Having a regular bath time for your baby is an important first step to establishing a bedtime routine - and might help them sleep through the night bath time routine
Yes, a nightly bath really can help babies sleep through the night!
Sleeping and feeding might not come naturally to all babies - or their parents - at first. But a baby's bath time is often the moment that really tests a new parent.
Combining water and a very tiny baby can be utterly terrifying and stressful, especially the first time you have a go. You don't have enough hands; the baby is slippery and you're worried that the water is too hot, too cold or just too wet.
But with a bit of practise, experience and organisation it's possible to turn you little one's bath time into a relaxing and enjoyable part of their day - and yours.
Paediatric sleep expert, Cheryl Fingleson, even promises that including bath time in your baby's wind down, evening routine, is the first step to helping him or her sleep through the night.
Run that bath and sign us up!
First comes bath... then comes routine
A baby's bath time is a signal to them (and us) that the day's coming to an end. It's a useful marker that will likely remain a fixed event in their daily routine throughout childhood, even when they can bathe or shower themselves.
But in the early days of babyhood, it's useful to think of bath time as an anchor which you can use as a starting point to begin reshaping your little one's topsy turvy day.
"If you make sure to include bath time in a baby's evening routine, even young babies will begin to understand that this is the beginning of their gentle, wind down time," explains Cheryl. "It signals to them that bed-time is coming."
Newborn babies don't need to be bathed more than once every other day at the most because it can dry their skin too much.
But from around three to four months, a daily bath can be an great way to help switch babies from alert day time mode to one that's ready for sleep.
Keep this routine simple and no longer than thirty minutes. Make sure you have a warm towel, nappy and clothes at arm's reach so your baby stays warm afterwards. Make sure the bath water is warm, not cool or hot. Don't use soap or cleansers as this can irritate baby skin and try having the room quiet and dimly lit if possible. And, of course, never leave your baby unattended during bath time.
Afterwards, take your baby straight to their sleeping area which should already be set up for night-time with low lighting and a calm, quiet atmosphere. Maybe play some soft music to cover sounds from other parts of your home, noisy traffic or neighbours.
How bath time makes (almost) everything better
An evening bath can be very soothing for small babies. Especially as the best time for one is between 5.00 and 6.00 - aka that witching hour!
Warm water has a wonderful way of making all of us feel relaxed. But in particular it can soothe windy, uncomfortable tummies which colicky babies often suffer from in the evening.
Many families use bath time as shift change time. So the baby's main daytime carer can have some much needed alone time while their partner takes over. This is lovely for bonding.
Okay, we get it, but my baby hates bath time - now what?
Some babies will scream as soon as they touch water no matter how much you soothe them. Before you give up completely, there are some things you could try:
- use a baby bath - or your kitchen or bathroom sink. Big baths can be scary and intimidating for babies. Remember to cover the faucet or move it out the way first.
- have a bath with your baby. This is a beautiful way to bond, skin to skin, with your little one. (Just remember to have your own bath towel handy too.)
- shower with your baby. Many of us don't even have baths anymore. Just make sure your shower isn't on too strong or too hot, keep the jets away from your baby's face and ensure both your safety by ensuring the tiles aren't slippery - if they are, use a large non-slip mat or towel on the ground.
- try a swaddle bath. Some neo-natal units in America have started doing this for newborns' first baths with great results. Babies are wrapped in their muslin swaddles (and nappies) and then they are gently bathed in warm water. You can undo the swaddle if your baby seems happy or keep them wrapped up throughout.
"It might be nerve-wracking at first but a baby's bath time is a great opportunity to bond with your child. And parents, just remember to occasionally have a lovely relaxing bath on your own too!" adds Cheryl.