Harley used to hate bath time. She was so tiny, I used to give her baths in the kitchen sink. I’d make sure the water was perfect, I’d be sweet and gentle with her, but she just hated it… until she could sit up. Ever since she was able to sit on her own in the bath tub, she absolutely adores bath time, and it has become an important part of our daily routine. There is so much that can be gained from bath time, and it can really help to establish a helpful sleep pattern.
I remember I used to love bath time. I had a couple fun toys; I remember an awesome wooden paddle boat with a rubber band around a wheel so you could wind it and then it would paddle off down the tub. That was the best, obviously, but I also had rubber duckies, and random bottles and containers that I could fill with water and pour out. My mom would sit with me and we would chat and laugh while I was playing in the bath, and then we had silly routine conversations about the names of body parts that we would play when she would dry me off and get me into my PJs. Surprisingly, it all plays an important part in helping a little person to grow and learn, as well as unwind and eventually fall asleep.
Bath Time: for Development and Fun
Water is unique. Toys that might fall on the ground will float in it. Hitting your hand against the tub makes a noise as compared to hitting your hand against water which makes a splash. Harley has a blast with it all. She plays with her bath books, and even enjoys throwing her bath thermometer (a plastic turtle) around the tub. She splashes and plays and even pulls herself up to standing now, too. For the most part, I just let her do as she pleases, enjoying her water-based free play. However, there are a couple things that I try to do every bath time.
Obviously, I need to clean her – that is sorta the point. I wash the little hair that she has, and then soap up her top half. I then make her float on her back. This is good for her to get used to the different sound of water in her ears, plus it lets me wash her feet, legs and anything I might has missed while she was sitting; with her crawling now, she gets way dirtier than she used to, so this is definitely a necessary part of bath time these days. I then let her hold onto my hands and pull herself up, back into a seated position.
Next up, it’s time to rinse off. I use a small bowl and fill it with water that I pour over her. The biggest thing is part of her awesome swimming lessons – I count to three and then says “eyes in” as I pour the water over her head, getting her face wet and rinsing off the shampoo. I started by just splashing a small amount of water on her face, but now she knows it’s coming and closes her eyes and sorta holds her breath. It’s adorable, and definitely helps with her swimming, too.
Once she is clean, I generally let her play for a while. But once she seems to be losing interest, or the water starts getting too cold, it’s time to take her out and dry her off. After a quick toweling dry, I rub her down with her lavender-scented moisturizer. Her skin hasn’t proved to be too sensitive at this point, so I’m able to use scented products. but I’ve also used unscented and this part works equally well. Just like with baby massage, I work in the product, naming the body part as we go. It really doesn’t take long – unlike during massage, I don’t name each body part multiple times. It’s just “this is your tummy, these are your legs, these are your feet”, etc. It’s helpful to name all sorts of body parts that you might not even think about except when touching them – neck, shoulders, elbows, knees, and whatever else. By naming them now, and helping your little one to feel where their body begins and ends, it helps with spatial understanding as well as basic understanding of her own body.
Bath Time as a sleeping aid
Anyone else struggle to get their kid to sleep at night? This seems to be the most common issue for parents, and something we all battle with to greater and lesser degrees from night to night. I still don’t know why there are some nights when Harley will sleep for six hours, only to nurse and sleep for another three to four, while other nights she’ll wake up after three or four hours and every two hours thereafter. However, getting her to conk out is getting easier, and a big part of that is our evening routine.
Every night, we go for bath time. I usually do this a bit later than most other moms. Yes, I would love to have her go to sleep early, but until she can consistently sleep longer, it keeps all of us a bit more sane for her to go to sleep around 9-10pm so that her first wake up is somewhere between 2-4am, which means that I get a decent chunk of sleep before I need to wake up and take care of her.
Our routine is the four ‘B’s: bath, book, boob, bed. As that would imply, after bath time, we read a book together, followed by nursing and putting her in bed. Usually, she falls asleep on the boob, which makes popping her in bed quite easy. However, even if she isn’t fully asleep, I try to get her used to falling asleep in her cot. It doesn’t always work, but the more we do it, the more she gets used to it. If she cries and winds herself up again, I’ll retrieve her, nurse her again and put her back to bed. If we start bath time around 8:30, she is usually asleep by 9-9:30 unless she is particularly difficult and only goes down around 10.
What is your bath time routine? Do you notice it helps your little one to fall asleep, or do you have a different night time routine?