Tips for Buying a Baby Bathtub

Surprisingly, choosing a bathtub isn't always easy. Use these tips to find the one that works best for you and your baby.

bathing baby Alexandra Grablewski

Buying a tub seems like it would be a simple task. Drive to the store, walk down the baby aisle, grab a tub, pay, and go. But once you're looking at shelves full of tubs, ranging in prices from dirt cheap to "Are you crazy?" you may be confused. Do you need this particular feature? Is that tub the right size for your baby? And what is a bath ring? To make the process less difficult, here's what you should know when purchasing a bathtub for your baby.

    Types of Baby Bathtubs

    • Standard tub. A no-frills, inexpensive plastic tub. Smaller ones are usually meant to be placed on the sink for younger babies. Many of these tubs have a contoured design to allow infants to sit in a slightly upright position, and some come with a removable mesh or fabric sling to keep Baby in place. When your baby can sit up on her own, she can graduate to a larger plastic bathtub that will sit in your adult-size tub.
    • Convertible tubs. Designed to grow with your baby. Adjustable positions allow the tub to be used during the newborn, infant, and toddler stages.
    • Foldable tubs. Collapses for easy storage in small spaces. If you use a fold-up tub, make sure it's sturdy and doesn't leak.
    • Inflatable tubs. These space-savers can be deflated for easy storage and travel. Many include a suction cup or an attached hook so you can hang the tub to air dry. A downside: You'll have to inflate again (which can be a hassle) before Baby's next bath.
    • Luxury tubs. Spa-like tubs that come with all the bells and whistles -- motorized water jets, a small shower nozzle, and calming vibrations, depending on the brand. These are usually battery-operated, heavier, and more expensive than other baby baths.
    • Standing tubs. A style that elevates the baby to your height. This means no bending or stooping to bathe your baby. But these can also be quite expensive!
    • Bath seats/rings. A nonslip base that helps baby stay in an upright position during bathtime. Caution: Some bath seats have been recalled due to possible drowning risk. In 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued mandatory standards for manufacturers to create safer designs, but some safety experts recommend against the use of these products completely.

    Bathtub Features to Look For

    Temperature gauge

    Many tubs come equipped with a color-changing drain plug or a sticker-like strip to let you know if the water is too hot. Some tubs have digital temperature gauges. If the tub you're considering doesn't come with a temperature indicator, you can purchase one separately. Parents and caregivers should make sure that the water temperature is always below 120 degrees, says Dr. McKenzie. Regardless of the indicator, always double-check the water temperature using your elbow or wrist.

    Smooth, overhanging rim

    A tub with smooth edges and an overhanging rim makes it easier to pick up and ensures that your baby's skin won't get scratched. But never move the tub while your baby is inside.

    Nonskid surface

    A soaped-up baby is a very slippery baby, so get a tub that has a non-skid surface to keep your baby in place during his bath. Just be careful with foam cushions because your baby could tear or bite off a piece and swallow it.

    Water-fill line

    A raised or printed line around the inside of the tub, usually accompanied by the word "MAX," allows for enough water to bathe a baby comfortably without the tub overfilling.

    Drain plug

    After leaning over to bathe your baby, the last thing you want to do is to lift a heavy tub and drain it. A drain plug makes removing the water quick and simple.

    Bathtub Buying Tips

    Get the proper size

    A tub that's too big for your baby means she has more room to slide around (which increases the risk of drowning). But one that's too small can be uncomfortable for her and make it difficult for you to clean her properly. Not sure which size to get? "Many manufacturers include weight or other size guidelines with their infant bathtubs," says Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., a pediatric safety researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy, in Columbus, Ohio. Follow those recommendations when choosing a tub.

    Consider the cleaning process

    Before you make a tub purchase, think about how easy or difficult it will be to clean. The more crevices a tub has, the longer it will take to clean (and easier to miss a spot). You want a tub that's easy to clean and dry to prevent the growth of mildew or mold.

    Don't write off second-hand tubs

    If you're looking to save money (and who isn't), it's okay to buy or receive an infant bathtub second-hand, Dr. McKenzie says. Just be sure it's in good condition, and give it a thorough cleaning before you use it. Also, check SaferProducts.gov to make sure the product hasn't been recalled. But if you're looking for a used bath seat, the CPSC strongly recommends against it. "Many of the second-hand bath seats use suction cups to provide stability and they are not reliable," says Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the CPSC. Used bath seats will not meet CPSC's mandatory safety standard.

    Whatever you decide to buy, don't let a bathtub provide you with a false sense of security. "Stay within arm's reach of your child in the bath at all times, whether you're using a bath ring, bath seat, or bathtub, or if you simply have the child in the tub itself," Davis says. Remember, you are your baby's best safety monitor!

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