Splashing around. Playing with bubbles. Soaking in the warm water. Pretending you’re a superhero duck trying to rescue the other ducks from a fierce octopus.
That’s what bath time is all about when you’re a baby and toddler. It helps you to prepare for the daily bedtime ritual. And it gets baby nice and clean.
For some, bath time is the best part of every parent’s day. For others, it’s a time where baby screams and cries because they feel terrified of the water.
Whether you’re bathing baby in the kitchen sink, plastic tub, or your bath tub, there are plenty of things you can do to improve the bath time experience for little ones (and ensure that bath time doesn’t equate with parents-wanting-to-tear-their-hair-out time).
Also, there’s no rush to start bathing your baby: the World Health Organization advises waiting 24 hours after birth to bathe baby for the first time, and the NHS recommends the “topping and tailing” method – where you wash face, neck, hands and bottom out of the tub – for small babies, which works well until parents feel confident about washing their children in the bath.
Here are some top tips on how to make bath time fun for baby, with advice from maternity nurse, mum of three and Blissful Baby Expert blogger Lisa Clegg.
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What’s better than bathing your baby? Co-bathing with your baby, of course. The NCT
encourages co-bathing – not only will it help calm a worried baby, but it also allows mums to relax and promotes breastfeeding.
"Babies feel safe and secure while being held. If you are holding them and then get into a nice warm bath, they will be much less likely to cry and get distressed," explains Clegg. "Once you know your baby is happy in the water, you can move to them having a bath in a smaller volume of water and with you on the outside of the bath."
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It might surprise you to learn that any given toy department has around 50 different varieties of bath toys, and we’re not just talking rubber duckies. Stacking cups, plastic animals, singing toys, sprinkling toys and bath crayons are just some of the ways you can involve play in bath time. The options are endless, and there’s a reason for this: kids love bath toys.
And they work: they create distractions, inspire imaginative play and turn bath time into a different adventure every day.
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The not-so-secret ingredient to every successful baby bath? Bubbles, of course. Not only will bath bubbles help to cleanse every nook and cranny of baby’s body (remember to wash hard-to-reach places, like neck folds), but they also turn bath time from a chore into another play session. As children get older, bath bubbles become part of their storytelling worlds, turning into beards for pirates and crowns for Snow Queens.
Wondering which bath products are suitable for babies from birth and won’t irritate their hyper-sensitive skin? Oilatum’s Daily Range
ticks both of those boxes, and many others, by gently and effectively cleansing the skin. Oilatum Daily Soothe & Protect Junior Bath Foam can help prevent irritating your baby’s delicate skin like soaps and detergents may, creates loads of fun bubbles and is suitable for dry skin. While eczema-prone babies shouldn’t be kept in the bath for too long, which can dry skin out further, or have hot baths, which can irritate the skin, using a bath foam like Oilatum’s can give babies the chance to enjoy bath time – and turn it into playtime. Follow with Oilatum Daily Soothe & Protect Junior Moisturising Lotion as soon as you’ve patted baby dry. It helps to calm young, dry skin and provides everyday protection for visibly healthier skin.
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Yes, life with a baby can be chaotic, and some days you probably won’t get to bathe yourself. But when it comes to bath time, it’s important to establish a routine – this way, baby will get used to the idea of a bath each day, at a similar time, and they will start to recognise that baths are followed by some pretty wonderful moments, like snuggle sessions and cuddles with bedtime books.
Clegg’s advice? "Try to do the bath at the same or very similar time each day, or however frequently you choose to bath your baby," she says. "It does work well as a very relaxing way to end the day, to wind your baby down before it's time for milk and bedtime."
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Bath seats, supports and pillows can all help make bath time feel more comfortable for you and your little one.
"These are very helpful in making sure your baby feels safe and secure and is more relaxed in the bath.
"It will also help your confidence in doing it alone, as you will have your hands free to wash them and massage them as they are lying supported by a bath aid," explains Clegg.
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Not everyone’s baby will instantly love bath time – especially when they are having the first few baths of their lives. As Clegg puts it: "Being lowered down into water with no prior warning is enough to make anyone get a shock, right?" But reassuring the baby and encouraging a calm and relaxing bath experience from the beginning is key to helping baby see bath time as a positive part of the day, not a negative one.
According to Clegg, one way to soothe your baby during bath time is by doing what you love best: chatting, cooing and interacting with them. Most important? That you make the experience as pleasant as possible for you both.
"Talk to your baby and make lots of eye contact. This will reassure her that she is safe and the bath is a lovely place to be - your voice will calm her if she's feeling anxious and getting upset.
"You can splash little bits of water over her as you smile and chat to her. If she senses you are anxious or worried then she will feel those same feelings too," says Clegg. This is also a good time to put all of your singing skills to use: babies love a little bath time musical entertainment.