How to Bathe a One-Year-Old

By Kathryn Walsh
Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Combining a wiggly baby and slippery soap makes for adorable bathtime photo ops, but it can also lead to tears and hazards. Luckily, bathing your 1-year-old will probably not be a daily necessity. At this age, your child may only need to be bathed every other day unless he's noticeably dirty, and hair washing may only be necessary a few times per week.

Tub Talk

By the time the typical baby is 12 months old, he's able to sit up unsupported easily and will have outgrown his baby bathtub. Your baby may be happy and capable of sitting in your regular bathtub on his own. But if your little one can't sit up on his own in the tub, or if you're worried that he slips around too much to be safe in the water, set a toddler tub in the bathtub. If your baby bathes right in the big tub, apply a non-stick mat to its floor to keep him from slipping.

Prep Work

Set up all bathing supplies within reach of the tub before touching the tap. When your 1-year-old is in the bathroom, you can't lose sight of him for even a moment. Fill the tub with just 3 to 4 inches of warm water. MayoClinic.org recommends bathing a baby with water heated to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Test the water with the inside of your wrist to make sure it's warm, but not as hot as you would normally bathe. Setting your water heater thermostat to a maximum of 120 degrees helps prevent burns. Also, cover the tub faucet with a spout cover to prevent injuries. Set up a washcloth, soft towel and baby body wash and shampoo next to where you'll sit.

Washing Up

Gently wipe your child's face with a wet washcloth first. Add baby wash to one corner of the cloth if his face is noticeably dirty; after wiping his face with this corner, use another wet corner to wipe the soap away. Wet the rest of his body with your hand, then rub the soaped-up cloth over his entire body, working from the neck down. Rinse away the soap by scooping up water with your hand or a cup and pouring it over his body. If his hair is dirty, use your hand or a washcloth to rub a small amount of baby wash or baby shampoo through the strands. Tip his body back so he's facing the ceiling and use one hand to scoop water over his hair while the other hand supports the back of his head.

Success Tips

Some little ones happily clap and splash in the bath, while others won't stop crying until they're dry again. Keep a small bucket of floating bath toys next to the tub and offer a fussy child a different toy each time to keep him distracted while you soap him up. Try different types of toys, such as squirters, measuring cups from your kitchen, plastic strainers and foam letters or shapes that cling to the inside of the tub. If he loathes baths, the Zero to Three website suggests introducing more water activities outside of bath time to help him get used to water, such as pouring water in a bowl, giving him a washcloth and letting him give a rubber ducky a bath. Pay attention to your child's demeanor after bath time, too. If washing up makes him alert and playful, schedule baths for morning; if he winds down after baths, give them before bedtime.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.