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Why is My Baby or Toddler Suddenly Afraid of the Bath?

Bath time is part of the nightly routine in many houses. It’s usually dinner, bath, story, then bed. Doctors typically recommend a night time pattern to help babies settle down for the night.

But, what happens when your baby hates the bath all of a sudden? That could put a big wrench in your nightly routine and cause frustration for everyone involved.

If this sounds familiar it’s because it’s pretty common. There are many times when babies who used to love bath time suddenly start kicking and screaming when it’s time for the tub. It’s like someone flipped the switch.

Many parents wonder why it happens and if they caused it. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons behind the bath time tantrums and what you can do to smooth the waters.

What Causes a Baby or Toddler to be Afraid of the Bath Suddenly?

While there’s no one magic reason why your baby or toddler may suddenly fear bath time, there are some common reasons that could be to blame. Here are a few:

It’s a Phase

We all know babies go through phases so your once bath-loving baby may suddenly be scared as part of a phase.

As babies grow out of certain things when they’re born, they start to pick up certain new habits, not all of them good. Fear of the bath may be one of them. But, just like they grew out some of their other phases, this too shall pass.

They’re Becoming More Aware

As children grow they become more aware of their surroundings. The water and bubbles they used to love may not be so inviting anymore. Your toddler sees the water go down the drain and may suddenly think that they’re going to go with it.

These types of thoughts can make a toddler afraid of the bath when they never were before. Their imaginations are developing and with that comes all kinds of irrational thoughts.

Another thought that may trigger a sudden bath time fear is that of not being able to see the bottom of the tub with all of the bubbles.

What used to be fun is now a case of “what lies beneath.” That unknown could spook your child and make a baby or toddler afraid of the bath.

Fears are Blooming

Getting soap or shampoo in your eyes can be inevitable. But, for toddlers, it can be enough to make them put up a bath time strike. The idea of soap getting in their eyes may turn them off to bath time.

They may also begin getting other fears that they turn into wild stories in their minds. This can also cause a sudden fear of the bath.

What to do When Your Baby or Toddler is Scared of the Bath Suddenly

baby bath

As a parent, it’s our instinct to try to fix things when our babies are upset. When you see your toddler afraid of the bath, there are some things you can try to do to calm their fears.

Make it Fun

Chances are you already have some bath toys around the tub. Add some new ones and make it fun. If your toddler can associate bath time with fun, they’ll be less likely to be afraid and more apt to enjoy it.

Tell a Story

If you can, use the bath toys to create a little bath time theater. Use the toys as characters to make a fun story for your child.

If you’re a success, your child may actually look forward to bath time instead of dreading it. He or she may also start to make up their own bath time stories.

Add Bubbles

Bubbles can also make bath time more fun. Add some more in and let your child blow and pop them. This should help to keep their minds off of whatever was scaring them in the first place.

Let Her See You Prepare the Bath

Instead of drawing the bath and bringing your child in when everything is all done, let her see you prepare the bath.

This way she can see the water being added in as well as the bubbles. She can see that there are no monsters in the water and that there is nothing to fear. 

If your child has a fear of the drain, this may not alleviate all of the problems. But, it’s worth a try if your baby hates the bath all of a sudden.

Try the Shower

If you’ve exhausted all of the bath time remedies, try putting your toddler under the shower. This obviously won’t work for a baby, but if your child is older, see how they like it. Some kids say it feels like rain. We all know kids like to play in the rain.

By putting them under the shower, you eliminate the fear of the big bad bathtub and what lies beneath! They can see the water come down and there are no big puddles of water.

FAQ about Babies and Bath Time

Like we said, a toddler or baby suddenly being afraid of the bath can be common. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers.

What should I do if I tried everything and my baby is still afraid of the bath?

If you feel as though you’ve exhausted all of your options, you can try giving your baby a sponge bath. If you have a toddler, it may be a little tougher, but you can give it a try. After all, your baby has to get clean! 

You just don’t want to fall into the trap of your child thinking that this is going to be the way bath time is all the time. Eventually, they’re going to have to get back into the bath or shower.

bathing baby

Should I change the tub for my baby?

If the sudden fear of the bath is happening when your baby is still in a small tub, you may want to change the tub.

Maybe there’s something about the one that you have right now that’s causing them angst. On the other hand, changing it could make them afraid of the unknown.

If you go this route, tread with caution because it could backfire and you could be right back where you started.

Are there any special toys that may do the trick?

There’s no magical toy that will do the trick. Experiment with different ones to see which ones your child likes best.

If there’s something that lights up or makes a noise that may be more of a favorite versus something that just floats around and does nothing.

You know your child best. If there’s a particular character they love, try looking for a toy with that character on it. This could make bath time that much better.


When your baby hates the bath suddenly, try to be patient (we know it’s hard!). You’re not going to be able to throw all of their fears down the drain right away.

Try different techniques to find what works best for you and your baby. Remember, just like anything else, this is a phase and it will eventually pass.