Types of Newborn Bathing

Looking back on Molly’s days as a newborn, I feel like I went through stages of using one type of bath over another, depending on what was most convenient. It’s like I graduated from one to the next as she developed more abilities.

The funny thing is that going into parenthood, I was only aware of one way to bathe a newborn: sponge bathing. What I learned was that there’s so much more to it, and discovered how much I loved getting into the tub with her instead, so I wanted to share this info with other parents of newborns who want to try something a little outside of the box.

As Molly went through her stages of development, she also grew into new phases of independence and strength, growing out of “the old way” of doing things.

There are some different ways to bathe a newborn baby and older infant:

  • Bath in her sling
  • Sitting on me in the bathtub (co-bathing)
  • Sitting in her baby tub
  • Showering with one of us holding her
  • Sitting in her tub in the big bathtub while we shower
  • Sitting freely at our feet in the tub while we shower

My focus today is for parents with newborns (corrected age: 0-3 months-ish), so I’ll stick to explaining the two types of newborn baths other than sponge bathing: submersion bathing. As our baby grew older, we found how capable we all were of trying other ways of bathing on the list, and I bet you will too.

A submersion or submerged bath means your baby is sitting in water up to her shoulders with her head above water or laying on her back with water covering her ears but her face above water.

Bath in a Sling
I adore the sling. Imagine a hammock cradling you as you soak in a hot tub. That’s what a newborn bath sling is like in my imagination: warm, snug, and hopefully, there’s a palm tree and slack key guitar music nearby. The sling makes bathing a baby with a washcloth quick and dirty (er, clean.)

Fill the baby bathtub as full as you can so water covers her body, and it becomes less of a sponge bath, and more of a submersion bath (warmer, more comfortable.)

Sitting on me in the Bathtub
I probably co-bathed with her more often in the beginning than using the sling bath. I’m also “a bath person.” When babies are brand new, if they aren’t sleeping, they’re eating, and breastfeeding in the bathtub was one way I felt like I was actually able to multitask.

It’s important to me to create meaningful moments with my child. A warm bath feels like “back home” in the womb. By doing things that help her feel safe in a new environment, she’s learning a sense of security in the water from the very beginning.

Putting ears underwater early is an important sensory skill to practice for lifelong swimming. The beauty of a co-bath is your baby can lay on your legs or you can support her head with your hand and float her.

If you have concerns about ear infections (like if it runs in the family or baby’s had one right after the other), check with your doctor about submerging ears first. By the end of Molly’s third month, we were well on our way to practicing supported back floats with her ears underwater.

The Research
Click here (and then scroll down) to read my post on the research behind submersion baths… includes a link to the study itself.

What are your thoughts on trying a submersion bath?


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Published by Pool Mom

Hi, I'm Jenny! Educator, swim instructor, and mom.

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