Some ways to keep water from entering your baby’s ears while bathing or washing his hair are proper bathing position, covering his ears using your fingers, or using bathing caps, cotton balls, earplugs, or other bathing accessories, and gently pouring water in the head. Using a washcloth is also recommended to dry the remaining water in the ear canals.
Water entering your baby’s ears can go 2 ways. It can be a harmless thing or worrisome as bacteria (like swimmer’s ear) can easily build up and cause infections.
The eardrum separates your baby’s ear canal and middle ear, so unless the eardrum is not intact, water cannot enter his middle ear while you’re bathing him.
Water going in your little one’s ears isn’t harmful. However, the fluid buildup inside their ears can be very uncomfortable (especially for babies) – so it’s safer to avoid getting water inside their ears.
It’s because these infections often accompany the common cold, which our little ones get quite often compared to us.
Studies proved that children are highly susceptible to middle ear infections due to several reasons, namely:
- Differences in length and size of the Eustachian Tube – Infants and younger children have more horizontal, narrower, less rigid, and shorter tubes, making it more difficult for fluid or secretions to drain out of the ear, unlike adult tubes.
- Increased susceptibility to infection in general – Children’s immune system is underdeveloped and is less equipped to fight off infections.
- Increased exposure to infection, including exposure to cigarette smoke.
- Use of a pacifier – This can increase the incidence of ear infections in children by 33%. Obviously, pacifiers soothe babies, but uncorrected improper use can cause ear infections.
If you have a fragile newborn or a “terrible two” toddler or a hyperactive preschooler who now loves to swim any body of water, then you must be troubled by water (I know dirty water worries you more) entering your child’s ears – by any means.
You may want to know things about this, especially the hacks of preventing your worries from happening, then you may find this article helpful.
Table of Contents
- 1 Baby bathing 101 – everything you need to know
- 2 Steps in washing your baby’s hair
- 3 4 ways to keep water from entering your baby’s ears
- 4 Getting water out of ears: Dos and Don’ts
- 5 Alternatives to baby baths
- 6 Effects of water inside the ears
- 7 9 things moms commonly mess up with when it comes to cleaning your baby
- 8 FAQs
- 9 Conclusion
- 10 References
Baby bathing 101 – everything you need to know
Articles published about baby bathing basics, dos and don’ts, and tips are everywhere, and these articles indeed help, but as a review, let me tell you briefly of these must-know facts about handling your tiny-slippery-delicate baby or your uncooperative toddler while bathing.
Things you need to prepare for bathing
Rule of thumb – keep everything you need within your reach and give your undivided attention to your baby. Note that the list below varies from parent to parent. This is what I have and, if you like, for your reference.
1. Baby bathtub
This comes with a sling or bath net for support or a bath seat if your baby can already support his upper body. Personally, I ditched these in our first few days, and instead, I placed old towels on a table, thick and comfortable enough for my son. This is where I would do his quick few baths there.
The bathtub set was used when I managed to confidently bathe my son, still with the help of my husband or anyone in the house, though.
It’s always safe to have someone hold your baby than bathing him alone. If you have someone with you, then ask for support – you’ll appreciate this act.
2. Baby body wash and shampoo
Use tear-free products for as long as possible. Since day 1, I have used Cetaphil baby body wash & shampoo (2-in-1) or Baby Dove head-to-toe wash, whichever is available. Basic to remember is how natural your product is.
Toxic-free (organic) is best for your baby’s delicate skin.
3. Bath sponge or washcloth
Use this to clean 1 area thoroughly at a time. I also used this when washing my son’s head and face, a good way to limit water into his eyes and ears.
4. Bath towel
Choose a towel that’s soft and smooth to the touch and can protect your baby’s skin. Best if it’s hooded for extra warmth to your baby’s head. Take note, don’t let your baby get too cold.
5. Baby lotion
This is optional for moisturizing purposes. However, I have another purpose for this. I actually use to date Human Nature’s skin shield lotion – this keeps pesky mosquitoes away for about 2-4 hours, then you can reapply if you want.
Resist using adult lotion for your baby; this will affect his sensitive skin for sure.
6. Diaper rash cream or ointment
At the back of my mind, the cream will protect my baby’s skin when his diaper is soiled unnoticed and unchanged.
True enough, I did not have more diaper rash issues except in the first few days when I had a poor diapering situation (I mean, I failed to realize that the disposable diaper’s outer cover was inside, deliberately causing my son’s skin irritations. I can’t forget how he cried out of pain because of that – don’t let this happened to you too).
