I Shower My Baby, Here’s How

The ins and outs of how to shower a baby.
showering with a baby
Showering with a Baby

Updated June 23, 2020

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Baths are standard protocol in the world of babies. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, as a tiny tot, I was pretty jealous of all those kids who had bath toys and soap chalk.

But as a 6-foot woman, I find them less than enjoyable. Especially because at the end I feel like I need a shower anyway. Perhaps this is the result of being raised a shower baby. My dad would take me “up the water shaft” and my mom taught me to thoroughly rinse the big girl conditioner (once I was using big girl conditioner).

Or maybe my body’s just not meant for baths. Either way, I’d always planned to shower with Penellope. 

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from new moms and soon-to-be moms about how to shower with a baby. So figured I’d share my tips.

PLEASE NOTE: The following is not intended to be medical advice. If, at any time, you feel unsure about how to care for your child, please speak to your child’s doctor. 

Is it okay to shower with your newborn?

I’ve heard this question sooo many times. I even asked it myself and I never took baths. What the doctor told me was that once the umbilical cord has healed, you can take your baby in the shower stall with you, just like you can give them a bath. 

However, until the umbilical cord heals, you’ll want to stick to sponge baths. Generally, this happens within the first two weeks. 

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Is showering with your baby scary?

It can be. But personally, I found baths a lot scarier than showers. Even though I intended to shower Penellope, social norms have a funny way of influencing new mom guilt. So after her umbilical cord fell off, I tried to give her a bath and nearly dropped her on her head. 

I shower Penellope because that’s what works for us. Because I feel more confident in my ability to keep her safe and get her clean. And because I think, one day, it’ll be far less work for mom if she, too, is a shower baby.

My 4 Essential Baby Shower Supplies

1. Heating Pad

My heating pad is a Godsend. She absolutely loves it. I use it as the foundation for her landing zone, pre- and post-shower. The warmth instantly settles her down, just like the warming elements they use in the hospital when weighing your baby. 

We have an older Sunbeam model, similar to this one. 

PLEASE NOTE: Allowing your baby to sleep on a heating pad is STRONGLY discouraged, as this practice is commonly linked to SIDS. At any one time, Pepper is only on the heating pad for one minute and she’s always within my sight. 

2. Foaming Soap with Pump Dispenser

Especially when you’re still holding your baby throughout the entire shower, a pump dispenser is money. It allows you to get soap with just one hand. Babies are slick as snot when they’re wet and that one-handed pump action works like a charm. 

My favorite has been this Babyganics Baby Shampoo + Bodywash. It’s fragrance-free, cleans well, and washes off easily.

3. Warm Towel

My cousins sent me these fabulous cape towels. She made them by sewing a small towel onto a big towel. Penellope is a bit too small to really appreciate just how cool they are, but someday I’m sure she’ll run around the house like a superhero. 

That being said, any warm, soft towel will do. We keep a pile of dog towels beside the shower and when there’s been a post-shower ‘incident,’ I’ve even been known to grab one of those too. 

4. Cozy Bathrobe

For the most part, the baby comes first. But it’s not very practical to run around dripping wet and cold. A cozy bathrobe lets you do a quick towel dry and cover-up so you can get back to your demanding companion. 

LOVE the one I have from L.L. Bean and am also digging this super plush one from Amazon!

9 Baby Shower Tips

1. Prep the Landing Zone

Before I bring Penellope into the bathroom, I always prep her landing zone — the space on the floor where I will place her before and after the shower. I put the heat pad on top of a bathmat and then top it with a towel. 

NOTE: When she was still small enough for the DockATot, I used to put the heatpad in the DockATot and then a towel over that. 

2. Prep the Diaper Area

Another step I take is to make sure the diaper changing station is ready. This isn’t complicated. It just means I make sure the diaper cream and a fresh diaper are available. 

3. Check the Water Pressure

Especially when you’re bathing a newborn, you need to remember their skin is incredibly soft and fragile. A high-pressured spray won’t feel like a gentle massage to them. It will hurt. Make sure to adjust the water pressure to the lowest possible setting. 

NOTE: When we were staying at my parents’ the pressure was too much for Pepper. So I took a plastic cup into the shower, which I could fill and dump it over her. 

