What’s a safe baby bath temperature? My best mom tips for finding the right temperature for your baby’s bath – and keeping it that way!
Bath time is a great opportunity to bond with your baby!
Splashing around in the water is great fun for your little one, but as well as the bubbles, toys, and other fun activities (like DIY soap dough and bath paint) that make bath time great, bathtime requires some serious health and safety planning.
The first and main rule of bath time with babies and young kids? Never leave your baby alone during bath time. Bathrooms are dangerous places for kids, and even a momentary lapse in attention is enough time for something to go wrong.
Beyond constant supervision, you want to ensure you’re not drawing a bath too hot for baby (or too cold).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, getting baby’s bath water temperature right is kind of like a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation. Your baby’s skin is sensitive and prone to eczema and itchiness, so the goal is to get water that’s not too hot, not too cold, and just right.
Which may lead you to wonder…what is “just right” when we’re talking about water temperature for baby bath time?
What Temperature Should Baby Bath Water be?
The ideal temperature for baby bath water is right around 100°F (38°C ), with a range of 95° to 102°F for older toddlers. Use a bath thermometer, spout cover with thermometer, or your elbow to test bath water temperature before bathing your baby. It should feel warm, not hot.
To increase safety and prevent scalding, limit how hot your tap water can get by setting your water heater temperature below 120°F (49°C).
Tips to Create the Perfect Bath Temperature for your Baby
Now that you know the perfect bath water temperature, I wanted to share my own tips and strategies to give your baby a perfect bath time!
I hope it helps you get a bath water temperature that is warm enough, every time, so you can focus on sharing some splish-splash fun with your little one!
Bath Time Goal # 1: Safe, Calming and Fun
Bathtime can be a calming experience for your children. Most babies enjoy being bathed, as the warm water reminds them of their beginnings in the womb, which provides a comforting feeling.
But to ensure the bath is as perfect as possible, you really need to get the temperature just right. As I said above, remember Goldilocks. Not too hot, or else you risk causing serious burns to baby’s delicate skin (or, less dramatically, just upset them by being a bit uncomfortable), and not too cold, as it can shock and upset your little one.
How Do I Run a Bath for my Baby?
First off, run the water and get the right water temperature before putting your child in their baby bathtub.
To get the perfect bath temperature, I let the water run for about 30 seconds with the drain open, with the tap positioned to give out lukewarm to cool water. Once it’s around the right temperature, I close the drain, let the bath fill, and use our baby bath thermometer to check I’ve gotten it right.
Another strategy is to start by running a cool bath, and then adding hot water to get the water to the right temperature. This is a good strategy if your hot water temperature isn’t temperature limited to less than 120°F (49°C). By adding the cold water first, you help cool any scalding hot water that comes through your pipes from your boiler system, which can reach scalding temperatures of up to 140°F (60°C)!
If you go with this option (starting with cool water, adding hotter water to warm up the overall temperature), you need to thoroughly swirl bath water before you put your baby in the tub. There may be spots where hot and cold water haven’t mixed, which can leave uncomfortable ‘hot spots’ in the water.
Again, the ideal bath temperature for baby is right around 100°F (38°C ), which is similar to body temperature.
For a newborn baby, slightly cooler (96.8°F or 36°C) may feel more comfortable for their thinner, more delicate skin. However, you’ll want to make sure the room itself is nice and cozy warm.
If you’re giving your child an oatmeal bath for rash or itchy skin, water that is on the cooler side is also a good idea, since hot water can further aggravate skin conditions.
How Much Water Should I Put in the tub?
Water depth when bathing a baby should only be a few inches deep.
For newborn and babies up to around 6 months old, around 2-3 inches (5-7cm) is okay. Be sure to hold your baby securely with one hand throughout the bath, and never let your attention stray. Sponge baths are also great for newborns if you’re nervous about submersing them in the basin, or you could use a bath support. For this strategy, make sure the room is warm enough.
For older children, never fill the bath deeper than hip height at seated. Keep bath time play to the seated position (never standing!), and use a non-slip mat on the base of the tub to prevent slips and falls.
How do I Know if my Baby’s Bath is Too Hot?
