Transform Bathtime into Bonding Time: The 5 Cs Guide for a Happy Baby Bath Experience

Transform Bathtime into Bonding Time: The 5 Cs Guide for a Happy Baby Bath Experience


Does your baby enjoy their bathtime? Do they take to the bath like a duck to water, full of happy splashes, or full of dread and tears? Together, let’s make bathtimes special for you and your baby.

Sometimes, all it takes is a shift in focus. Most bathtimes are a simple hygiene wash to tick off our long list of parenting duties, usually when we are tired before bedtime. But they don’t have to be! They can also be the perfect place to heal from birth, offering a smooth transition from womb to world.

From my many years working with parents and babies in water, it always amazes me just how babies ‘talk to us’ when they are having their little bath.

Maybe it is because there are less distractions, or because bathtimes demand our full attention. We can’t go and pick up the phone or take our eyes off our baby, not even when they are in or near an inch of water!

Bathtime 5 Cs guide:

Babies might not come with a bathtime manual, but there are practices and reminders that parents find helpful. I call this my 5 Cs guide:


Consent might seem strange at first… Why ask your baby permission – particularly if they need a bath? Consent is so important as it builds trust, communication and connection.

Start by asking your baby: “Are you ready for your bath?”

Then pause. Allow your baby to respond.

This mindful practice will help you understand how your baby is feeling and tune into their behaviours that make them so unique. An excited hand wave or a frown… What is your baby ‘saying’ to you today? You know your baby best.

Check in

Before you start running the taps or rushing for the bubbles, check and observe your baby. Pause for a moment together. How are you feeling? How is baby? Are they healthy, happy and ready to receive their bath?

The best time to bath your baby will be when they have had a little feed and they are not tired. Use bathtime as their playtime. We call this their ‘calm and alert state’.

Be comfortable in your clothes and where you are bathing baby. This could be on a table at your height; in a baby bath on the floor; the big bath; or even a sink if baby is small enough. Wash your hands and take off any sharp rings. Your baby’s brain is immature and cannot filter out the sensory sensations around them, so prepare the room by dimming the lights, turning off the TV and putting your phone to sleep mode.

Bathtime bondingConnection

Babies at birth are primed to connect. Your baby will be drawn to your face and voice. To parents, I say: “Wrap your baby up in your soft hands, eye contact and warm smile.” This is so important, as when experiences are new, like bathtime, your baby will be looking to you for reassurance.


Bringing baby back to the water can, for some, feel like ‘coming home’. A space where they received unconditional love from the safe containment of the womb.

When setting up your bathtime space and holding your baby, think about what will make them feel physically and emotionally safe.

You can do this by positioning your baby in the bath, where their feet can push off the side (just like they did in their mother’s womb), or cuddle your baby in your arms in the water, with their head in the neap of your arm like a pillow.

Some young babies – and particularly premature babies – enjoy a muslin swaddle wrap in the water.

Babies often snuggle with one arm tucked in and the other out, which allows them to self-soothe if they wish.


Parents often say they rush through bathtimes when their baby struggles to be calm. Often, in this scenario, it is not bathtimes that baby is not enjoying, but what happens after the bath.

If you feel like your baby always seems to cry, know you are not alone.

It is natural for babies to cry to let us know how they are feeling in that moment, whether they are cold, hungry, tired, overstimulated or generally overwhelmed. The mindful practice of ‘Cuddle and Close’ allows moments of bonding, moments of care and seems to unwind even unsettled babies. It could work beautifully for you and your baby too.

Bathtime bondingCuddle and Close

Your baby could be getting tired or hungry. Maybe you are starting to see them get fussier or waving their arms around in a jerky style – making whimper sounds that indicate they want to get out now.

Have two towels at the ready. Place one over your shoulder and the other around your baby as you gently lift them out of the bath. Avoid any sudden movements like placing them on a changing table or floor.

When bathtimes are over, this is a ‘big’ transition for your baby – from the warm water back to the dry world again.

Your baby will enjoy being held for a moment – receiving cuddles or a feed from you, snuggled in their towel. Gently pat your baby dry. This is such a wonderful way to close bathtimes and bond with your baby – wrapped in your arms or next to your chest, skin to skin.

Bathtime tips to Remember…

Talk to your baby, feel into this moment.

Breathe together.

Enjoy this time to rest and relax.

Together, you are learning all the time.

The biggest change for you and your baby is the fourth trimester, from womb to world. If you are having a challenging day, bathtime could be a great way to reset. Why not also try a bath together? This can be a chance to connect once again, being held by the water.

Like the ocean, some baths will feel soft and slow. Others will crash, splash and feel loud. Both will be beautiful. Enjoy your special bathtimes together.

Bathtime Resources:

‘Bath Babies: Creating Beautiful Bonds in Water’ by Jo Wilson is available from Amazon UK.

Bath Babies