Infant vs. Adult Baptism?

Why do we as Catholics baptize as infants? Why do we sprinkle with water instead of fully immerse?

If you study church history you will find that infant baptism is what the earliest church fathers practiced. It is up to the adult baptist to prove their virew as it is not more than 400 years old

We baptize infants (or anyone) so that they can become member’s of God’s family, the Body of Christ, and may have access to eternal life.

I don’t know where you got the information that we “sprinkle” babies with water.

We pour water or we immerse, whether infant, child, or adult.

Immersing babies is not practical, as they do not yet know how to hold their breath. Therefore we pour water over the back of their heads to prevent them from taking water into their nose and lungs.

I guess I meant why do we baptize as infants rather than baptizing as adults?

Baptise comes from baptism which means to dip.

For a few reasons:

  1. To emphasize that salvation is a free gift; it cannot be merited or earned.

  2. To allow children to be a part of God’s family from the very first moments in their lives.

  3. To give children sanctifying grace, to help protect them from sin. (Obviously they are not capable of sinning until age 7, the age of reason, but at that age sanctifying grace helps guard them from sin.

  4. Baptism is the key to all other sacraments; consequently, receiving Baptism allows children to be open to the reception of the other sacraments.

  5. To remind us of what Jesus told the Apostles: “It was not you who chose Me, but it was I who chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear much fruit.”

  6. To open eternal life to these children, should they die.

In terms of the method used: St. Paul speaks of sprinkling with water. Water may be poured or sprinkled on the person’s head or the person may be immersed in water.

  1. To remove original sin.

Most of the Protestants who believe in adult or believers only Baptism believe in doing this for a few reasons. For example:

  1. they don’t see direct reference to infants getting Baptized in the Bible, so they assume it didn’t happen.
  2. they do NOT believe that Baptism washes away Original Sin.
  3. they believe that Baptism is a public announcement or symbol of their faith in Christ, something they do AFTER they are Born Again.
  4. they believe that Baptism is purely symbolic but an ordnance from Christ
  5. they believe that Baptism is something you do for God.
  6. they do not believe that the Holy Sprit does anything to the person during the actual Baptism, but rather that the only ones who should receive Baptism are the people who “felt” the Holy Sprint during their conversion.
  7. since they do not believe that Baptism confers Graces or washes away sin and original sin; they have no objections to re-baptizing former Catholics.

Catholics, Orthodox and mainline Protestants Baptize infants and anyone anyone else because:

  1. Baptism washes away Original Sin for all
  2. Baptism washes away personal Sin for the sinful
  3. when you are Baptized, you promise to believe in the Catholic Faith or the parents of babies promise to raise the child in the Catholic Faith
  4. we believe Baptism is something that God does for Us
  5. we believe that the Holy Spirit comes onto us and leaves a “mark” on our souls during Baptism, and provides Graces to us which can never be taken away from us.

Hope this is helpful.

I also recommend reading “The Protestant’s Dilemma”

God Bless

This is a fair and accurate assessment of the situation.

It depends on the church’s Baptismal Font. Some newer or remodeled churches have installed larger fonts which allow for full immersion Baptisms of both adults and infants.

And as others have said, when we don’t use immersion (like my parish does) we ***pour ***rather than sprinkle.

From the CCC

The Baptism of infants

1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.50 The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. the Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.51

1251 Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.52

1252 The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.53


1282 Since the earliest times, Baptism has been administered to children, for it is a grace and a gift of God that does not presuppose any human merit; children are baptized in the faith of the Church. Entry into Christian life gives access to true freedom.

In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches babies are baptized by immersion all of the time. But they are not laid down like the Baptists and other credo baptism Protestants do. They are plunged into the water vertically and the head is not covered with water.

Never knew that about the EO

Because that’s what the Church has always done.
*]Among other realities, Baptism also replaced circumcision, (Col 2:11-12) and circumcision was done on the 7th day after birth for the male child. Therefore NT Baptism is meant for all, male and female right after birth.
*]And the NT sacrament does way more than circumcision ever did for the OT people.

It’s not an either/or.

It’s all valid. From the Didache The Didache (c. 100)

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19 in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

I think Jesus preferred people to be baptized as young as possible.

Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
-Matthew 19:14

The greatest among you must become like the youngest.
-Luke 22:26

It’s not always convenient to fully immerse. Water could be scarce, it could be winter, it could be an emergency.

The simplest explanation in one quick sentence for why we Baptize infants, and some Protestants do not is because we believe that Baptism is something God does for us, where as the Protestant groups that do not baptize infants believe baptism is something we do for God.

And yes there are Latin Rite Catholic Churches that practice immersion baptism as well. I know because I watched my Catholic Church immersion baptize like 8 or 9 adults during Easter Vigil.

When a child is baptized - they have two God parents who promise to guide and teach the child in the faith until they reach a state of reason.This is when confirmation takes place and they are sealed with the holy spirit by the laying on with hand - They confirm the baptismal promises on their own now that they have reached a state of reason. Again Its a two stage process - we do not leave our children unbaptized and they have two guides in the faith not to mention their parents to teach them all about the faith and the moment they reach an age of understanding they confirm their baptism on their own and are sealed with the holy spirit.

The person should not be forced to confirmation it should be entirly their own choice and their choice alone. Many have never been confirmed because their parents fell away from the faith before they reached this stage or they refuse it - and parents can stop God parents from doing their job. And in some cases parents forced confirmation on the person - which is absolutly wrong.Usaully out of ignorance of the parents not understanding.
If you agree to be a God parent you should seriously consider the promises you are making and follow through.

Other christians argue we do not make the choice on our own but we do - I remember my confirmation when I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior - the promises I made and was brought fully into the faith.

This is the Catholic way. Other Christains don’t understand it

Babies naturally hold their breath when immerged. We have all seen swimming babies. So practical reasons yes, but this is not one of them I think.

I think there is a reference to “sprinkling” in Scripture - can’t remember where it is off the top of my head.

The point is, whether the water is sprinkled or poured, or whether the person is fully immersed, the Baptism is still valid as long as the water touches the head (or, if it is not possible to tell where the “head” is, on any visibly human portion of the body).

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit