Bathe a Child with Cerebral Palsy

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There are many challenges a parent or caregiver will face when caring for a child with cerebral palsy. Overcoming those challenges is possible when you have the right instruction and equipment to help you. In this article, I will be focusing on one of those challenges and that is bath time. I will explain two ways to give your child a bath. One way is to do a bed bath also known as a sponge bath and the other way is to transport your child to the bathroom for a tub bath. So, here it is: How to bathe a child with cerebral palsy.

How to give a sponge bath

In a prior post, What is a Hoyer Patient Lift, I spoke about caring for your special needs child, how it can be draining at times, and the importance of seeking good support groups. Here I want to walk you through the steps to give your child a sponge bath. This is a good method for the days you just want to wash him up. I would not recommend a tub bath every day as it could dry your child’s skin too much.

Before you get started, I suggest having a little playtime and have some soft, soothing music playing. Music is good for the soul and will calm your child, making him more relaxed. We want bath time to be enjoyable for him and for you!

Have all the materials you will need at the ready such as 2 large bath towels, soap, washcloths, deodorant or talcum powder, change of clothes, and a washbasin for the water.

  • If it is time for your child to use the toilet, let him do that first.
  • Fill a washbasin two-thirds full with warm water
  • Take a bath blanket and use it to cover the child after removing his clothes
  • Start with his face using a wet washcloth (no soap) and gently wash his eyes and face
  • Wash forehead, cheeks, nose, neck, and ears (no soap)
  • Pat his face and eyes dry with a towel
  • Next, uncover your child’s left arm and place a bath towel under the arm
  • Apply a small amount of soap to the washcloth and wash his arm and armpit
  • Rinse the washcloth out in the basin and then rinse his arm and armpit, pat dry with the towel and recover his arm
  • Repeat these steps for the right arm

  • If child has reached puberty, apply deodorant or talcum powder to underarms
  • Check the temperature of the water in the basin and change if necessary (keep the water warm)
  • Next, apply soap to the washcloth and wash the chest, rinse and pat dry
  • Then wash the abdomen in the same manner as the chest and cover your child with a clean, dry bath towel
  • Apply clothing to your child such as a shirt or top to keep him comfortable or cover with a dry towel or blanket
  • Wash left leg, ankle, and foot/toes using soap and having a towel underneath his leg to keep bedding dry
  • Dry left leg, ankle, foot/toes, with a clean towel

  • Wash right leg, ankle, foot/toes using the same technique for the left leg
  • Inspect toenails and clip toenails if needed
  • Position child so that you can wash his back and buttocks (roll him onto his side and prop with a rolled towel)
  • Check water temperature again and change if necessary
  • Roll child onto his back and then apply a small amount of soap to a washcloth for washing the genitalia area
  • Rinse the genitalia area and pat dry with a clean towel

  • Next, apply warm lotion to your child’s skin (I like to put the lotion bottle immersed in a basin tub with hot water to warm while I am giving the bath)
  • After you have finished, remove the bath towels from underneath your child by rolling him onto his side and pushing them underneath his side, then roll him over to the other side and pull the towel out and away
  • Dress your child

How to give a tub bath

Gather your materials such as soap, shampoo, and conditioner, washcloth, large bath towel, a favorite bath toy, and take them to the bathroom. Have a change of clothes ready at the bedside.

Ideally, this is where the Hoyer lift and the bath chair will not only come in handy but make your life so much easier as well as your child’s The Mangar Surfer Bather Bath Lift Chair is an ideal bath chair to have on hand. You can find it at CareGiver Install this bath chair according to the manufacturer’s directions.


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A side note about this bath chair. This bath chair elevates and lowers with the touch of a waterproof handheld control. It has an adjustable backrest that allows your child to lie down at the bottom of the bath. The seat provides secure support for getting in and out as well as during the bath. It has side rails and leg straps and there is an optional adjustable pommel for added leg support.

Per the manufacturer:

Mangar Surfer Bather Bath Lift Chair Specifications:

  • Maximum User Height: 4 feet, 5 inches.
  • Overall Length: 44 inches.
  • Seat height: 3.25 to 19 inches.
  • Platform Width: 14.5 to 26.5 inches.
  • Backrest Angle: 0 to 70 degrees.
  • Item weight: 19 lbs.
  • Maximum User Weight: 112 lbs.

Okay, now let’s get started. These directions as the above, are intended to be used if your child is at the age where he is too big to manually lift safely but not to be over 112 pounds.

  • Start with playtime as noted above and have soft, soothing music playing. I found this really works well for the child’s mood and frame of mind.
  • Have bath water ready with the water warm to the touch, not hot (test water first before bathing your child)
  • Next, get your Hoyer lift and bring it to your child’s bedside. You can find directions on the link for the Hoyer lift. Place the child in the transfer swing.

  • Bring your child to the bath seat/chair, rotate Hoyer lift sling to where your child is parallel to the bath seat.
  • Gently lower him down into the bath seat and unhook the sling.
  • Next, use the bath seat straps to secure your child in the seat.
  • Give your child a few minutes to just enjoy being in the bath and play games with him (bath time should be fun)
  • Proceed with washing him starting with his face, eyes, forehead, cheeks, nose, neck, and ears (no soap)
  • Next, wash his hair carefully to not get soap in his eyes or ears
  • Wash the rest of his body starting with the arms and working your way down

  • When finished, dry him off with a large bath towel and also drying his hair
  • Bring Hoyer lift to the bathtub, place the child in the sling (see directions in the link above for Hoyer lift)
  • Hook sling to Hoyer lift and bring the child to bedside
  • Gently lower sling into the bed, unhook when the child is in bed
  • Dress your child


My closing thoughts

In my nursing career working at a hospital, I have taken care of many children with severe spastic cerebral palsy. The techniques as I have listed above, work very nicely. The Hoyer (mechanical) lift and the bath chair are very necessary items you will need to have at home to care for your child in the safest way. Never try to carry your child without the help of another person or the Hoyer lift. Always think safety first and that includes you too! I have attached the link for the Hoyer lift below. And, if you need the bath chair, click this link to take you to CareGiver

Purchase yours here!

Hoyer lift

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Questions or comments?

Please leave me your questions or comments in the comment section below and I will get back to you as fast as I can!

It is my joy in helping you care for your child,