Maybe I just got off on the wrong foot with bathing. It wasn’t the smoothest of introductions, in all honesty. The nurses in the NIC unit showed us their tried and true method of putting Baby in a contraption resembling something in which one might soak dirty crockery.
The trick, we were told, was to wet and wash one part of the body at a time and to be super quick about it. No matter the speed or skill involved, however, the babies cried their faces off. It wasn’t exactly the rubber duckiness I had envisioned.
I don’t know why I thought this would suddenly change at home. They sent us home with the device and told us to apply the same method employing the facilities of our kitchen sink. Well, let’s just say the dexterity required for this was Olympian, the stress immeasurable, and it was much like the hospital version only much, much worse. Our organic cotton washcloth was no match for Baby’s ceaseless rage. We needed a new strategy.
I think every parenting book I read B.C. (Before Child) heralded the many benefits of the baby bather. I get it—the idea is to keep your sprout immobile yet comfortable, head controlled, while you scrub-a-dub in relative safety. To me, this never seemed like much of an upgrade and seemed to have the same potential pitfalls. It also represented a short-term solution, as Baby will not fit in those things for very long. So, being somewhat prone to rash decisions, I skipped it altogether and went right to Big Boy Bathing 101.
What’s not to love about the bathtub, I rhetorically ask? Newborns want constant reminders of whence they came, i.e. Warm and Cozy Land, and what better way to recreate it than a toasty, engulfing bath? But much more than that, bath time has become a special bonding time that Baby has grown to truly enjoy. Almost as much as me. Skin to skin contact has a tendency to get lost in the shuffle, but here’s a great way to reclaim it. So don’t fear the tub! An assist from your partner the first time or two will be huge, but you’ll be scrubbing solo soon enough. A few pointers:
1. Pre-game. Once you are in the tub, all bets are off. So make sure you are properly equipped. You’ll need baby soap/shampoo, a cup for rinsing, a washcloth, and a towel/baby wrap within arm’s reach. You can even thrown a bottle in there to warm for an after-bath snack.
2. Test the waters. Water temperature should be a few degrees south of where you might ideally like to soak, but you want it pretty close. Give it the elbow test. Then wedge Baby in the football hold and lower yourself in first.
3. Build slowly. Dunking your baby immediately will surely net you unfavorable results. To avoid this, consider some bathtime foreplay. Dip your hand in the water and splash some on Baby. Dip a little Baby foot in there. Set him on your lap and introduce a warm wash cloth to his torso. Lots of eye contact and dialogue (though I use that term loosely) and he’ll be doing the backstroke in no time.
The rest is pretty self-explanatory. The details will come instinctually—when younger, Baby will just squirm, but as he gets stronger, you will have to mind his powerful leg thrusts. Of paramount importance is obviously keeping Baby’s head above water. And if you’re doing that literally, then you’re also doing it metaphorically.