However, when you spend $50 on a bathing apparatus, it's hard to let the vision die, so we tried using it in a beverage bucket a couple of times, but supporting his little head and body in it was challenging, and the bucket was so stinking heavy when we would fill it with water, that getting it on the counter was quite a chore. And oh yeah, he would scream after about 1 minute in it.
Then a wonderful friend gave me some tips when Little J and I were spending time with her while Mike was away for business, and we actually had our very first pleasant bath experience!
It seems the most important part of the whole thing is keeping the baby warm throughout the bath process. As you can see from the picture above, you can do this in a big bathtub lined with a towel and a couple of inches of water (just make sure you put an additional small towel under their head to keep water out of their ears). I went home, and of course, tried to recreate the bath using that pesky flower thing again, and it worked okay, but really, I have to say, giving a baby a bath in the big bathtub is really hard on your back.
Well, we have perfected the art of happy bath time, and would like to share the process for all of you out there wondering how to make bath time enjoyable for everyone. So, here we go:
1. Make the bathroom nice a warm. This is key! If you remember nothing else, remember this. You want to make sure baby stays warm throughout the entire bath process, from taking his clothes off, to getting out and dried off. You can do this either with a space heater, or by running hot water in the shower to make the room steamy. If it is summertime, make sure the central air register is closed so that your baby doesn't get blasted with icy air when the AC kicks on.
2. Set the mood lighting. Bright lights and relaxation don't really go hand in hand for baby (he did spend 9 months in the dark after all). We have a light on our bath vent fan that is a lot less bright than the normal lights on the bathroom, but a bright nightlight would work too. Or if you're feeling in the mood, candles around the bathroom would be nice (just make sure they aren't close to anything that could catch fire or burn the baby, and babies have really sensitive noses, so don't overload him with lots of super smelly candles).
3. Put on some relaxing music. Pandora has some great stations for this. My two personal favorites are "Spa Radio" and "New Age Solo Piano Radio." You want the music to be loud enough for baby to hear, but soft enough to be relaxing. It helps to not put the source of the music right by baby's head.
4. Set up baby undressing/drying station. You will need: 1 large bath towel, 1 large baby hooded towel, 1 cloth diaper prefold, 1 clean diaper, baby wipes, baby butt cream. You want to set up a space on the counter, or even on the floor if you don't have much space in your bathroom, where you can comfortably undress baby before bath, and dry him off after. Take the large bath towel and fold it into fourths to create a soft pad to lay baby on. Lay out the hooded baby towel on top of that, and then put the cloth diaper prefold on top of that where you will put baby's bottom (this will keep the towel clean when you take pre-bathed baby's diaper off, and protect your towel in case baby pees before you get him in the tub.) Place the clean diaper and butt cream next to your changing station so that they are ready to go once baby is out of the tub and dry. You'll want wipes handy as well so that you can clean up baby's bottom when you take his dirty diaper off before you put him in the tub.
5. Set up baby bathing station. You will need: 1 countertop baby bathtub (the kind with the infant butt stop, or newborn sling will help keep baby secure), 1 soft hand towel, 2 washcloths, baby bath toy, small cup. Put the bathtub on a counter (if possible) so that baby is at a nice level for your back. Line the tub with the hand towel (this helps keep baby from slipping, and is much softer on baby's skin than hard plastic). One of the washcloths is to bathe baby with, the other is to place over their chest and tummy (to keep them warm). The baby bath toy will keep baby occupied, and the small cup you will use to continue pouring water over the washcloth on their tummy to keep it nice and warm.