7. Diaper and clothing
Of course, you don’t want to be opening your baby closet for clean clothes or diapers while your baby is waiting to get clothed. Or use your changing table complete with the things you need, if you’re using one.
8. Cotton balls
When and where to bathe your baby
You can bathe your baby at any time of the day but avoid bathing when he’s hungry or after a feed. Instead, choose the time when you both are calm and have no interruptions from your surroundings.
It doesn’t have to be a bathroom. You can do it in any room or area that is warm, safe, clean, and have a calm environment.
Safety tips when bathing your baby
Always keep in mind – your baby’s safety is your priority. Here are some safety tips to remember:
- Gather all needed things before giving a bath.
- Slip-proof the entire bathing area.
- Never, ever leave your baby even for the shortest time, even for just a second.
- Keep the water level shallow. Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death among 1-4 years old kids.
- Turn off your telephone or set it to an answering machine, focus on your baby.
- Test the water temperature before using it. If you have no bath thermometer, use your elbow instead of your hand.
- Keep the room warm to prevent your baby from chilling. Close windows if you must.
- Support your baby at all times, keep a firm hold on him – the soapy body is slippery.
Steps in washing your baby’s hair
When washing your baby’s hair, it’s important to make sure he’s comfortable, safe, and his hair is actually cleaned. As published in wikihow.com, here’s how to wash your baby’s hair.
- Prepare your baby for washing.
- If you’re tap and tailing or sponge bathing, then you don’t need to unclothe him.
- Position yourself and decide which position to use when washing his hair.
- Gently pour lukewarm water over your baby’s hair. Keep doing until his hair is wet.
- Take a small amount of baby wash or shampoo, be careful not to get this in your baby’s eyes. Remember, even tear-free products can still cause eye irritation.
- Gently lather up your baby’s head and hair. Gently massage and clean his scalp.
- Rinse off the shampoo by gently pouring water or using a washcloth into his head and hair.
- Dry him up using the towel you prepared.
- Apply creams or lotion, if you must. This is very optional.
- Then he is ready to be clothed.
4 ways to keep water from entering your baby’s ears
When washing your baby’s hair, you can do the following life hacks and take care not to let any water get to your baby’s ears and eyes.
1. Know the appropriate bathing position
- Holding your baby in the football position will make it easier to wash his hair.
- You can bend the head backward or try to angle your baby’s head slightly back so that the water will flow away from his eyes and ears.
2. Use bathing accessories as support
- Use a bathing chair (if it’s already safe for your baby) – this is so convenient than using a tub without a bath seat or sling or net for smaller babies.
- Securely positioned newborn bath cushion – good support plus your 1 hand also supporting your baby is a good thing.
- Use earplugs or cotton balls to cover his ears.
- Use a bathing cap (if your baby is cooperative and okay with it, you’re so lucky) – besides making bathing easier and a lot of fun, this secures your baby’s eyes and ears from the stubborn soapy liquid gaining access into these holes.
3. Cover your baby’s ears using your fingers
- Using your thumb and ring finger, try to press your baby’s ear to cover his ears and prevent water from entering. If you can’t do this and you have someone assisting the bath, let this someone do the covering of your baby’s ears – you’ll have free hands then obviously making baby bath easier and safer.
4. Water use, pour it slowly but surely
- Gently pour water over your baby’s head/hair. Control your water enough to avoid water entering the ears or eyes.
- You can extend using washcloth even to his hair, by doing so, you’re not directly pouring water into his hair thus decreasing the chance of water entering his ears.
Getting water out of ears: Dos and Don’ts
If, by chance, water indeed enters your baby’s ears, don’t let it cause the worse – ear infections.
You have to get it out, but doing it wrong will help increase the chances of ear irritations or infections. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts per webmd.com for your awareness.
- Dry only the outer ear with a soft cloth.
- Don’t stick the cloth into the canal.
- Tilt the head to the affected side, this will help to drain the water. Gently pull the earlobe to straighten the ear canal hence help the water flow.
- This may not be common but you can turn your blow dryer set on the lowest and blow it toward the ear – importantly, hold it at least a foot away.
- Do try over-the-counter drying ear drops.
- If you like, you can make drying drops at home by mixing 1 part white vinegar and 1 part rubbing alcohol. Then pour 1 teaspoon of the solution into the affected ear, tilt the head to help it drain out.
- Don’t use cotton swabs – this can push the earwax and dirt in the ear canal near the middle ear or remove earwax that protects the ears or irritate the thin skin of the ear canal.
