For the Love of Bathtime

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Bathtime for babies can be either fun or overwhelming for you both. Here's some advice from a local doctor and moms to make it fun for you both.

When it comes to babies and bathtime, you never know which direction things will go at first. Baby may really love it or he will really, really hate it.

It’s easy on parents when Baby loves to take a bath, of course. He may just love the water and splashing around. However, when you discover that your little one really can’t stand the bath, here’s what you can do:

Baby’s First Bath

The first bath is usually a time when parents are either anxious or very nervous or both. Remember, Baby received sponge baths at the hospital and you can start doing that the day you get home. Simply dip a sponge or soft wash cloth in water and gently wipe Baby down. Avoid submerging Baby in water until the umbilical cord falls off. And, it’s not just his face and hands you need to get clean. “Be sure to wipe well in the creases behind the ears, around the neck, under the arms, between the fingers and toes and in the diaper area,” says Abigail Jennings, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s Clinic East, TriStar Summit Medical Center. “You often will not need soap unless your baby is smelly. If so, use a mild, moisturizing soap,” she adds.

Once the umbilical cord falls off in two- to three weeks, you can start bathing Baby in a sink or baby tub.

Bath Prep

Nervous about the first bath? Don’t be. To help with the bath time process, go ahead and make sure your bathroom is warm and everything you need is right where you need it. Never leave Baby unattended to fetch a need, so make sure you have everything in arm’s length. A little bathroom tote, like those kids use in dorms or at summer camp, is great for holding all Baby’s bath time necessities.

“Gather your baby wipes, a gentle moisturizing soap, a washcloth, a towel, a fresh diaper and a clean outfit,” says Jennings. “Fill the sink or a baby tub with two to three inches of warm water. Test the temperature of the water with your hand. Your water heater should be set below 120°F to prevent scalding. Also make sure the room is not too cool.”

If you’re unsure of how warm the water is, they have these cute little ducks at Wal-Mart or Target that have a temperature testing color changing spot on the underside. It will tell you if it’s too hot or even possibly too cold.

“Many babies will get used to baths after the first few experiences,” says Jennings. “If he cries at first, just stay calm and help to keep him warm and comfortable.” She suggests bathing your baby with the diaper still on to help him feel more secure. She also cautions parents to remember that a wet baby is a very slippery. Keep this in mind as you’re handling him from tub to drying off. She reminds parents bathing babies who can’t hold their head up yet to support their head and use your other hand or a cup to pour water over exposed areas to help keep them warm.

If you find that your little one simply hates bath time no matter what, you can continue to give sponge baths long after his cord has fallen off. As you’re doing this, you can fill the washcloth or sponge with even more water and squeeze more of the water over him. If that doesn’t help, start with a good routine.

“Begin by undressing your baby and wrapping him in a blanket or towel,” says Jennings. “Place him on a counter top, changing table, firm mattress or even a blanket on the floor. Use the safety strap on a changing table, if available, and never walk away from your baby as he could roll over and fall. Only expose one area of his body at a time to keep him warm as you sponge him off with warm water. Keep him wrapped as you clean, then use a fresh towel to thoroughly dry him off. Finally, put on a new diaper and clean clothes.”

Add Fun

“Bath time can be a wonderful time to bond with your baby,” says Jennings. “As your baby gets used to the experience it’s OK to give older babies a few minutes to enjoy and play in the warm water.” You can start by filling a cup of water up and slowly pouring it into the water in front of baby. The sound and simply watching the water fall is entertaining to little ones. Just pay attention to the water temperature and do not let them get too cold.”

Local mom Jennifer Morgan offers these tips to making bath time fun:

  • Bath crayons
  • Sing a bath-time song
  • Give him a washcloth to play with
  • Let him give his favorite toy a good wash
  • Be creative!

“Your mood absolutely sets theirs,” adds Morgan. “If you’re relaxed and happy at bath-time, the child will be, too. I get a small plastic bucket filled with water and we have our toys ‘jump’ into it (like a high dive). We have tea parties in the bath and my daughter gets to fill the cups from the tap.”

“Remember to never leave children unsupervised in water even if just for a moment. If you must walk away from the bath, take the baby with you,” urges Jennings.

In the end, with all that’s said and done, your baby will soon learn to love bath time.

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Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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