Bathing in the second year

Bathing & Dressing   |   Age: 1 year 1 month

Bathing in the second year
Splish-splash, your baby has been taking baths since she was a much smaller fish in the pond that is your bathtub. Now that she is officially a toddler, though, how has bathing changed?


Just like when your baby was very young, she probably still has pretty sensitive, easily-dried-out skin, and doesn’t need to bathe more often than every couple of days. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that, before children start to approach puberty, they bathe at least one to two times a week, but the real frequency of your baby’s adventures in the bathtub will probably be dictated by how often your little one ends up getting herself messy.

Aside from mud-puddle accidents or particularly explosive experiments with trying to teach her to use silverware, part of how often your baby breaks out the rubber ducky is just her personal skin and hair composition. If you think your baby looks like she could use a bath a bit more often, you’re probably right, though most babies don’t need to bathe too often unless they’re getting messy out in the world just as often.


My how your baby has grown - but she is still little enough to need your close supervision when she is in the bath. Though when children can start to bathe unsupervised varies from child to child as they mature physically and emotionally at their own pace, children under 5 are rarely ready to start bathing themselves, and many physicians recommend waiting to start to give a child bathtime independence until somewhere around 7 to 9 years old.

Baths vs. showers 

Most discussions of toddler bathing center around, well, bathing, in baths, but toddlers are as capable of taking well-supervised showers as they are able to take well-supervised baths. Toddler showers tend to come in one of two flavors - either a regular shower that’s shared with one of her parents, or a shower with a hand-held, detachable showerhead, which you or your partner can hold to exactly your baby’s height. This method has the benefit of giving you the control to keep a water-shy child from getting water in her eyes, but the cost that you have to hold the showerhead yourself the whole time. On the other hand, shared showers can be more orderly, cutting out any splashing mess, and can give time-strapped parents or children who don’t like to let them out of their sight the chance to get clean.
Baths can be great for exploration and play with water, and can be a fun, relaxing way to wind down at the end of the day, but they’re not the only option for getting your baby clean, and since the toddler years can be a tumultuous time, it can be important to know your options.

Fear of water

Some days bath time may be your baby’s favorite time of day, but that doesn’t mean she won’t declare war on the tub the next day. Fear of water isn’t uncommon in toddlers, even a sudden fear, and some families handle it best by sticking to their bathing routine while others feel it’s better to cut down on baths, and substitute in some sponge baths, until the fear passes. In either case, introducing some fun playtime with water outside of a bath setting, maybe by teaching her to water plants outside or by introducing bubbles or some splash time in the kitchen sink, can help children start to become more water-friendly again.

Another toddler fear that can get in the way of a smooth bathtime is fear of the shower, which can sometimes be cured by moving a removable showerhead out of the tub or by teaching her more about how it works. The fear of being pulled down the drain when the water drains out of the tub is more common than it sounds. This last fear has to do with the fact that your baby doesn’t have a very clear idea yet of what size she is in comparison to the other things in her world. As she starts to get a better sense of her physical reality, this fear should fade, but until then, some gentle explanations and maybe a new tradition of moving your baby out of the tub before draining the water can help.


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