How to Make an Oatmeal Bath for Babies
Babies may be known for having perfectly smooth skin, but even little ones can suffer from acne, eczema, and rashes. When skin irritation strikes, think twice before rushing out to buy an arsenal of expensive creams and potions. A homemade oatmeal bath could be all you need to get their skin back in baby-soft shape.
Giving your infant an oatmeal bath is a common recommendation given by Tanya Altmann, M.D., founder and pediatrician at Calabasas Pediatrics in California. "I find that when parents call me and say their baby has a bad rash and they scream and don't want to take a bath, I will have them give an oatmeal bath," Dr. Altmann says. "It's soothing so the warm water doesn't bother the baby, and they can clean the area before putting on the needed medicated creams to treat the condition."
There's a good reason this healing remedy has been used for millennia—oatmeal baths have been proven to soothe skin of all ages while moisturizing, treating everything from hives and sunburn, to psoriasis and poison ivy. And it's not just an old wive's tale, either. Studies have shown that oatmeal has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. It also helps repair the skin barrier, which heals skin and keeps moisture in.
Oatmeal Bath Benefits
DIY oatmeal baths can be beneficial to anyone—not just babies. But they're a simple, inexpensive way to help treat and prevent skin problems that are common to babies and young children in particular. Here are the top conditions an oatmeal bath can help treat:
Keep in mind that oatmeal baths, though effective, aren't a magic elixir for curing all skin woes. Stephanie Kronberg, a nurse practitioner in the dermatology department at Children's Mercy Kansas City, says it's still important to diagnose the cause of the irritation and treat it appropriately. "It's important that this be combined with other traditional management, such as moisturizers, fragrance free products, and sometimes topical medications," Kronberg says.
How to DIY an Oatmeal Bath for Your Baby
Making an oatmeal bath is easy, but you do need to make sure you have the right type of oatmeal. "You should not just throw your breakfast oatmeal into your baby's bath!" warns Kronberg. Instead, look for colloidal oatmeal, which is finely ground into a soft powder that's designed to dissolve in fluids.
Don't have any colloidal oatmeal on hand? No worries—you can use just about any kind of oatmeal for baby's bath, including plain oatmeal, quick oats, and steel-cut oats. Just avoid oatmeal with added flavorings and ingredients. Use a food processor or grinder to grind the oatmeal into a powdery consistency. Test to make sure the oatmeal will dissolve by dropping a small amount in a glass of warm water—if it disappears, you're ready to go. If not, grind some more.
Once you have your oatmeal prepared, here are the steps for making an oatmeal bath for baby:
- Fill the tub with warm water. Make sure it's not too hot, as that can be drying to baby's skin.
- Gradually sprinkle the oatmeal into the tub as it fills with water. The oatmeal should dissolve and the water should turn a milky color. You'll need about a cup for a full bathtub, a third of a cup for a baby bathtub.
- Place baby into the bath and gently splash them with the water, allowing them to soak for 10-15 minutes if possible.
- After the bath, pat baby dry with a towel (don't rub) and apply a gentle moisturizer before dressing them.
While rare, some babies and children may have an adverse reaction to oatmeal baths. Kronberg recommends speaking with your child's doctor before giving an oatmeal bath if you're unsure.
"If your baby has healthy skin, there is probably not much risk to giving an oatmeal bath if you do it correctly," she says. "However, if your baby has a skin condition, I recommend speaking to their medical provider first. Some babies may develop an allergy to the oatmeal in the bath, and this could cause itching and skin redness." Watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction.