My baby is terrified of taking a bath. We use a soft-sided, smaller tub within the big tub with warm water. He screams and cries the entire time. If he sees the water before we put him in the tub, his little body even begins to tremble. What can we do?
Most of us have wonderful soft-focused mental pictures of how special bath time can be. A laughing baby in the bath with shampoo piled high on his head joins other classic childhood images such as the grinning baby whose face is smeared with sweet potatoes, or a brand-new toddler taking his first steps with delight.
How disappointing that your son’s bath time has become something that you both dread! Thankfully, even an intense dislike of baths can usually be turned around. From your question it sounds as if you have done a great job with baby-bathing basics, but I will review them first (just in case one of them sparks a good idea for you).
Most young babies who initially recoil from baths will come to enjoy them eventually. There are two good options that might help right now and also increase his long-term enjoyment: minimize the bath, or maximize the reward.
Minimal baths are sponge baths – there needn’t be a tub at all. If he likes, you can wash one area at a time and put a fresh item of clothing on as soon as an area is washed and dried. He never needs to be all the way undressed. And it isn’t necessary to bathe him daily. As long as you are spot cleaning after spit-ups, and cleaning his diaper area after bowel movements, he shouldn’t need to be bathed more often than every three or four days. Facing a small version of fears is a great way to overcome them without feeling overwhelmed. Minimal exposure is also the way to acquire new tastes.
My favorite solution, though, is to make the bath a family event in a full-size tub. You can get in the tub first, and have someone carefully hand your son to you. You can wash him with a warm hand towel while you hold him close. The reward of the skin-to-skin contact and the warmth of your presence can turn what was terrifying into a joy for both of you.