START SMALL Your baby may feel overwhelmed by the expanse of the bathtub, so set her infant tub inside it and bathe her in its cozy confines for a while.
STICK TO SHALLOW WATERS Just a couple of inches will allow you to get the job done and let your baby splash around a bit without feeling scared. As she becomes more comfortable, add more depth.
PRACTICE NOISE REDUCTION The sound and sensation of running bathwater can be disconcerting to a baby, so fill the tub before putting her in. When bath time is up, don't pull the plug until she's out of the room -- seeing and hearing the swirling, gurgling drain makes some kids worry that they'll get swallowed up by it.
GET WET 'N (MILDLY) WILD "Bath time can be great fun, and a wonderful learning experience," says Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., director of TraumaLink, an interdisciplinary pediatric trauma research center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. So give that rubber ducky a workout together. Show your little dipper how to fill and empty plastic containers. Sing "This is the way we wash our toes (nose, belly, elbows)" as you scrub each body part, and play three-way patty-cake with your baby and the water. Just don't let her head go under -- even for an instant -- or you'll likely cause a real aversion to the tub. Ditto for splashing, even in play.
What if all systems are go -- everything's ready, you're geared up -- but your baby screams and scrambles to get out? Don't force her -- muster your patience and ingenuity. A child who's terrified of the bathtub may learn to like it if given the opportunity to play in it sans water -- but still with your supervision. Then, find a fun way for her to splash, supervised, in water out of the tub. Set a dishpan on a plastic tablecloth on the floor, for example. After she's played for a while, she may surprise you and try to climb into it -- a sign to give the tub another chance. Some babies learn to like a bath if Mom or Dad gets in with them the first few times.
If she's still afraid, back off. Continue to give her baths in her infant tub, then try again in a few weeks: You may find that your little scaredy-cat has turned into a fearless fish.