- Don’t stick your finger or fingernails into the ears. Again, this can irritate or scratch the delicate skin of the ear canal.
- Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or drying drops if your child has ear tubes or a ruptured eardrum.
Alternatives to baby baths
1. Top and tail bath
Get used to a “top and tail” bath first if you’re hesitant to do the actual baby bathing. It’s a good way to familiarized the bathing process and somehow make you at ease and confident in the next baths.
A “top and tail” is when you use cotton balls, warm water, and a washcloth in cleaning your little one. Topping and tailing means you can concentrate on the areas where cleaning is needed. In addition, it’s ensuring your baby is clean and dry without putting him in an actual bath.
2. Sponge bath
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to give your baby a sponge bath until his umbilical cord stump falls off. A sponge bath is wise when your baby isn’t ready for the actual bath and a great option when you’re not ready and confident yet to bathe your child.
The significant differences between the regular bath and sponge bath are as follows:
- Your baby lies on a towel like what I did in my son’s first few baths.
- You wash and rinse one area of his body at a time.
3. Swaddle-tub bath
Swaddle your baby in a blanket and put him in the tub. You let the blanket get wet, and then you uncover and clean and cover again, one body part at a time.
This helps your baby to feel contained, as well as keeping him warm while cleaning.
Effects of water inside the ears
It can generally be okay but can also get frustrating as your baby may feel clogged, uncomfortable, and irritated. It can also progress to ear pain and infection if left unmanaged.
A swimmer’s ear, for instance, is a common ear infection to both adults and young children.
How to manage a swimmer’s ear?
A simple tip to remember is never sticks anything into your baby’s ears.If you think your baby has an ear infection, don’t plan on just trying to shake it off by yourself. Instead, see a doctor to get a treatment plan against the infection and ease your baby’s ear pain.
Try to be guided by the following recommendations:
- Use the prescribed medications such as eardrops and pain relievers for as long as the doctor says. That’s usually 7 days or as needed for the analgesics.
- Complete the treatment plan, don’t stop as soon as you see improvements.
- Keep your baby’s ears dry. You can try the mentioned options above on how you can prevent water from entering your baby’s ears.
- You may need a different approach to get rid of the infection if you don’t see improvements in your baby’s ear infection. Do a follow-up check-up.
Signs of an ear infection
I know you don’t want any of this for your baby, but it’s a good thing to know the signs of ear infections for you to act on it asap.
- Itching in the ear canal
- Redness inside the ear
- Discomfort or pain in the ear
- A clear, odorless fluid that drains from the ear
- Loss of balance
- Your child may display the following instead of saying his in pain
- Tug or pull his ear while crying
- He’s irritable and shows difficulty sleeping
- Fever, especially in younger children
- Difficulty hearing or responding to auditory cues
- Signs requiring immediate medical attention
- High fever
- Server pain
- Pus-like discharge
- Bloody discharge
9 things moms commonly mess up with when it comes to cleaning your baby
1. Bathing your baby every day
Know that it’s unnecessary to wash your baby’s hair daily. Your baby’s hair is generally clean, so it’s okay to wash his hair around 2 times a week.
Popular Hollywood couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis even caused a stir by saying they didn’t fully bathe their kids every day – that if dirt is visible, then go clean it. Otherwise, there’s no point in bathing your child.
The AAP says bathing a baby too often doesn’t only dry out the baby’s skin but also strips the skin of necessary bacteria that fight off infections. However, if your baby has a cradle cap, he may need more baths to wash off the flakes.
2. Failing to ask for an assistance
I know there are times when you want to be a 100% hands-on mom, and cleaning your baby is 1 of the baby-must-dos you want to do alone with your bundle of joy.
Take note, however, that bathing a baby (especially a newborn) is a nerve-wracking thing, and unless you’re an experienced mom or you have no one to call for support, it’s best to ask for someone’s assistance.
Again, the bottom line is your child’s safety, and by having others support – you’re decreasing bathing-related risks on your baby. Appreciate your in-laws, your partner, your caretaker, and others’ presence, therefore.
3. Constantly changing baby wash or shampoo
Most moms think they need to try other brands to finally get what is best or “hiyang” – a Tagalog term for compatible or suited or simply best for your baby without realizing that a trial and error approach is not a good idea for babies.
If you’re using a product and your baby is not showing something bad about it, then stick to this product – it’s not just best for your baby. It will also save you time and money.
4. Keep forgetting some needed materials
To make it even worse, the materials or supplies you need are out of your reach. It’s a golden rule to always keep needed things in place and within your reach before you even start bathing or cleaning your child – maximize your changing table.
