Baby bath products to avoid (and what to get instead)

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There’s nothing like putting a baby in the tub for a scrub-a-dub-dub. The warm water is often a soothing experience for little ones, can encourage a better night’s sleep and is part of the night-time bed routine for many families. 

And there’s loads of baby bath products available - from funky fun toys to keep babies engaged, to calming lotions and potions promising soft skin and beautiful smells. Frothy bubble bath mixture lines supermarket and chemist shelves, as do natural and organic moisturisers and baby shampoos.

But not all baby bath products are created equal. In fact, some should be avoided altogether— yes, even the ones that proclaim to be totally natural or organic. To help ensure bath time is a happy and (most importantly) safe time for parents and babies, we’ve compiled a list of some bath products to avoid (and what you can buy instead).

So. if you’re a new parent, or you’re looking for the perfect baby shower present, read this first.

What to avoid: Talcum powder

It seems every movie involving a nappy change involves clouds of talcum powder as part of the process. Talcum powder helps dry out the skin to avoid nappy rash so it’s easy to see why parents would have reached for a bottle of baby powder. But talcum powder and baby powder that contains talcum powder are no longer recommended for use in Australia, according to the Royal Children’s Hospital, and companies such as Johnson and Johnson stopped selling talcum-based powder in Australia in 2023, replacing it with a cornstarch base instead.

This is because in its natural form, some talc may contain asbestos, according to the Cancer Council of Australia. 

So if well-meaning friends or grandparents gift you a bottle of talc at your baby shower, it’s probably best to just pop it in the bin.

What to get instead: Nappy absorbers

Big Softies
Big Softies Nappies
Price is accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

The point of using a product like talcum powder is to keep your baby’s bottom nice and dry to avoid nappy rash and other skin irritants. You don’t need the powder to do this, you just need to keep your baby’s skin dry. If you’re using disposable nappies, choose ones that help wick moisture away, and change your baby’s nappy regularly. 

If you’re using reusable nappies, pick ones with a reusable absorber, like these Big Softie Reusable Nappies. Make sure your baby’s skin is nice and dry before putting the nappy on, and again, change the nappy regularly (more so than disposable ones) to avoid nappy rash.

What to avoid: Soapy bubble bath

A baby’s skin is extremely delicate, and while it can be tempting to stock up on sweet-smelling soaps and bubble baths, they can actually irritate a baby’s skin and strip it of naturally occurring oils. A baby’s skin is thinner and more sensitive, so it’s much more susceptible to irritants and allergens that can penetrate the fragile skin barrier. Looking after a baby’s skin in the early days can help prevent skin issues down the road by helping maintain the skin barrier, so for now at least, leave the bottles of bubble bath and soaps on the shelves.

What to get instead: Sud Bud

Sud Bud
Sud Bud
4 out of 5 stars
Price is accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

When babies are very little, all they really need is warm water to get nice and clean. They don’t need to be bathed every day (in fact bathing too often in warm water can dry out the skin). If you really want to add something to baby’s bath, you could use Go-To’s Sud Bud. While still a bubble bath mixture, it is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic, making it suitable for sensitive skin. Plus, the bottles are very cute.

What to avoid: Hard-to-clean bath toys

One word: mould. While you would think bath toys would just stay clean all the time (given they are in, well, the bath) it’s actually the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, causing mould which can then go on to cause all kinds of health problems. While all bath toys need a thorough clean regularly, some bath toys are almost impossible to clean properly, and these are the toys that are best avoided altogether. Think little rubber duckies that squirt out water - the water gets inside and you can’t dry them, so they get mouldy very quickly and can’t be cleaned. Any toy that gets water trapped inside, avoid, avoid, avoid.

What to get instead: Boon Bath Fleet Toys

Boon Bath Fleet Toys
Colourful Boon Bath Fleet Toys
Price is accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

These little floating boats are a great bath toy as there’s nowhere for water to get trapped, making them easy to clean and air out (and avoid the dreaded mould). Plus they are fun, bright colours that kids love. They stack on top of each, so they don’t take up too much space in your bathroom, have wide decks for scooping up water, and little holes to create a rain effect in the bath. Full steam ahead, captain!

How to clean bath toys

All bath toys will need a regular clean to make sure they’re hygienic and not growing their own ecosystem. If they’re dishwasher safe, you can simply run them through the dishwasher to kill off any germs. You can also pop them in a bucket of boiling water to sterilise them, and let them dry completely. For non-porous, sealed toys, giving them a clean with disinfectant wipes will also kill germs.

What to avoid: Food oils

So many baby moisturisers and bath products contain nice-sounding ingredients like avocado oil, orange essence, almond oil, goats milk, coconut oil etc, with the promise that it’s all natural and organic. Sounds perfect!

Except that it’s actually advised to avoid baby bath products that contain any kind of food product in them. That’s because current research suggests babies are thought to be at a higher risk of developing food allergens this way, as they are being exposed to different foods through their skin, rather than through the digestive tract.

In fact, many common food allergens are in baby bath products! So to help avoid allergens developing, introduce these foods through the digestive tract first and avoid any baby bath products or moisturisers with food products.

What to get instead: Cetaphil

White and blue bottle of Cetaphil
Price is accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

The bath and skin products recommended for babies are the ones with no fragrances, harsh chemicals or food products. Enter Cetaphil. It nourishes baby skin while preserving the proactive skin barrier, helps ease skin conditions like baby eczema and is free from parabens, mineral oils and animal-origin products. It contains shea butter to soothe skin and is designed to be suitable for newborns.

Author's Note

Our baby boy had bad eczema and we were gifted many nice-smelling baby moisturisers at our baby shower. However our GP recommended something simple with zero food products or fragrances. Cetaphil worked wonders, and we use it to this day to keep his skin nice and nourished.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Kate Reynolds
Written by
Kate Reynolds is a writer who's at her happiest when there's haloumi on the brunch menu and a dog to give pats to. She's worked as a travel writer, journalist, theatre reviewer, broadcaster and radio creative, and spends her weekends with as much of the aforementioned haloumi and dogs as possible. She writes on Cammeraygal and Wangal land.

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