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Do Baths Help Babies Sleep?

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Cara Dumaplin

RN, BSN, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

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baby wrapped in towel after bathtime before bedtime

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Are you wondering if a bath will help your baby sleep? I’ve got good news for you! 

Not only can baths help at bedtime, but a good bath can be a helpful tool for navigating many situations that may pop up throughout your day. 

Let’s talk about it.

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If you're trying to find the magic formula to help your little one sleep, a bath might help - but it probably isn't the whole solution. My classes will give you the tools you need to have you a great little sleeper. Choose your little one's age to get started:

Should a bath be part of the bedtime routine?anchor

A bath is a great addition to any bedtime routine. Research(1,2) tells us that a warm bath before bed actually promotes good sleep! Here’s what happens: When we soak in that nice, warm water, blood rises up to the surface of the skin in a process called vasodilation. Once we get out of the bathtub, our blood vessels are still open causing our core body temperature to drop just a bit. This slight drop in temperature helps prepare our bodies for sleep. That means that baths CAN help babies sleep.

Additionally, when we bathe our little ones in the evening followed by a bedtime routine, the repetition of these nighttime activities cues baby’s brain that bedtime is near and it’s time to wind down for sleep.

Does a bath HAVE to be part of the bedtime routine?anchor

It’s totally up to you! For some families, a nightly bath is an enjoyable part of the evening routine. For others, daily baths simply aren’t feasible. That’s okay! Do whatever works best for you and your baby. Taking the bath out of your nightly schedule won’t make or break your bedtime routine. Consistency in what you do after the bath is the key!

Not sure what to include in that bedtime routine? I have a whole blog packed with bedtime routine tips and examples to help get you started in creating your own unique bedtime routine.

Can I use a bath to calm a fussy baby?anchor

Warm water can be very calming for cranky babies. (Who can blame them?! A good bubble bath always calms me down too.) When my little ones were fussy, I found that putting them in the bathtub was a good way to help them unwind and calm down. When they were really little, I would climb in with them for a little skin-to-skin time. This can be so relaxing for both you and baby! 

If you have a fussy baby and don’t have time for a full bath, let me share one of my favorite tricks. Wrap your newborn in a swaddle and turn on the faucet. Make sure the water is good and warm, but not too hot. Once the temperature is just right, allow the warm water to wash softly over the top of baby’s head. You’d be surprised how quickly this can relax your little one and help her calm down. Watch me try this here:

Dealing with the witching hour or a colicky baby? This is a great tool to keep in your back pocket. A little “warm water therapy” might be exactly what your baby needs to get through those tough evening hours.

Bonus Tip: If your little one is teething, offering a popsicle in the bathtub is a great way to soothe those achy gums (and make the mess super easy to clean up!)

Can I use a bath as an awake-time activity?anchor

Have you ever just needed something to get you and your baby to nap time? We’ve all been there! Offering a bath is a great option when the weather isn’t great, or you just need something fun and engaging to fill that awake time

Think about it, the bathtub is essentially a large water table! Fill it with toys, and your little one is sure to have a great time! As an added bonus, you may even get to drink a whole WARM cup of coffee as you watch your baby splash and play in the water.

How do I give my newborn a bath?anchor

If you’re new to bathing little ones, you may be wondering, “What’s the best way to do it?” Here are a few quick tips for bathing your baby: 

  • Wash Clean To Dirty: Start by washing the cleanest part of your little one first and end with the dirtiest. This likely means you’ll be washing your baby’s head first and bottom last.

  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Soft Spot: Yes, we want to be gentle with baby’s soft spot…BUT, it’s also important to know that there is a very thick membrane covering that soft spot. Don’t be afraid to wash that little head!

  • Keep Baby Warm: Allow the water to fill the tub so that the water covers your baby’s chest (without coming too close to his ears or face.) Keeping his body submerged will help to keep him warm and comfortable throughout the bath.

  • Use A Warm Towel: Wet and cold. That’s a combination nobody loves, including your baby. Right before you start the bath, toss a fresh baby towel in the dryer for 10-15 minutes. When you’re almost ready to dry off, ask your partner or a big sibling to grab the warm towel. This will keep your little one feeling calm and cozy even after bath time has ended.

Check out this video to see a newborn bath in action! 

Yes, baths as part of the bedtime routine can be so helpful in helping babies sleep, but they can also be a great tool for parents anytime of day! For more tips on all things baby sleep and routines, head to my blog. It’s packed with so much good information to help you navigate those first years with your little one.

If you want to see everything step-by-step and with all my best tips, check out my First Five Months Bundle.

Are you ready to have a great little sleeper?

If you're overwhelmed, exhausted, or just not sure where to start. I was there too. Let me show you everything you need to confidently handle sleep so your whole family can thrive!

Select your child's age to get started:

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