Bathtime may sound like fun, but there's a lot to watch out for when bathing kids. So only give a baby or child a bath if the parent asks you to and if you feel comfortable doing it. Some kids can be extremely active, and that might make it hard to keep them safe in the tub. If a kid struggles or resists being put in the tub, don't force it. Instead of a full bath, clean the child up as best you can with a washcloth and let the parents know when they get home.
What if a parent hasn't said anything about bathing but a kid gets dirty while playing or eating? If that happens, wipe the child with a wet washcloth and change his or her clothes. If a child pees, poops, or throws up and it soaks through clothing enough that you think the child needs a bath, call the parents and ask what they'd like you to do. (You can also be prepared and ask this question when you first start babysitting for the family.)
If parents ask you to bathe their kids, ask if you can be there during bathtime to watch and learn before you do it yourself. That way you can learn the routine and find out where all the supplies are kept.
First, gather all the things you'll need, including:
If you're not quite ready to give a tub bath, give the baby a sponge bath instead. Here's how:
While bathing a baby, smile and talk in a gentle, soothing way.
If the family has a special "infant tub," use it. This plastic tub is sized for an infant and fits in the bathtub to make bathtime easier to manage.
Never leave an infant or young child in the tub alone for any reason. If you need to step out the bathroom, wrap the baby in a towel and take him or her with you.
Don't answer the phone or a text while a child is in the tub. Babies need your full attention during the entire bath.
Kids aren't as vulnerable as babies, but they are a lot more active. So be prepared for splashing!
Watch toddlers and young kids at all times. You'll want to be sure they don't slip and fall in the tub. If you're worried about kids hitting their heads on the tap, wrap it in a washcloth so they don't hurt themselves. To avoid falls, don't let kids stand up in the tub until it's time to get out.
Washing a kid isn't much different from washing a baby — make sure you wash hands, feet, faces, and hair well. Even at a young age, some kids can feel self-conscious about bathing in front of strangers. If you have a bashful kid who's embarrassed to be naked, draw the shower curtain to give him or her some privacy. Or you could bring a book or magazine into the bathroom with you and "read" while the child takes a bath, covering your face if you have to.
If you're looking after an older school-age child, ask parents how they want to handle bathtime. Depending on the child's age and maturity level, he or she may not need supervision.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: March 2013
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