You’ve made it through the trials and tribulations of giving birth and worked out how to change a nappy, but many first-time parents find the prospect of bathing their baby terrifying.
It’s that difficult combination of wriggly baby and slippery, wet skin that causes the nerves. But don’t worry, it really isn’t as difficult as it looks and once you and your new baby have got the hang of it you’ll both find it’s a special and relaxing time of the day. Bath time can be the perfect time for bonding with your baby and it will become an important ritual in both your lives.
You don’t usually need to bath your baby during the first week. After that your baby only needs bathing every few days, topping and tailing in between with warm water. Use separate cotton wool wads for her face, hands, feet and bottom.
GP Dr Sarah Jarvis advises: “In the early weeks bathing your baby in plain water will be fine – after all small babies don’t really get dirty!”
Once you begin to establish a routine, a warm bath each evening before bedtime will be a fantastic way to help your baby wind down before sleeping.
Here’s a few hints and tips for making it fun and safe:
- First of all don’t feel like you’ve got to have lots of special baby bath equipment. Your own bath or even a plastic washing-up bowl will do just as well as a special baby bath. However, your might want a bath support until your baby can sit unaided because this will leave your hands free to bathe and play with your baby.
- The room should be pleasantly warm – between 20 and 24 degrees will be about right. The water should be warm to touch, but not hot. The old fashioned method of testing with your elbow really does work – the water should feel luke-warm. Your hands tend to be less sensitive to heat and cold so shouldn’t be relied upon to gauge the temperature.
- Ensure you have everything you’ll need before you begin – towels, a clean nappy, a sleepsuit etc.
- If you are going to use skin cleansers then gentle, non-soap products designed for baby skin are worth the investment.
Fun in the water
Make the most of bath time with songs and play. These can be particularly helpful to distract your baby if she’s not too keen on the water. There’s a multitude of bath-time toys in the shops but something as simple as a plastic beaker for scooping and pouring water will fascinate your little one. Try gently trickling water on to your baby’s tummy and watch the expression of wonder as she tries to figure out what’s happening.
Older babies also love watching older brothers or sisters so try bathing them together – your baby will be entertained and your toddler or older child won’t feel left out and will positively glow with the responsibility of helping you.
Soft and warm
When it’s time to lift your baby out of the bath, wrap her in a soft towel to soak up the excess water and have her sleep suit or pyjamas ready.
Once your baby is dry then it’s there’s no better feeling than dressing them in clean, fresh smelling clothes.
To minimise any risk of itchy, irritated skin you may prefer to use a non-biological washing powder and gentle fabric conditioner designed for babies and people with sensitive skin.
Says Dr Jarvis: “Consider using a fabric conditioner that has been designed for babies – the benefits of the softening effect on the fibres can outweigh any possible risk of irritation by the ingredients. For extra reassurance look for the British Skin Foundation (BSF) logo.” (www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk )
Case study: And so to bed…
Eddie is just one year old and he loves having a bath. Says mum Ruth: “Eddie loves bathing and even if he is really tired he finds a new lease of life once he hears the water running. We have always used bath time as an opportunity to let him wind down before bedtime to help him fall asleep. It has pretty much always worked. Once he gets out of the bath he starts rubbing his eyes and wants to proceed swiftly through the steps of last feed and then bed.”
Ruth, 39, of south London adds: “When he was younger we used to take him for a swim up and down the bath and encourage him to kick off the end much as you do in a swimming pool. Now that he is much bigger and more robust, he sits and crawls around very confidently and has absolutely no fear of water so doesn’t mind having his face washed or even going under the surface.
“We have followed the same routine of bath, toothbrush, night clothes, bottle and bed for months. Bath time is one of the highlights of his day, is a great spectator sport assuming you don’t mind getting wet and it really helps him to nod off.”