The Ultimate Age and Stage Bath Guide:
Bathing a new-born can be a very daunting experience for the first few times. Bathing will be a major part of your bubs routine over the next few years, we show you how it can be a wondrous and relaxing time. Despite the obvious reasons on hygiene, this can be a very important time of bonding and fun. Even as your infant gets older and loves splashing around you can still use these tips to ensure that bath time is not only fun but also safe.
There are 5 golden rules when it comes to bath safety:
Never leave baby in the bath unsupervised, or under the supervision of a young child. Even children up to the age of 5, should be supervised. Be sure to remove any distractions like putting your phone on silent. If you have to attend to something, take the child with you. Keep the toilet seat and bathroom doors closed. Use a spout cover so that baby doesn’t hit their heads on the taps.
Before you start make sure that you have everything ready within an arms reach. This way you can keep one arm around baby at all times. Remember that babies can be unpredictable to be sure to have extra supplies handy.
Experts suggest a temperature of between 37 and 38 degrees Celsius (36 degrees for a newborn). Anything colder can cause baby to lose body heat too quickly. Always check the water temperature before putting in the bath. Test with your elbow or inside of your wrist to ensure that the water is not too hot or too cold. You can also purchase a bath thermometer to ensure that the temperature is correct; often these can be in the form of fun bath toys.
If you are able lower the temperature of your geyser so that when your child is older they don’t accidently open the tap and scald their hands. A plumber will often be able to do this for you.
Always run the cold-water first, then run the hot and cold together. Never add hot water alone as accidently putting their hands under the running water may hurt them. Ensure that the water has been swirled to mix the hot and cold water properly. After running the warm water, run a bit of cold to ensure that the tap cools down in case your child touches it. Make sure that both taps and closed securely in case your child plays and opens the taps.
Water height should be belly button height, or about 8cm to 13cm for a child that is able to sit unassisted. Your new-born should have their shoulders covered by the water when on their backs.
Let the bath water out as soon as you are done:
Infants can drown in as little as one inch of water. Very young children are also prone to drowning because they are top heavy. This can happen very quickly with very little coughing or splashing so you may not even realise that they are in danger.
Keep baby warm:
Once you are done with bathing, wrap baby quickly in a towel so that they don’t loose too much body heat. Keep the room warm to maintain their temperature. Ensure that baby is thoroughly dried before putting their nap and clothes back on.
Tips and biggest concerns for new-borns up to 3 months:
- “My baby hates the bath”. Many do, this isn’t something that you are doing wrong. If your baby seems distressed during bath time switch to a “top and tail” approach to cleaning and bathe them every second day. Try to make the bathing experience fun. Sing to your bub while you are undressing them, smile at them and be confident that eventually baby will love the bath.
- “When should I start bathing baby?”. Doctors advise giving baby a sponge bath until their umbilical cord has fallen off, if circumcised wait for that to heal too. After that, there are many products available to rest your arms. Try and choose a product that prevents baby from slipping. Many experts also suggest avoiding bath seats, if these topple baby can be trapped underneath and could drown.
- “I can’t remember how the nurse did it”. Of course you cannot remember every piece of advice given by the nurse/midwife/your mother/ etc. The routine is like a dance and you need to make the steps suit you, it may look like a complicated tango but before long you will have this down. The common advice is to wash bubs face while they are still dressed, cleaning their eyes with cotton wool. Undress them, leaving the nappy until last. As you lower baby into the bath, hold her firmly under her bottom with one hand and support their head, shoulders and neck with the other arm. Once in the bath you can use the hand that was under her bottom to gently bathe them, swishing water around. Keep a firm hand on your baby and ensure that their head is above the water.
- “His skin is peeling”. Many new-borns do have flaky skin, keep their baths less than 10 minutes and do not use any soap products.
Tips for Three to six months:
- “How often should I bath my baby and when?” This is completely up to you! Many experts say that infants do not need to be bathed everyday, as long as you clean their faces, neck, hands and diaper area daily. Bathing can be done every 2 or 3 days. Some infants love the water; so bathing can be a calming process to be used as part of the bedtime routine. Others find it stimulating with lots of splashing, so this is best used as part of the morning routine.
