Baby Tub Basics: Tips for Buying an Infant Bathtub
Choosing a baby tub isn't always easy. Use these tips to find one that works best for your infant.
Giving your baby a bath is a surprisingly stressful experience. You'll probably worry about accidental drowning, too-hot or too-cold water temperatures, and much more. But there’s an easy way to prevent common bath time accidents: buying a safe and practical newborn bath tub. To make the process less difficult, here's what you should know when purchasing a baby tub.
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Types of Infant Bathtubs
Babies shouldn’t take baths in your grown-up bathtub. It's too difficult to keep your infant afloat while bending over the basin, squirting shampoo onto your washcloth, and gently washing his slippery body. Your back and knees will surely ache by the end of the ritual! As a safer alternative, most parents opt for a portable baby tub instead. Here are six types of newborn bathtubs on the market today.
Standard Baby Tubs: A no-frills, inexpensive plastic tub is always a reliable option. Smaller ones are usually placed in the sink for younger babies—and many have a contoured design to allow infants to sit in a slightly upright position. Some standard tubs also come with a removable baby bath sling, since the fabric or mesh will keep your little one in place. When your infant can sit up on her own, she can graduate to a larger plastic bathtub that will sit in your adult-sized tub.
Convertible Baby Tubs: Designed to grow with your baby, convertible baby tubs have adjustable positions. This allows the tub to be used during the newborn, infant, and toddler stages.
Foldable Baby Tubs: Foldable infant tubs collapse for easy storage in small spaces, making them perfect for parents in apartments, condos, and smaller homes. If you use a fold-up tub, make sure it's sturdy and doesn't leak.
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Inflatable Baby 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 for air drying. A downside: You'll have to inflate again (which can be a hassle) before Baby's next bath.
Luxury Baby Tubs: Want to give your baby a spa-like experience? Consider a luxury newborn bathtub with all the bells and whistles—motorized water jets, a small shower nozzle, calming vibrations, and more. These are usually battery-operated, heavier, and more expensive than other baby baths.
Standing Baby Tubs: These structures elevate Baby to your height with sturdy frames. This means no bending or stooping to bathe your infant!
The Best Baby Tub Features
While added features aren’t necessary, they can make bath time easier for you and Baby. Check out our favorites below.
Temperature Gauge: Many baby tubs come with a color-changing drain plug or a sticker-like strip to let you know if the water is too hot. Some tubs also have digital temperature gauges. Parents and caregivers should make sure that the bath water is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, says Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., a pediatric safety researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy, in Columbus, Ohio. She adds that it may help to set your water heater to 120 degrees F so it never gets dangerously hot.
To prevent burns, always double-check Baby’s water temperature using your elbow or wrist, even if the tub has a thermometer. If your tub does not come with a temperature indicator, you can purchase one separately.
Overhanging Rim: If a baby tub has smooth edges and an overhanging rim, it will be easier to handle and less likely to scratch your baby. (Never move the tub while your little one is inside!)
Non-Skid Surface: A soaped-up baby is extremely slippery, so get an infant bath tub with a non-skid surface to keep him in place. Just be vigilant with foam cushions because your baby could tear/bite off a piece and swallow it.
Water-Fill Line: Many experts recommend filling the baby tub with two-four inches of water. A raised or printed line around the inside of the tub—usually accompanied by the word "MAX"—serves a guide to avoid 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.
Baby Bathtub Buying Tips
Follow those recommendations when choosing a tub for your infant.
Pick the right bathtub size.
A tub that's too big means your baby has more room to slide around, which increases the risk of drowning. But one that's too small can be uncomfortable and difficult to clean. Not sure which size to get? "Many manufacturers include weight or other size guidelines with their infant bathtubs," says Dr. McKenzie.
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Consider the cleaning process.
Before you make a tub purchase, imagine the necessary cleaning process. The more crevices your bathtub has, for example, the longer it will take to sterilize (and the easier it will be to miss a dirty 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—but avoid used baby tub seats.
If you're looking to save money, it’s perfectly fine to use a second-hand infant bathtub, 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.
Keep in mind, though, that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advises caution when using second hand baby tub seats. These are non-slip bases that helps your baby stay in an upright position during bathing. "Some of the second-hand infant bath seats use suction cups to provide stability and they are not reliable," says Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the CPSC. That’s because the suction cups can detach and cause accidents.
Whatever you decide to buy, don't let a baby 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, baby 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!