A baby’s bath temperature should be 98.6–100.4°F (37–38°C). Babies have thinner skin, so they need cooler bathwater than adults. A caregiver can check the temperature with their elbow or a water thermometer.

While bathing a baby becomes easier with experience, caregivers may have a concern about the correct water temperature.

This article explains how to check a baby’s bath is a safe and comfortable temperature, tips for bathtime, and a step-by-step guide to bathing a baby.

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A safe temperature for a baby’s bath is 98.6–100.4°F (37–38°C) or about 98.6°F (36°C) for a newborn. A baby’s skin is thinner than an adult’s, so an ideal bath temperature for an adult is likely to be too hot for a baby.

One way for a caregiver to check the temperature is by placing their elbow into the bath, as it is more sensitive to heat than a hand. If the water does not feel cooler or warmer than the elbow, the temperature is suitable for a baby.

Caregivers can ensure the water temperature is safe for a baby by:

  • Checking the temperature with either an elbow or a bath thermometer before bathing a baby.
  • Mixing the water well to ensure there are no hot spots.
  • Running the cold water first before adding hot water. To cool down the faucet, allow the cold water to run for a few moments after turning off the hot water.
  • Ensuring not to run hot water on its own when a baby is in the bath, as it could accidentally scald their skin. If the water needs topping up, run the cold and hot water together.
  • Placing the baby away from the faucet if using a full-size bathtub.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends lowering the temperature in hot water systems to minimize the risk of burns. A temperature around 122°F (50°C) is ideal.

Bathtime can be a great opportunity to bond with a baby. To make it as enjoyable and safe as possible, people can consider:

  • Making the bathroom warm and draft-free.
  • Putting the baby’s towel on a warm radiator, if possible, so it can warm them after their bath.
  • Having everything nearby before beginning bathtime.
  • Talking reassuringly throughout bathtime. This can help the baby feel calm and is a great way to encourage language development.
  • Ensuring to never leave a baby unattended around water. If a caregiver needs something from another room, they should take the baby with them.
  • Ensuring that an older child is not left to supervise a baby as they may not have a fully developed perception of danger.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that once a newborn’s umbilical stump has fallen off, it is safe to give them a traditional bath.

Caregivers can use a sink, baby bath, or typical bath with bath support to bathe the baby.

  1. Fill the tub with 2–3 inches of warm water, checking the temperature using an elbow or thermometer.
  2. Undress the baby. Supporting their head with one arm and their bottom with another, gently place the baby into the water, feet first.
  3. Keep one hand behind the baby’s head to support them throughout bathing. Never submerge their head and neck. Gently splash or pour water over exposed areas of skin to keep the baby warm.
  4. Avoid splashing water on the baby’s head. Instead, use a soft washcloth to clean their face and head. Use fragrance-free baby shampoo once or twice a week if the baby has hair.
  5. After cleaning the baby’s face and hair, use the washcloth and mild baby soap to clean the rest of their body, moving from top to bottom. Pay particular attention to folds of skin and creases.
  6. Gently lift the baby out of the bathtub and wrap them in a towel immediately. Lay them on a changing mat or stable surface. Keeping the baby covered, pat each area dry with the towel, again paying attention to folds and creases.
  7. If the baby has dry skin, consider using a mild baby moisturizer or bathing them less frequently. The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom does not recommend using lotions or oils on a baby younger than 1 month old.

Read about how often to bathe a newborn here.

It is not necessary to purchase lots of expensive equipment to bathe a baby. The essential items are:

  • bathtub, baby bath, or sink
  • soft washcloth
  • mild, fragrance-free baby soap
  • towel

Some nonessential items that people might find useful include:

  • bath support
  • water thermometer
  • jug
  • hooded baby towel

The ideal temperature for a baby’s bath is 98.6–100.4°F (37–38°C). A caregiver can test the temperature using their elbow or a water thermometer.

Bathtime can be an enjoyable opportunity for a caregiver and baby to bond. It is useful to have all the equipment ready before beginning to help bathtime go smoothly.

The bathroom should be warm, and the baby should be wrapped in a towel immediately after a bath to maintain their warmth.

A baby should never be left unattended at bathtime.