The best, most reliable option to check the temperature of your baby’s bath water is a bath temperature thermometer. This is what we use, and I appreciate that it lets me know if the bath temperature is too hot or too cool, which is especially helpful when adding fresh hot or cold water for refills during long, play filled toddler baths.
You can also test the water temperature without gadgets by dipping in your elbow. This safety tip may sound bizarre – to dip your elbow rather than your hand – but elbow skin has different heat sensitivity to the rest of your body, and most resembles how hot water would feel to your baby’s skin.
Tips to Ensure Water Temperature is Safe for Your Child’s Bath
Check Your Water Boiler Temperature
Most modern water boilers/heaters can be set, so the hot water that runs from the boiler to your taps never gets too hot.
Unrestricted, the water that comes through the hot taps in your home can be as high as 140°F (60°C).
As an added safety measure when you have young kids in the home, consider adjusting your boiler to reduce the maximum hot water temperature available from your taps.
This is a helpful tip when you’re trying to get baby’s bath temperature just right, but it will pay dividends when you have a curious toddler who is able to turn the taps on and off by themselves.
Tap Covers for Added Safety
As well as water being exceptionally hot, the taps that pass hot water can heat up in an instant, too. While this may not be an issue for tiny babies, once your children become more mobile and curious, they may wish to play with the faucets and taps themselves.
It is important to place your baby out of reach of the shiny and curiously exciting taps, as they may be burnt by touching them. This can happen even long after the water has passed through.
You can also get tap covers to help prevent burns in this way. Most faucet covers also protect in case of head bumps, too.
Bathe in a Warm Room
As well as ensuring bath temperature is perfect, you should also ensure the bathroom (or whichever room you bathe your little one in) is warm. The discrepancy between the colder air of the room and warmer water in the bath can become uncomfortable for your little one. And your baby may become agitated if the difference is too severe.
Be Quick to Coziness and Cuddles After Bath Time
Once out of the warm water, your baby cools down quickly. Aim to wrap them in a soft fluffy and hooded towel and pat them dry quickly, so they don’t cool down too much. If you use lotion, do it quickly. And then put on a clean diaper and warm PJs or clothes once bath time is over.
How Often Can I Bath my Baby?
For newborns and very young babies, you don’t need to bathe them daily – 2 to 3 times per week is a good guideline. Baby’s skin is soft and full of naturally occurring, moisturizing oils. Bathing new baby’s too frequently can dry out their skin. Be sure to use a baby safe soap and cleansers that are delicate enough for their soft skin.
If you find they are still dirty between baths, from a messy dinner or play time, you can also give your little one a sponge bath between bath days to keep them healthy and clean.
When your little one is a little older you may want to develop a bath-book-bed routine as part of your wind down routine before bedtime.
How often should I wash my baby’s hair?
A baby’s hair doesn’t get greasy like adults, so once per week with baby safe shampoo is usually enough to keep their head fresh. Babies don’t need conditioner or detangling spray, so save that until you’ve got a toddler.
If your child has a skin condition like cradle cap, you may want to wash their hair a little more frequently, using a shampoo that is especially designed for their scalp.
When you get ready for bath time, make sure you are prepared with all of the things you will need before you even think about putting your baby into the water.
This includes the obvious things, like shampoo, baby soap, sponges, and a washcloth, but also the bath toys you may want to play with too. You’ll also need a couple of soft fresh towels (I also have a towel for under my knees to make it more comfy for me too, but bath kneelers work too!)
If you’re expecting a call, I recommend sending it straight to voice mail at this time. Calls can be distracting, which isn’t safe. And once baby is in the water, you should never leave them unattended under any circumstances.
I like to rinse and air dry all of my baby bath toys and store them inside the actual baby bathtub between baths, this means I am prepared for bath time without needing to search for everything each time. All I need to collect other than what is inside the baby tub is my child and a couple of soft fresh towels!
Final Thoughts on Perfect Temperature for Bathing your Baby
Remember, baby bath temperature of the bath water should be right around 100 °F so it’s not too cool or hot.
Use a bath thermometer to check the water temp, or test it with your elbow to make sure it feels warm (not hot or cool).
I hope this article has been useful for you, and will help you find the perfect bath temperature the next time you bathe your baby.
Feel free to share this article with other moms and families you may know who have a new infant and may find this health information about bathing informative!