6. Fill the tub. You will need: 1 large cup or tupperware container, baby bath soap. You want to get the water from the bathtub faucet nice and warm and running pretty vigorously so that you can get the baby tub filled in a reasonable amount of time. Squirt about 1 tablespoon of baby bath soap in the bottom of your tupperware container, and then using the container, transfer container-fulls of water to your baby bathtub until about 1/2 to 2/3 full (remember, the water level will rise when you put the baby in it!). Note: you don't need to use additional soap on your washcloth or hands when you bathe baby. The small amount in the water is sufficient to get baby clean, and also slight enough that you don't need to worry about rinsing baby off afterwards. Once your tub is full, check the water temperature with the inside of your wrist. You want it warm enough to keep baby warm, but not too hot (babies are more sensitive to hot water than you and I are, and they aren't going to "ease in" like you would for a bath). Also, if the water is too warm, it will dry out baby's skin. If you anticipate a long-ish bath, just fill your tupperware container with hot water and set to the side so that you can add a little here and there to keep the water warm (just make sure you add it somewhere in the tub far away from baby's skin so you don't burn him, and then mix it in with your hand).
7. Lay out baby clothes. You want to be able to move your clean, dry, warm, diapered baby directly into some warm dry clothes as soon as you are done, so lay them out on his changing table ahead of time to facilitate the transfer.
Now that you're all set up, your actually ready to bathe your baby! So here we go:
8. Undress baby. Bring your baby into the bathroom and give him a minute to take in the environment. Let him feel the warm air, hear the nice music, notice the dim lights, and smell the hint of baby soap fragrance in the air. He'll probably be calm, alert, and curious. Next, lay your baby down on your changing station and slowly and carefully take off his clothes, speaking calmly to him. Then take off his diaper and wipe off his bottom if he is soiled. For little boys, you might want to lay a baby wipe over his little weenie in case he pees so that you don't get a shower! It should be warm enough in your bathroom that baby won't get cold during this process, and therefore stay nice and calm.
9. Place baby in the tub. Pick your baby up off the changing station, and hold him close, supporting his bottom. When you lower him into the tub, make sure you are supporting his head, shoulders, bottom, and legs with your arms. You want baby to feel secure and safe as you lower him into the tub. Lower him slowly into the water, watching for his reaction. If he startles, lower slower and offer some reassuring words. If he seems uncomfortable, check the water temperature again to make sure it's not too hot. If it is, add a bit of cold water before you lower baby in any further. Once baby is in the water, just let him sit there for a minute or two while you talk to him. No need to rush into the washing part. At this age, baths are more about relaxation than cleaning. Babies aren't that dirty.
10. Bathe baby. Once you're ready to start washing your baby, start by dipping one of the washcloths in the water and placing it over baby's tummy and chest to keep him warm. If your partner is helping you, you can have him continually pour warm water over the washcloth to keep it toasty. Then, using the other washcloth, dip it in the water by baby's feet and wash his face first (you want to wash baby from cleanest part of his body to dirtiest). Then wash his head and hair with the washcloth. Note: you do not need additional soap to wash baby's hair, nor do you need to pour water over his head (this will only startle him). Just wash his hair with the wet washcloth dipped in the soapy bath water. Continue washing all of baby's parts, focusing on all the creases and rolls. Make sure you get his hands nice and clean, and save his genitals and bum for last since these are his dirtiest parts. If you have a circumcised boy, make sure you clean out all the smegma so that you avoid penile adhesion (check out page 84 of Baby 411, 5th edition for a full discussion of this).
11. Dry off baby. Once baby is all clean, lift him out of the tub and carefully place him on his hooded towel (make sure you remove the cloth diaper prefold beforehand). Quickly wrap him up so he stays nice and warm, and rub him all over outside of the towel. Then unwrap just his lower half and dry him more thoroughly, paying attention to all his creases. Slip the clean diaper under his bum, apply a bit of butt cream, and fasten his diaper. Then unwrap the top of his towel and get the rest of him dry.
12. Dress baby. Once baby is all dry and diapered, pick him and up and hold him close while you carry him into this room where you have his clothes laid out. It is helpful to have the lights dim in his room as well in order to maintain the calming environment. You can carry the soothing music in with you as well. Get him dressed quickly so that he stays warm.
And you're done! Congratulations mom, you survived bath time with hopefully no tears from you or baby.