4. Warm Up the Shower

Babies love warm spaces. So before I bring her into the shower, I turn the water on really hot and let the whole thing get steamy. Then I turn the water temperature down to a safe level before I bring her in. 

5. Wash the Body in Quadrants

Like I mentioned, wet babies are very slippery. To help me maintain a firm hold on Penellope, I always wash her in quadrants. One arm. One leg. Switch sides. Repeat. 

6. Keep Your Baby’s Face from Being Doused

Especially when you’re first showering your baby, you’ll want to keep their face from being doused with water. I like to hold Penellope upright, against my shoulder and scoop water onto her head and then apply soap. 

Initially, I repeated that same process to wash the soap out. Now that she’s a little older, I take her “up the water shaft.” With my hands tucked firmly under her armpits, I raise her up through the spray, keeping her face towards mine and just outside of the water. 

My mom swears washing a baby’s head this way makes them less afraid of the water and swimming. But honestly, who knows?

7. Use the Football Hold

Especially before Penellope had full head control, the football hold was what allowed me to wash her in quadrants. I’d hold her with her head in my hand, her body down my forearm, and one leg on either side of my elbow. Now that she’s gotten bigger, I do a modified version of this because my forearms aren’t long enough. 

8. Nursing in the Shower

I rarely do this anymore, but when Penellope was nursing every 2 hours, I’d often nurse her in the shower. This was especially helpful when I was dealing with engorgement, as the warmth was calming to her and encouraged my milk to flow more smoothly. 

9. Helpers are Fantastic

Generally, I handle showers all on my own. But, that really means I pretty much end up dirtier than when we began. Standing in all that warmth without actually cleaning your own body can make you sweat! So when someone is there to help — like your husband, mom, mother-in-law or a good friend — they can dry off, diaper, and dress baby while you at least give your pits and privates a scrub. 

4 Ways to Hold Your Baby in the Shower

Whether your little is an infant without head control or a baby who can sit up on their own, simply plopping them on the shower floor isn’t a recipe for success. For the time being, you’re going to want to securely hold your baby throughout the entire shower. 

We found the following to be the essential ways to hold a baby in the shower. They differ depending on the size and development of your baby. We’ve relied on these four because they offered us the maximum in grip, while allowing us the best chance to thoroughly clean all of Pepper.

1. The Football Hold 

Ideal for infants who need lots of neck support.

There are no two ways around it — when your baby hasn’t developed their head control, they’re a lot harder to hold. Why? Because their head and neck need to be completely supported.

The football hold allows you to use your hand and forearm like a stretcher. Place your baby’s head in your hand, with their body running the length of your forearm and their legs straddling your elbow.

Being able to utilize this hold does depend on the strength and the length of you’re forearms. Over time, your baby will outgrow this hold. 

2. Skin-to-Skin Shoulder Hold

An ideal for applying soap to infants and babies’ heads.

This hold is great for general control and can be utilized with babies of all sizes. Hold your baby facing inward so you are chest to chest. Wrap your arm under their butt, so your arm almost acts as a sling.

If your baby lacks head control, keep their head rested in the crook of your neck, supporting their head further with your opposite hand. To apply soap, I often arched my back slightly to help keep Pepper’s head resting against me.  

As your baby becomes more self-supporting, they will often sit upright in your arm and look around as you soap up their head.

3. The Reverse Football Cradle 

Ideal for babies who have head control, especially big babies.

As your baby grows in weight and length, the standard football cradle will no longer be possible. This is where the reverse football cradle comes into play. 

Turn your baby the opposite direction, so that your hand is now cradling their butt. Let their body lay the length of your forearm. Tuck the arm closest to your body around your waist. This helps provide additional support.

You can also cradle them at a slight angle, by lowering your hand and lifting your forearm away from your body just slightly. This helps turn their body in towards yours, providing a little neck support. But, this adjustment can definitely be a workout. Don’t be surprised if you’re a little sore afterward.

4. The Underarm Raise

Great for rinsing hair, but your baby must have head control.

Raising your baby over your head is a classic move. Start with your baby facing you. Nestle one hand under each armpit, so that your fingers are wrapped around their back and your thumps around their chest.

Using this hold, lift them up and away from your body through the spray of the water. When Pepper was younger, we kept her head just outside of the spray so her face didn’t get doused. The older she’s gotten, the further I’ve moved her into the water so that she gets used to having water on her face. 

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