February 19, 2010

How to Buy a Baby Bathtub

baby and infant bathtubs

Babies don’t need a lot of washing — really only every few days — and you won’t give your baby a true bath until after the umbilical cord falls off. The best place to bathe your newborn is in the kitchen sink, because it’s easier on your back and lets you feel more in control. Needless to say, at some point your child will start to outgrow the sink, and then it’s time to transition to the tub.

The first few baths can be scary, but a bath seat or infant tub that fits inside the sink or bathtub will help make sure your slippery little baby is secure. Though you’ll only use your infant tub or seat for a few months, they’re well worth the money in terms of peace of mind.

Bathtubs Outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Your Basic Choices
    1. sink tub
    2. bathtub insert
    3. bath seats
    4. buckets
    5. slings
  3. General Guidance
  4. Features to Look for
  5. Stage Considerations
  6. Lifestyle Considerations
  7. Usage Tips
  8. Accessories

your basic choices

The first three choices are the most common, and all are made to work inside your sink or tub:

sink tub
For newborns and infants, you can use a reclining tub that fits inside your kitchen sink and allows you to stand while bathing your child. Though not absolutely essential, they’re relatively inexpensive and save you a lot of fumbling and worry.

bathtub insert
Designed to sit inside of a regular tub, these smaller tubs are quicker to fill than the whole tub and also more secure, since there’s less room for your child to slip around in. There are reclining options for younger children and adjustable options that take you from reclining to seated for longer-term use.

bath seats
A bath seat isn’t a tub, but a seat that sits inside a filled sink or tub to hold your child upright in the water. There are styles for infants, styles for older babies, and styles that cover both. In general, bath seats are more compact than tubs, and many even collapse for easy storage when not in use.

Though not as popular (or easy to find), there are two other baby bath solutions used in other countries that are starting to gain popularity in the U.S.:

While bathing your baby in a bucket might sound less than dignified, these new-generation bath buckets hold your baby in the proper position for bathing and have received critical acclaim in other countries for their safety benefits and compact style.

Just what they sound like, they cradle your baby in a reclining position in the sink or tub and are best suited for newborns and infants.

general guidance

First and foremost, you’ll want a tub you feel safe using. Make sure the tub or seat is stable, and look for non-slip surfaces, both inside and on the bottom of the tub. (A caveat: no matter how safe your tub is, never leave your child unattended while bathing.)

Make sure the tub or seat holds your baby in the proper position — one that keeps their head above water but their body covered so they don’t get cold.

Also look for a low-maintenance tub that’s easy to wipe down so you can keep it clean from mildew. The more cracks and crevices the tub has, the longer the clean-up process and the easier it is to miss a spot.

While there’s something to be said for investing in one tub that grows with your baby, they’re going to take up more room. If you’re space-constrained or will be sharing a bathroom with your child, you might prefer to make a couple of purchases that cover different stages but are more compact.

features to look for

  • Drainage. Lifting up a tub full of water to dump it out can be difficult — especially with toddler tubs. Save yourself the effort by getting one with a drain.
  • Water temperature gauge. Keep an eye on water temperature with a thermometer that’s either built-in or added as an accessory (although you should always check the temperature yourself to make sure it’s not too hot).
  • Water line delineator. A simple water-fill line inside of a tub make sure you keep your baby covered without over-filling.
  • Mildew resistant. Keep your tub from becoming a health hazard with a mildew-resistant fabrication.

stage considerations

Sink seats are among the most popular choice for infants, but aren’t made to hold toddlers. By about six months, most kids will graduate to the tub, when the full range of options come into play. It’s hard to say when your child will graduate out of baby tubs altogether — every child is different, and so is every tub — but it generally happens somewhere after age two.

lifestyle considerations

Space. Seats are often more collapsible than tubs, so if you’re sharing a bathroom with your baby, you might want something you can put away. (Just keep in mind that they do use a lot more water, since you’re still filling the whole tub!)

Portability. If you travel a lot, you might want both a tub for home and something more portable, such as a collapsible seat.

Multi-stage. Tubs are more likely to be multi-stage than seats, and some models can take you all the way from infant to toddler. Seats can also be multi-stage, but will only cover stages after your baby is sitting.

usage tips

  • When bathing, start with your baby’s body, then work your way to the face, then end with their hair (because a wet head can be chilly!).
  • Nothing takes the fun out of bathtime like the shivers, so keep the area where you’re bathing and changing your baby warm and cozy.
  • accessories

  • Faucet covers. Kids seem destined to have a head-on collision with the faucet, but a rubber faucet cover can make it a minor booboo rather than an occasion for stitches.
  • Floating thermometers. Make sure the baby’s bath is juuuuust right. They make them in all sorts of fun styles, too, like floating flowers or ducks.
  • Hand-held sprayer. If bubble bath becomes a bathtime favorite, a sprayer that hooks onto your faucet can simplify rinsing at the end.
  • Rinsing cups. These are handy for tear-free hair rinsing — especially if you don’t have a hand-held sprayer.
  • Washcloths and sponges. Look for small and simple natural sponges or soft organic cloths. We recommend soft, natural sponges because they make it easy to wash tiny body parts.
  • Hooded towels. A must for babies, they cover both the head and body for easy and quick dry-offs.
  • Bath toys. From rubber duckies to bath squirters, bath toys are a staple of bathtime. At the beginning, your baby will have more fun with you, but as they become more aware of their surroundings, they’ll love this extra playtime.
  • Toy holders. Whether it’s a handy scoop for easy clean-up or a mesh bag that hangs in the shower, these will keep your bathroom tidy and keep you from stepping on plastic sea creatures every time you step in the shower. Just make sure they drain so toys have a chance to dry.
  • Stool. This is for you to keep you from having to kneel over the tub.
  • This baby gear guide was written by Ali Wing, baby product expert, author of giggle guide to baby gear and founder of giggle.  Follow Ali on Twitter and the Giggle Fan Page on Facebook.