Cold Water for Babies?

Rose asks an interesting question about whether to use cold water for babies. Here is an answer from Alexa Fleckenstein, M.D., my cold water expert and the author of Health 2 0:

Dear Rose,
Yes, you can apply cold water to babies. This is done in the tradition of European Natural Medicine to raise strong, robust children.
When my son was four months old, I started him. I filled his little pink tub with cold water, cradled the naked baby in my hands and very quickly dunked him in—but not his head. It took a second or so. For babies, the head always stays outside the water.
He took a deep gasp but never cried. He was so astonished about what had happened and so busy with thinking that he never had time to protest.
Can’t remember when I stopped it – but certainly I would not force a protesting toddler under cold water.
Now that our son is a young man, he follows the family tradition and ends each warm shower with a cold one, and he has become a healthy outdoorsman.

Tell us how your baby likes it!
Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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21 Comments

Filed under children's health, cold shower health benefits, Healing, Health, Uncategorized, Water

21 responses to “Cold Water for Babies?

  1. Kristin Allen

    You are crazy and abusing children! Won’t do it to a toddler becuase they would protest?? However you will do it to a defenseless baby? You should be lucky you didn’t give the child phnemonia!

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  2. Kristin Allen,

    I bathed my son in cold water in the tradition of European Natural Medicine. And, no, he didn’t get pneumonia. The idea of cold water exposure (in babies and grown-ups) is that it strengthens the immune system and prevents colds (and pneumonia). Somehow counter-intuitive – but it works! And you should see this strapping young man now – a real outdoors guy!

    The difference between a baby and a toddler is the size: You can dunk a baby for a second, but a toddler might squiggle – he might slip, and also, you would use more water. Only because a toddler might protest, however, is not an indication that what you try to do is bad for him…

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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    • Annalies

      Hi Alexa…can you tell me if it is okay to have cold showers while you are pregnant? I have only found 2 comments on the internet that says its okay…and one of them says to STOP taking cold showers after the 7th month of pregnancy? Can you give me any advice? My friend who is pregnant thinks I shouldn’t be doing it anymore because any sudden changes in temperature is harmful to a foetus…but I don’t jump straight under the cold after warm…I put my legs and arms in first for 30 seconds etc and then my body and so on. I really appreciate your time in answering this for me.

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  3. Joe Gaebler

    Hello, my father raised us also with cold showers, snow baths after saunas or hot tubs and icy swims in high mountain lakes during the summers. I still end every shower with a cold one and feel almost chilled if I don’t. I have started to put my own child under the cold shower but he seems not to like it. Perhaps I started too young, he was only two weeks, and now he doesn’t like to bathe with me. I have heard about Native Americans of the NorthWest who required their children to bathe in the cold water before they were given breakfast. The russians supposedly give their children an dunk in the hole in the ice and in sweden where I am now a cold plunge was always coupled with the bastu (sauna). I was so glad to see this research online as all of my friends responded to it like I was being extreme and torturous to my infant. It makes me sad that people are becoming more and more unhealthy and treat all of the old traditional means to achieving health as painful, archaic and traumatizing. Thanks for your work.

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  4. Annalies,

    In Europe, pregnant mothers continue their cold showers with out any harm and – I would say – with great benefits. I did so with two children – both healthy and happy.

    The only adverse temperature during pregnancy is too hot. Therefore, jacuzzi and whirlpool are contraindicated because both increase core body temperature. Sauna, on the other hand does not increase core temperature (because the air hinders heat accumulation). Which means that if sauna is not overdone, it can be used during pregnancy – and should! And don’t forget the cold dunk!

    All the best for you and your baby!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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  5. Paola

    My husband is Russian and gives my 3 month old baby girl cold showers almost everyday, especially when she is crying. I’m latin and have very different ideas about the cold climates. It is torture for me to hear my baby squeal from the freezing cold water. I feel powerless that I can’t do anything about it either because he is very strong about letting do this. I slowly became comfortable with this practice. However, when our baby girl is crying these days he is keeping her in the cold shower for longer than 10 seconds and repeats these up to three times.
    In your story, you mention that it’s a dunk and not a three time repetition for over 10 sec. Please I ask for your opinion and advice, my heart is breaking.

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  6. Paola,

    I am sorry it took me so long to answer – holiday stress …

    While I think a very fast dunk – one time! – is strengthening babies over four months, I think your husband’s behavior borders on abuse and you should try to talk about it with somebody in your community.

    More than 10 seconds is too much. Also, your husband seems to use the cold water as a punishment – when the baby cries. I think a baby should see your smiling face when it is dunked (never over the head!) – so that she can know this is fun time. Babies cry – that is normal. To do a cold bath when she cries is cruel punishment.

    Also, your husband does not listen to your thoughts and feelings in the situation. Parents don’t agree in every situation. But you are coming from different cultural backgrounds – the more it is needed that you listen to the concerns of the other parent.

