in the kitchen sink, because it's easier on your back and lets you feel more in control. Needless to say, at some point your child will start to outgrow the sink, and then it's time to transition to the tub.

The first few baths can be scary, but a bath seat or an infant tub that fits inside the sink or bathtub will help ensure your slippery little baby is secure. Though you'll only use your infant tub or seat for a few months, it's well worth the money in terms of peace of mind.

your basic choices

The first three choices are the most common, and all are made to work inside your sink or tub.

sink tub
For newborns and infants, you can use a reclining tub that fits inside your kitchen sink and allows you to stand while bathing your child. Though not absolutely essential, this tub is relatively inexpensive and saves you a lot of fumbling and worry.

bathtub insert
Designed to sit inside of a regular tub, these smaller tubs are quicker to fill than the whole tub and also more secure, since there's less room for your child to slip around in. There are reclining options for younger children and adjustable options that take you from reclining to seated for longer-term use.

bath seats
A bath seat isn't a tub, but rather a seat that sits inside a filled sink or tub to hold your child upright in the water. There are styles for infants, styles for older babies, and styles that cover both. In general, bath seats are more compact than tub inserts, and many even collapse for easy storage when not in use.

Though not as popular (or easy to find), there are two other baby bath solutions, used in other countries and starting to gain popularity in the United States.

buckets
While bathing your baby in a bucket might sound less than dignified, the new-generation of bath buckets hold your baby in the proper position for bathing and have received critical acclaim in other countries for their safety benefits and compact style.

slings
Just what they sound like, this tool cradles your baby in a reclining position in the sink or tub and is best suited for newborns and infants.

general guidance

First and foremost, you'll want a tub you feel safe using. Make sure the tub or seat is stable, and look for nonslip surfaces, both inside and on the bottom of the tub. (A caveat: no matter how safe your tub is, never leave your child unattended while bathing.)

Make sure the tub or seat holds your baby in the proper position: with head above water but body covered so she doesn't get cold.

Also, look for a low-maintenance tub that's easy to wipe down so you can keep it clean from mildew. The more cracks and crevices the tub has, the longer the cleanup process and the easier it is to miss a spot.

While there's something to be said for investing in one tub that grows with your baby, it's going to take up more room. If you're space-constrained or will be sharing a bathroom with your child, you might prefer to make a couple of purchases that cover different stages but are more compact.

features to look for

  • Drainage. Lifting a tubful of water to dump it out can be difficult—especially with a toddler tub. Save yourself the effort by getting one with a drain.
  • Water-temperature gauge. Keep an eye on water temperature with a thermometer that's either built in or added as an accessory (although you should always check the temperature yourself to make sure it's not too hot).
  • Water-line delineator. A simple water-fill line inside the tub helps make sure you keep your baby covered without overfilling.
  • Mildew-resistant. Keep your tub from becoming a health hazard with a mildew-resistant fabrication.

stage considerations

Sink seats are among the most popular choices for infants but aren't made to hold toddlers. By about six months, most kids will graduate to the tub, when the full range of options comes into play. It's hard to say when your child will graduate out of baby tubs altogether—every child is different, and so is every tub—but it generally happens sometime after age two.

lifestyle considerations

Space. Seats are often more collapsible than tubs, so if you're sharing a bathroom with your baby, you might want something you can put away. (Just keep in mind that they do use a lot more water, since you're still filling the whole tub!)

Portability. If you travel a lot, you might want both a tub for home and something more portable, such as a collapsible seat.

Multistage. Tubs are more likely to be multistage than seats, and some models can take you all the way from infant to toddler. Seats can also be multistage but will only cover stages after your baby is sitting.

usage tips

  • When bathing, start with your baby's body, work your way to the face, then end with the hair (because a wet head can be chilly!).
  • Nothing takes the fun out of bath-time like the shivers, so keep the area where you're bathing and changing your baby warm and cozy.

accessories

  • Faucet covers. Kids seem destined to have head-on collisions with the faucet, but a rubber faucet cover can make the difference between a minor boo-boo and an occasion for stitches.
  • Floating thermometers. Make sure the baby's bath is juuuuust right. These come in all sorts of fun styles, too, like floating flowers or ducks.
  • Hand-held sprayer. If bubble bath becomes a bath-time favorite, a sprayer that hooks onto your faucet can simplify rinsing at the end.
  • Rinsing cups. These are handy for tears-free hair rinsing—especially if you don't have a handheld sprayer.
  • Washcloths and sponges. Look for small and simple natural sponges or soft organic cloths. We recommend soft, natural sponges because they make it easy to wash tiny body parts.
  • Hooded towels. A must for babies, these cover both the head and body for easy and quick dry-offs.
  • Bath toys. From rubber duckies to bath squirters, bath toys are a staple of bath-time. At the beginning, your baby will have more fun with you, but as they becomes more aware of their surroundings, they'll really start enjoying their toys, too.
  • Toy holders. Whether it's a handy scoop for easy cleanup or a mesh bag that hangs in the shower, these will keep your bathroom tidy and keep you from stepping on plastic sea creatures every time you get in the shower. Just make sure the holder drains so toys have a chance to dry.
  • Stool. This one's just for you so you don't constantly have to kneel over the tub.
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