5. Failed to dry up the baby skin folds
After bath time, dry your baby, warm him up, and prevent him from getting cold. Dress him properly and do it quickly as you can.
But I must admit, I’m guilty of this failure – you too may find rash or redness or irritations on your baby skin folds without realizing it’s very much possible. The culprit is failing to dry his skin folds after bath.
So don’t forget to dry your baby’s skin creases, including armpits, groin, under the chin, around the neck, and behind the ears.
6. Bathing too long
You can enjoy the moment of bathing with your baby. Keep in mind the room and water temperature and avoid making the bath too long; about 5-10 minutes is enough.
You’ll need to keep him warm (avoid hypothermia), and he has sensitive skin, remember?
7. Failing to keep the bathing area warm and slip-proof
Don’t take for granted the open windows. It won’t help in keeping your bathing area as warm as possible. Also, don’t be overconfident. Slip-proof your bathing area despite not seeing any danger at all. It’s always wise to perceive hazards, after all.
Be mindful of the faucet if you are bathing in the bathroom. It’s super easy for your child to play with it and eventually bump his body or head to this hard object.
8. Using bigger bathtub and filling it with too full
Because of excitement, moms failed to realized that bathtub use is not safety-wise for newborns – this is exactly 1 of my reasons (besides being unprepared and not confident) why I opted to tap & tail and sponge bath my son few days from his birth.
Remember 1 of the safety tips I mentioned above – keep the water level shallow to counter drowning risks.
9. Bathing the baby on running water and failing to test the water
Most of the time, water from the source suddenly changes the temperature, so it’s never safe to keep running water while bathing your baby is on-going. Also, you won’t know when accidents happen, so it’s better to be careful.
Not a personal experience, but my brother-in-law prepared water for bathing his daughter per his wife’s instructions. He was going to mix hot water in the absence of a water heater in the house – out of focus, he gave the basin of water to his wife and leave.
Later, his wife called him as the water he provided was freezing. So two things, 1) it’s good that his wife checks and 2) it’s good that it’s cold water this time, not scalding. The same mistake, though, was failing to test the water.
I see skin patches on my baby’s head. Is it something bad?
A flaky, red, or yellow greasy patches of skin on your baby’s scalp, eyebrows, and behind his ears is called a cradle cap. This is common and not a big issue – this doesn’t bother your baby and can easily be managed and treated. Here’s what you can do.
– To loosen the dry skin, massage your baby’s scalp with baby oil before the bath.
– Use a soft brush or a washcloth to release the flakes.
– Use organic or gentle baby shampoo in washing his hair.
– If persistent and doesn’t heal on its own, seek professional management and prescription.
How do I clean my baby’s ears?
It’s important to keep your baby’s ears clean. But it’s never safe to use cotton swabs or to stick anything inside your baby’s ear.
If you notice earwax inside the ear, you don’t need to remove it – earwax is there for a purpose unless it’s impacted. In addition, the earwax will usually make its way out of his ears naturally.
You can clean the outer ear and the skin around it while you bathe your baby. All you’ll need is a washcloth or cotton ball and some warm water.
Steps of cleaning your baby’s ears:
– Wet the washcloth or cotton ball with warm water.
– Ring out the washcloth well if using.
– Gently wipe behind baby’s ears and around the outside of each ear.
– Then you’re done.
I’m afraid to wash my baby’s soft spot (fontanel)
Be afraid not when dealing with your baby’s fontanel. It’s okay to touch and clean it just as you do to another part of his body. Just remember not to rub the fontanel too vigorously or not to use your fingernails when cleaning it. Just be extra careful, this part is delicate per se.
The key to making bath time safe and fun for you and your baby is being present, prepared, and attentive.
For example, when washing your baby’s hair, don’t worry too much about water entering his ears – most of the time, you can’t really avoid it. Instead, be patient and learn the hacks of controlling water entry to your baby’s ears – you will master the process in no time.
Generally, babies get used to baths by around 3 months, and whichever way you clean or bath your baby, consider washing your baby’s hair last. Experts said babies lose heat through their heads quickly – minimize therefore the time you spend washing his hair to keep him warm.
Finally, remember to shampoo your baby’s hair not more than 2-3 times a week. Again, daily shampooing can lead to uncomfortably dry skin and further help increase skin infections.
Don’t stress out. The difficulty in the first days is part of the motherhood journey. Learn from each experience – don’t hesitate to ask for help. I hope this helps—all the best and happy bathing.