- “My back hurts when bathing my little one.” By now you should be quite comfortable with the bathing routine so if something is hurting you can change it. If you are using a baby bath, make sure that the height is correct. If you are using a big bath, put a rubber bathmat on the bottom of the bath and use a pillow for your knees. As your infant grows teach them to use the bath in the sitting position, and discourage them from standing. Once baby is older than 2 months, and you are confident about handling her, you can bath with her. Always get help so that you can get in the bath and someone can hand the baby to you and vice versa when getting out. Skin to skin contact is said to strengthen attachment so this may be a nice way for daddy and baby to bond.
- “My bub can’t wait to get out of the bath.” Make sure that bath time is fun! Have a karoke night and debut all those nursery rhymes from your childhood, or lullabies if it is near bedtime. There are also many toys that will keep baby busy. Have a look at the Playgro range of bath toys for example.
Tips for six to twelve months:
Babies of this age are getting smarter by the day, so teach them life concepts like cause and effect.
- At this stage baby should be able to sit unassisted and will be able to grab objects. Make sure that no dangerous products are left in the bath area.
- Use the time to teach baby things and learn through play.
- Follow the same golden rules as above to ensure that baby is safe.
Try these activities like:
- Splashing to develop co-ordination and balance.
- Try a bubble bath or blow bubbles in the bath.
- Toys like the Playgro Bath Ball is a favourite as it floats in the water and the tops remove to pour water through. Playgro Crocodile Cups can be stacked and knocked down again. The Playgro Whirly Water Wheel spins as you pour water through it. All these toys can be used to teach basic physics and develop fine motor skills.
- Try a bath book to encourage reading from an early age.
Bath time essentials:
A whole industry has been created to cater for bathing little people, but what do you really need?
For a new-born’s sensitive skin be sure to use gentle products without perfume or dyes. Work a lather of the soap onto a facecloth and then use this to gently wash baby. Many babies don’t need baby shampoo, and you can just wet the hair. Once or twice a week you may want to wash their hair with baby soap or mild baby shampoo. If your baby has cradle cap you can loosen the scaly patches with a soft-bristled baby brush while you shampoo their hair. Some other suggestions include a mild moisturiser and nappy cream.
A hooded towel can be an easy way to wrap bub up and dry them off. A washcloth is also useful for wiping the face or covering the eyes when washing hair. Another option could be the Bambino No Tears Shampoo Rinse Jug that keeps the water from going into baby’s face and shields the eyes from Shampoo.
A gentle bubble bath has the added bonus of cleaning your little one. Toys like the Playgro Bath range provide hours of entertainment. A waterproof or bath book.
Tips for eighteen months to two years:
- Allow some independence and encourage them to start washing themselves.
- Be firm about a “no standing” rule.
- Rotate the bath toys so they always feel like they’re playing with something new.
- Let them go mad at the beginning of the bath, kicking and splashing a bit, but gently wind them back to more calm play so they are ready for the bedtime routine.
- Make bath time “us” time by making it special bonding time. Don’t treat it as a chore, give bub your full attention – let’s face it, for safety reasons you ARE giving your tot undivided attention anyway. Sing special songs or talk to them about things that they have learnt or done that day.
Tips from two to three:
This stage is notorious for tantrums, for whatever reason your water-baby suddenly becomes terrified of water. It’s a huge fight to get them into the bath and then a huge fight to get them out. Perhaps they have realised the connection between bath time and bed-time?
- If the battle becomes a bit too much, experts agree that at this age a daily bath may not be necessary as long as a “top and tail” wipe is still done daily.
- Ease their fears and explain that hygiene is non negotiable. Some experts advise giving them a sponge bath in the bath without water until they seem comfortable. Don’t force them to stay in longer than necessary if they do not want to. Talk to them beforehand about the fun they are going to have in the bath with all their toys.
- Products mentioned before like the Bambino No Tears Shampoo Rinse Jug can ease the battle of washing their hair. If this still does not work try making it more fun by giving them special goggles to wear. Try making funny hairstyles and showing them with a non-breakable mirror.
Remember all children under the age of five need supervision whilst bathing, so make it a special time that they will enjoy.