Bathing with your baby

Sharing a bath together with your baby can be a wonderful experience for both of you. It can be an excellent bonding process where you can have plenty of skin to skin contact and a unique time to be quiet together or to play, talk and sing with each other. Some babies find being in a bigger tub much less stressful than being in a baby bath, which may be upsetting for you: a bath together may be a preferable option.

However, there are some things that you need to think about before climbing into the bath together:

  • Make sure that you have everything you will need for both your baby and yourself to hand. Items are likely to include towels, sponge, soap, toys, clean clothes, clean nappy.
  • Make sure the temperature of the bath is safe for your baby. The temperature of the water should be 37 degrees C.
  • Make sure that the room is warm and draught-free
  • At first you may feel happier to bathe with your baby if there is another adult who can help you get in and out of the bath.
  • Make sure there is nothing dangerous around the edge of the bath such as bottles of soaps or shampoos or shaving equipment.
  • You may want to use a non-slip mat in the bath. Although you are sitting you may still need to move suddenly if your baby moves quickly or unplanned and you do not want to slip in the bath whilst holding your baby.
  • Have a towel to hand to dry your hands. Both you and your baby will get slippery when in the water.

Bathing with a newborn
It can be a scary experience when you first attempt to bathe with your baby, however with practise and preparation it can be a very enjoyable experience.

  1. Ask your partner or someone to help you and hold the baby for you.
  2. Fill the bath to about two-thirds full and check the temperature.
  3. Get into the bath, ensure your body is wet and get comfortable.
  4. Get your partner to hand you your baby. There are a few ways to hold your baby so find which works best for you: on your chest so that you are tummy-to-tummy, supporting baby’s neck and lying him on his back, or even lying him on your bent legs facing towards you. Make sure you watch where the water level is and if the water is close to baby’s mouth make sure you empty some water out.
  5. Stay relaxed and calm as your baby will respond to any emotions you have. Talk gently to your baby and allow your baby to listen to your heartbeat. Hold your baby close and gently rub and massage your baby’s skin.
  6. When you are ready clean your baby gently.  You may find it easier for your partner to help. If you find it difficult to clean your baby’s tummy, you could do this gently before your baby enters the bath.
  7. When you are ready to get out, your partner should lift your baby up and wrap in a towel and cuddle them to keep them warm.  Then get your baby dressed and continue to cuddle.

You can bathe with your baby as early as you feel confident and able to, and as soon as his umbilical cord has fallen off. However, most mums wait until after their bleeding has stopped. You may also prefer to wait until any stitches that you needed have healed.

If you have any questions regarding bathing with your baby, do not be afraid to ask your midwife or health visitor for advice.

Can I breastfeed my baby in the bath?
It can be a very pleasant experience for both mum and baby to feed your baby whilst in the bath. Your baby will feel comfortable nestled into you and surrounded by the warm water and will bring back memories of life in the womb. There is no reason why you should not feed your baby in the bath. However, a lot of babies, especially new-born babies, open their bowels during or immediately after a feed, which may take some of the pleasure away from your experience.

Bathing with an older baby
As your baby grows, she will gain head control. This will allow you to make bath time even more fun together as you will be able to look at each other and play together. You should be able to manage bath-time together on your own although you may still prefer to wait for another adult to help you with your baby.

You will find it easiest if after getting your baby ready for bath-time, you place your baby in a child seat, this may be a bouncy seat, a car seat or other kind of baby restraint. You should place a towel inside the seat under your baby and also a towel over your baby to keep her warm. Once you are in the bath, reach over the side and pick your baby up and place in the bath.

At first you should lie in the bath with your knees bent and place your baby with her back against your thighs.  In this position you can get good eye contact with your baby and lots of opportunity to play.

As your baby gets older and more able, you can put your legs flat in the bath and sit your baby on them either facing you or facing outwards. You may find that other positions suit you better and feel free to experiment slightly if you feel confident with your grip and support on your baby.

You may want to finish your bath together with some chest-to-chest time like when you baby was smaller. This is also good as it encourages your baby to be confident in water no matter what position she is in.

When you are ready to get out, reach out and lower you baby back into the child seat next to the bath with a towel over her.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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