Why Does My Baby Cry After a Bath?

Last updated February 23rd, 2021

Do you ever sit there and wonder about all the somewhat “normal” situations you find yourself in with your baby or toddler, and how they would seem like the weirdest, most baffling thing in the world for people who are not used to kids? I can’t count the number of times I had to justify my daughter’s behavior to people as “normal things babies and toddlers do.” I often get the confused look from someone who is not used to kids when something I am used to happens but that they find strange.

I remember when my cousin (who’s still living her wild single life) came over and stayed for bath time. What she thought was a sweet moment, watching a baby happily squeak in the bathtub, quickly turned into a war zone when I had to pull my daughter out of the bath. The hysterical crying, kicking and screaming, was clearly baffling for my cousin, who thought something was seriously wrong. By then, I was used to the after-bath meltdown and mechanically went through our after-bath routine. I then realized I had to justify my cousin that no, I was not actually torturing my baby. All babies I know to cry after their bath. 

Seasoned parents know the drill. As time goes by, they also discover why their baby is crying after bathtime and adjust the routine accordingly. From your baby’s temperature dropping to changing environments where they were warm and happy in water that resembles the womb, to being bothered by their after-bath lotion, the reasons are many. But so are the solutions! There are many ways to cut down your baby’s after-bath meltdown in two or to eliminate the discomfort completely. A proper, well-organized after-bath routine where they are wrapped up in a warm towel, talked to, and entertained, can go a long way in soothing your baby after bathtime.

So, how do I know why my baby cries after his bath?

Baby girl crying after her bath time.

As much as this may seem normal, it is super tiring to deal with the after-bath meltdown after a long day. Most of us parents work hard all day or cater to our baby’s needs during long hours if we are stay-at-home parents.

A meltdown after bath time is guaranteed to knock us over on our faces. We still have to keep it together until our little humans fall tightly asleep to later finally collapse on the couch (or get going with unfinished tasks). Exhausting, right? 

So, why does my baby cry after his bath? The reasons can be one of the following:

  1. Your baby is in his “happy place.” He is warm, comfortable and he feels like he used to feel inside the womb. When he is taken off that place, it makes him uncomfortable and unhappy.
  2. When anyone of us showers or bathes, we get used to the warm bath temperature on our skin. Whenever we get out of the bath, our body temperature drops. The same happens to your baby, which can cause discomfort and lead him to a meltdown.
  3. Your baby might be overtired. Babies assimilate so many things during the day that when evening comes, they are sometimes overtired. This leads them to meltdown after bath time, since the discomfort of getting out of a warm place is more accentuated.
  4. Your baby might be ready to sleep by the time you bathe him in the evening. It might be too late for him to have a bath, which would have accentuated his sleepiness, and he might just want to be in bed and ready for the night. 

How do I keep my baby happy after a bath?

Mom trying to keep her baby happy after bath time with a few proven tips.

Just like it takes practice to pinpoint the reasons behind your baby crying after bath time, it is important to create after-bath routines and rituals that can keep them happy after a bath. What you can do is use the following techniques to make this whole thing easier on everyone:

  1. One of the most effective soothing practices to decrease meltdown time after a bath would be to have everything ready and warm. Having a warm towel and warm clothes to put your baby in can go a long way quickly. Make sure you wrap your baby’s head with the towel as well (or hooded towel), as body heat escapes from the head. 
  2. Have a toy ready to distract them while you dry them off and dress them as quickly as you can. Distracted babies are always easier to dry and dress. Who here agrees?
  3. Make the bathroom really steamy before and after their bath for them not to feel a significant temperature drop when they get out of the tub. 
  4. Come up with games to play. Peekaboo with the towel or talking to the mirror can easily switch their mood to happy. 
  5. Try skin-to-skin, or putting your baby directly on you when you get them out of the bath. Your body will give them more heat and soak the water off their body faster. 
  6. Have everything ready beforehand not to waste any time when dressing them in their PJs. This decreases the baby’s naked time and makes him less uncomfortable. 
  7. If you feel your baby is overtired and sleepy after bathtime, making him cranky, you can try to keep the same routine but make it earlier in the afternoon. Some parents, including me, swear by this. 
  8. While you dress your baby after his bath, explain each step you are going through, keep talking to them to soothe them or distract them. 
  9. Try music; lullabies or lively music, anything that works for you.
  10. Have his nighttime milk ready. This can go a long way in soothing your baby. 
  11. And if all of these things don’t work and your baby is still crying after bathtime, it is advised to change the bath products you use as they might be triggering reactions to your baby’s sensitive skin. 

FAQs

Baby wrapped up in a yellow towel after bath time.

What would be a standard after-bath routine? 

A basic after-bath routine would be to:

  • Dry off your baby really well
  • Moisturize your baby’s skin 
  • Clip their tiny nails off (when they are past the newborn phase of course)
  • And, give your baby a nice massage with baby oil

Do I feed a baby before or after his bath?

Feeding your baby AFTER bathtime is actually very soothing and calming for him. As for feeding him BEFORE bathtime, make sure you wait at least 20 minutes before bathing your baby if he was fed. Your baby would have taken the time to digest his milk. 

Do babies need a bath every day?

You actually do not have to bathe your baby every day. Bathing them every day could actually dry out their skin and cause problems like eczema. Until their first birthday, 3 times a week is actually enough. 

Conclusion

Any parent would understand how helpless one can feel when their baby starts crying nonstop after their bath. Given the level of fatigue parents are in, it is hard to come up with solutions while thinking straight. But it turns out there are many reasons why your baby might be crying after their bath, and as many solutions to make it easier for everyone. Just identify cues, try to stay calm and keep them warm and entertained. This too shall pass. 

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