Your baby may have received a bath in hospital, but there is something so monumentally special about your baby’s first bath at home. Even if your baby hates every second and cries their way through it, there’s something so magic about washing your precious little bundle before wrapping them up in your arms to dry. They might not be a fan, but you definitely will be.
Research by Johnson’s reveals that while parents might enjoy bathtime, many are unaware of the benefits for bath time in terms of brain development. Bath time is a multi-sensorial experience that leads to happy and healthy development, and when built into a weekly routine bathtime can nurture your baby’s ability to learn, think, love and grow.
“Babies can learn about cause and effect as they splash in the water and see the results,” says child psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin. They practice fine motor skills by playing with the bubbles, and develop a sense of object permanence when toys are hidden below bubbles only to suddenly appear again. The more fun you make bath time, the better the experience and the better learning opportunity it will be for both of you.
While bathtime is wonderful for cognitive development and bonding with Mum and Dad, until your baby is down on the ground and getting dirty, they don’t need to bath every day. In fact, there is some belief that bathing your baby every day could lead to skin problems.
As a general guide, aim to bath your baby every two to three days after the umbilical stump has fallen off. (If the umbilical cord stump is still attached, make sure it’s dried properly afterwards.) The frequency really is up to you and what works for your family. For some, a warm bath can work as a natural sleep-inducing tool in preparation for bedtime, and for others it offers a huge amount of excitement. Then, there are those that absolutely despise getting wet in the bath. In other words, you pick the frequency of bathtime according your baby’s likes and dislikes.
The most important thing to remember about bathtime is that you NEVER leave your baby unattended. Not even for a split second and not even in an inch of water. Have your baby’s towel ready and in reaching distance, and if you must step away from the bath, take your baby with you.
If it’s available to you, bath your baby in a special baby bathtub that sits at just the right height. If you don’t have a baby bath, the sink will do. Fill up the sink or bath with no more than five inches of warm water (the ideal temperature is 37 degrees.) Check the water temperature with the inside of your wrist and swirl the water to rid any hot or cold spots. Use a sparing amount of gentle baby wash or soap, preferably natural and organic to respect your baby’s delicate skin. Water alone won’t break down the fat-soluble impurities left behind under nappies and clothes, so a small amount of cleanser is required.
Using one arm to support your baby’s back, neck and head, gently place your baby into the water. You will need to keep your arm there for support if you haven’t invested in a special baby bath that keeps your baby just above the water.
You washing routine should look something like this:
Choosing the right time for baby’s first bath is crucial. This will be the start of a wonderful routine and if you time it right you can use bathtime to your advantage. If you’re looking to make bathtime part of your bedtime routine, reinforce the sleepy-time message by lowering the lights and keeping noise and activity to a minimum. Let baby feel the warmth of the water, the gentle trickle of water running over their tummy, and the washcloth gently rubbed on their body. In a quiet and gentle voice describe every body part as you wash and stare lovingly into their eyes. When bathtime is over, finish with an infant massage.
If you’d prefer bathtime to be a morning routine and something to wake baby up for the day, create a more uplifting and vibrant bathtime routine with lots of learning opportunities. Splash and giggle, play with the bubbles, use baby talk and an energetic voice and teach them lessons on cause and effect by encouraging them to kick and create a splash.
You may also like to use bathtime as a settling tool, soothing your fussy baby. You know yourself how calming and relaxing a bath can be and the same thing generally applies for babies once they are used to it. If they’re not a fan though, don’t sweat it. Keep calm, talk and sing to your baby and they’ll soon start to see the joy in bathtime.
The key message for bathing your baby is to pick a good time and avoid or postpone bathtime when baby is hungry, grumpy or overtired. Bath in a warm room to keep your baby from losing their body heat too quickly, and have everything at your fingertips before you start. Don’t forget the camera!