Bathing your baby for the first time can be nerve-wrecking. Many new parents fear that a wet baby may slip from their arms during bathing and drying the baby. While it pays to be extra careful when bathing infants, you’ll soon get the hang of this splishy-splashy bonding experience. All you need is knowledge, practice, confidence and a partner to assist you.
This article offers tips on bathing children from infants to older pre-schoolers. It’s important for children to adopt good hygiene practices and what better time to teach the basics than when they’re young and having fun? Most children enjoy bath time as it gives them the opportunity to play with water — one of their favourite things to do!
Before you get started, you will need a portable baby bathtub. Choose one with rounded edges and made from light plastic so it will be easy to move around, clean and store. There are several models available that can take you from infant to early-toddler stage. If your bathroom is small, check before making a purchase to ensure that your baby bathtub can fit in comfortably. Placing your bathtub over a non-skid rubber mat will prevent it from sliding around while you are bathing baby.
Keep this very important rule in mind before filling the bathtub. Never, ever leave baby unattended in a bathtub of water — not even for a second. Accidental drowning can happen, so be on the alert and prepare everything you need within reach: soap, shampoo, wash cloth, towel and so on. Do not assume that just because you have a small amount of water in the tub, nothing can go wrong. If the phone or doorbell rings, ignore it or get someone else to attend to it.
Place the bathtub on the bathroom floor and fill it up with about 5cm to 6cm worth of lukewarm water. As you get more confident with each bath session or when baby gets older, you can slowly increase the water level. Test that the water temperature is suitable by dipping your elbow into it. After undressing baby, lower him slowly into the tub feet first, one arm supporting his back and neck. Use the other arm to clean his head and body with a washcloth. Experts say a washcloth is preferable to a sponge as babies can choke on bite-sized pieces of sponge.
Using your washcloth, start by cleaning baby’s body and genital area — there is no need to scrub. Use mild soaps and be sparing with the amount. A product overdose could dry out baby’s skin. For boys, do not retract the foreskin, a simple wash and rinse will suffice. For girls, wash the diaper area gently from front to back. If you prefer not to use a washcloth, use your hands to gently splash or trickle water on baby. Use dampened cotton balls or a separate wash cloth to wipe the face, especially the eyes and nose where dried mucus tends to collect. Make sure to maintain a firm hold on your child as a soapy, wriggly baby can be slippery. Wash baby’s head with a small amount of mild baby shampoo, rinsing it off with water from a plastic cup.
Keep your bath time to five minutes so baby won’t get too cold. Rinse off any residual soap/shampoo and lift baby carefully out of the bathtub, one hand supporting his back and neck, the other placed securely under his bottom. Bundle baby with a clean, dry towel, pat dry his head and body before proceeding to dress him. It would be helpful to standby another adult to receive baby with the dry towel. Be careful when passing baby from one pair of hands to another and always maintain a careful grip.
For hygiene purposes, wash and dry your baby bathtub regularly between uses to ensure it remains free from algae and mould.
He may be able to walk and sit up on his own, but toddlers still need your help when it comes to bath-time. Once he is undressed, help him into the tub filled with lukewarm water and soap him. If he is keen to learn, teach him to soap himself and clean under his arms, behind his knees and so on. You do not need to fill the tub with a lot of water. Go for less instead of more.
Children this age generally love splashing around and playing with water. Put a non-slip rubber mat inside the tub to prevent your child from slipping. Let him take one or two appropriate bath toys into the bathtub, to distract him while you navigate a proper clean up. To wash his hair, get him to tilt his head back. Fill a plastic cup with bathwater and gently pour it over his head. Apply a coin-sized amount of mild shampoo, lather and rinse with more cupfuls of water.
As with infants, never leave your toddler alone in a bathtub filled with water and always keep your eye on him. Do not allow him to fiddle with taps as he can be scalded by hot water. As soon as bath time is over, be sure to empty the bathtub. This is to prevent a mishap from happening as a curious toddler can wander into the bathroom after a bath and decide to play with the leftover bath water.
When your child is three or four years old, he would have outgrown the baby bathtub. Introduce him to shower baths and don’t be surprised if he displays an interest in bathing himself. While holding the showerhead over him, teach him to pay special attention to neck, underarms, bottom, genital area and feet. At this stage, you will have to adjust the water temperature for him and remind him not to turn on the taps without your supervision.
You will probably need to help him wash his hair as most children this age aren’t able to completely rinse shampoo from their scalp. Once he is out of the shower, quickly towel dry head and body so he won’t catch a cold.
Children from five to six years of age can be taught not to waste water when taking a shower. For instance, instruct them not to leave the tap running when soaping themselves. For safety reasons, do not let your child lock the bathroom door or close it completely when he is showering. While your supervision is minimal at this stage, you will still need to hover around to prevent any mishaps. Of course, if your child is bathing in an adult-sized bath-tub, you should, under no circumstances, leave him alone. Take the opportunity to chat with him as he scrubs clean.
Some bathroom safety tips to consider include making the area a slip-free zone. Bath area aside, keep the bathroom dry and lay floor mats in place so your child won’t skid and fall. Keep scissors, nail files and other sharp objects out of the way. If you have a cabinet or drawers in your bathroom, make sure prescription pills or other forms of medication are not kept there. If these are, invest in a child proof lock. Remove all electrical items such as shavers or hairdryers from the bathroom; similarly with cleaning products like bleach and disinfectants.