Bathtime, not battletime
As adults, most of us see a bath as a treat; a way to relax and unwind after a long day. For babies and toddlers, they can become more of full scale event than a de-stress. Bathtimes can be exciting or chaotic - and they can be a key time for little ones to test limits, particularly as most families add them to the bedtime routine when everyone's tired and adults are on the final leg before they (maybe) get a bit of evening to themselves. If you are taking your baby to swimming lessons, you may even be getting "homework" from your swimming teacher to add to your stress! Read on for some tips to help you put the fun back into bathing your baby.
The most important thing is for your baby or toddler to be safe in the bath. Stay in the room at all times, and keep watching them carefully. Always test the temperature of the water, and take care when putting them in and taking them out of the bath. If you're happy for your toddler to stand up in the bath, put down a non-slip bath mat in the bottom of the bath to keep them safe.
Does your baby's bath need to be part of your bedtime routine? For some little ones, a bath is hugely stimulating. The room is echoey and loud, mum or dad is tired, and possibly finding the bathtime a stressful time, there is more freedom of movement in the water, the air temperature changes - even their clothes are off and the water is a new sensation on their skin. Bath times could be more successful during the morning, when your baby is more alert (and you are possibly feeling a little fresher!) or after an afternoon nap. A long bedtime routine can be too much for a baby or toddler - moving bathtime could be a good way to shorten the lead up to sleep and remove the stimulation, and giving your baby the chance to really enjoy the water.
Being in the water can lead to your little one feeling vulnerable and less in control of their bodies. Often, parents lie children on their backs in the water, which can be unnerving for them. In young infants, certain reflexes can be activated when they are tipped onto their backs, and older children find it hard to roll over and right themselves in the bath, even if they can do so confidently on land. It might be a good idea to try keeping your little one upright in the bath, even while washing their hair, so they feel more in control of their bodies. There is no real need for a child to lie on their backs in the bath until they are ready to do so, A Tummy Tub is a brilliant way to keep your little one feeling safe and secure in the bath.
Does your little one need a bath every day? Sometimes a quick top and tail is more than enough to keep babies and toddlers clean. A full bath can dry their skin and strip the natural oils that keep them so soft in the early years. A long, relaxing bath every few days could be a better option than a daily frantic dunk!
It is a good idea to lay everything out before your little one's clothes come off and they start to get cold. Gather towels, nappies, wipes, toys and any creams or shampoos you plan to use before you start. Two big, warm towels can be an easier way to dry a wriggly, cold little one quickly.
Set your limits
These are more applicable to toddlers, and vary between families, and even between family members. Do you want to allow your toddler to stand up in the bath, or are you worried about them slipping? What about splashing? Decide where your own limits lie, and enforce them - that way your child will feel secure and know what's expected and you can relax and enjoy the experience with them. If you decide you're happy with them splashing in the bath, put an old towel on the floor to catch the drips, wear some old clothes you don't mind getting wet, and let them splash. If you don't want splashing, you could give them one warning and end bathtime early if they decide to go against the limit. Bathtime should be fun, so there's no need to read out a list of rules prior to putting them in the tub, but it's good to deal with issues as and when they arise.
What can he do?
Babies and toddlers can do so much in the bath for themselves - you can try letting a toddler shampoo his own hair, or letting them pour water over their face. See how much they can do for themselves before doing things for them.
Bathtimes should be fun and relaxing. If you know you're exhausted and they are too, it might be worth skipping the bath for a day. Throw some toys (plastic cups, scoops, funnels, colanders, objects that float and sink and a small fishing net work well), and let them play and explore the water. Allow plenty of time for a good soak, and try to set up the environment so they can succeed - if you don't want them playing with your fancy shampoos, move them out of reach - make the bath a fun, relaxing space and give them a chance to de-stress!