    Dear Paola, this does not sound like a loving husband and father to me. Try to get help – and above all, stay safe!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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  7. Kamila

    I have a five month old son that suffers from eczema. I have switched his formula to cow’s milk free in hopes that it would solve the problem but no such luck. An allergy specialist that I used to see recommended cold water for my son. He suggested a bucket of cold water over his head after a warm bath. I’ve done this a few times and he doesn’t cry at all.

    I’m wondering if it is necessary to pour it over his head or will a dunk in a tub be sufficient?

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  8. Dear Kamila,

    As much as I am for cold water, I wouldn’t pour it over a baby’s head. Are you doing it because the eczema affects his head?

    Regarding the eczema: Even if it didn’t show success yet, I would leave all dairy out. Try to find an almond milk formula. I am aware that those are more expensive. But milk products clearly can trigger eczema – as can many other foods, citrus among them; observe your baby to find out what ails him; a food journal might be a good idea. Soy often is gene-manipulated, and we don’t yet know if it might be harmful in the long run. For that reason an almond- or rice-based product would be the best. Or find an organic soy product (organic foods are not allowed to be GMO’ed).

    Don’t introduce solid foods too early if he already has eczema. But whatever you do: Avoid all dairy!

    All the best for you and your baby!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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    • Kamila

      Thank you Alexa,

      My son doesn’t have eczema on his head. I was told that I have to pour it over the top of his head in order for the immune system to get a shock. So if I understand you correctly, I can simply dunk him up to his shoulders into cold water?

      Thanks,
      Kamila

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  9. Yes, Kamila.

    And may your son grow up to be a wonderful human being!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

    Like

  10. Miranda Nicole

    My husband likes to give our daughter baths with just cold water from the tap, which isnt that cold, because I live in south Texas. She doesn’t cry, and she seems to really enjoy it. She likes to play with her duckie while in the bath, and is content to just sit there. We keep our house at 80 degrees if that is something that is a factor. I just wanted to know if this has healing properties. My daughter is 7 months old, and is very healthy so far. I flip flop back and forth between being ok with it, and having an issue with it. She loves her bath time, even tho the water is on the cold side, and smiles and plays the entire time. Is there any benefits from this? Is it safe?

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    • Dear Miranda Nicole,

      Your husband gives your baby a wonderful start into her life: Cold water strengthens the immune system.

      I would not let her sit in the cold water for long, as a little bit invigorates, but a lot weakens. Once she can walk, standing and playing in the water, in and out, will limit her exposure.

      May she grow up to become a warm and radiant person!

      Alexa Fleckenstein.

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  11. Keisha Coley

    I always think it’s cruel the way the baby cries and kicks in cold water. Does he have to bathe in cold water every day? Are warm water baths good for him?

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    • Dear Keisha Coley,

      The baby doesn’t “bathe” in the cold water. He should have a normal warm bath. And at the end, you dunk him to his shoulders into cold water as it comes from the tap.

      Please, don’t let him be in there more than a second! The benefits for the immune system is reaped in this short time. – Have fun with your little one!

      Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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  12. cici1590

    I tried a cold shower after reading the health benefits and I must say I actually started laughing from how cold the water was. I then tried it on my four month year old and she’s fine. She was squirmy as this was her first experience in cold water. But she’s fine. I held her tight and dunked her in for a few seconds after giving her a warm bath. Her skin is so soft now. Idk takes courage to try it but it’s harmless.

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    • Dear cici1590, You are right: It’s scary to try. But it does not harm the infant – to the contrary! It strengthens the immune system.

      But I would not do “a few” seconds. it’s really just one second: Dunk the baby, and then get her out. Because babies have not enough insulating fat to do it for long – and that is why one should not try it with newborns: They have absolutely no fat to keep them warm. Starting at around four months should be fine. I did it with my son – and he became an intrepid outdoors man!

      Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

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  13. Richard

    Hello Dr. Alexa!

    I have a beautiful 18 month old daughter who absolutely loves ice cold water. When she is upset the only thing that calms her is letting her play with a glass of ice water? She will hold her hand in the water splashing and laughing until all the ice melts. We live in Alaska and I am concerned that this is not normal? When it is 50 degrees F outside she wants to play in her wading pool full of ice cold water. I can’t hold my foot in it for more than a minute but she will splash and laugh playing in it until we take her out for 10 minutes or more. She actually cries when we take her out and wants to go back in?

    Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thank you!

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  14. Hello Dr. Alexa,

    I was looking online regarding the taking of cold baths for young children and stumbled upon your blog. My son (2 and a half years old) actually prefers a cold shower and bath before bed. He loves it. We let him control the water temperature and he always puts it as cold as he can get it. The average bath he takes is around 20 minutes.

    Is there any problem with this, if it is his preference?

    Like

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