Saturday, June 9, 2012

The anatomy of: bath time

I want to do a series of posts about baby routines we've developed around here. Though "routine" must be a more flexible term in regard to babies, because they grow so quickly and their needs grow and change with them, I will nevertheless share what we've been doing for these last several months.

Bath time is probably the easiest routine to describe, so I thought I'd start there. Out of everything I want to write about, it seems to be the one that requires the least individual tailoring. Here's what I'e learned.

Rule 1: Be prepared.
My most important rule for bathing a baby: Have all your supplies out before you get started. This piece of advice was related to us during our infant care class, and that advice definitely rings true. There are too many separate items that need to be located or prepared, and you don't want to do it with a (naked) baby in your arms. That's why we like to get every last item out and ready before undressing Natalie.

Preparing for a bath means doing prep work in both the bathroom and nursery.

Because we give Natalie her bath at night, we get all her nighttime items out in the nursery. This includes:

We also unfold a hooded towel and lay it on her changing pad so we can immediately and safely wrap her up when she gets out of the bath. (Her bedroom is just steps away from her bathroom.)

In the bathroom while her infant bathtub is filling up with water, we open the cabinet containing her bath items and get out washcloths and toiletries, specifically shampoo and body wash. I also grab the kneeling pad while I'm in there so Matt and I can have a more comfortable place to crouch.

We used to get out the bath frog (aka a giant sponge for the baby to rest against), but in the last month Natalie has already outgrown the bath frog and now just rests against the back of the infant bathtub.

Rule 2: Washcloths, washcloths, washcloths
I've learned that having three washcloths at bath time is ideal. This means one washcloth for the nether regions, one for the rest of the body, and one to drape across the baby's torso to keep her warm. I came across this idea when a former student of mine gave us this little contraption called a Tummy Towel, which is meant to cover a baby's stomach. The Tummy Towel is a great concept, but its job can also be accomplished by any large washcloth. When the Tummy Towel is in the dirty clothes, I particularly like the Aden + Anais washcloths because they come in sets of 3 and they are the size of a baby's torso.

Rule 3: Order of operations
Remember when you learned how to FOIL in algebra? Washing a baby is kind of like that, except you start at the center of the baby's face and then work your way out and down. The nurses in the hospital demonstrated this technique, running the washcloth under Natalie's eyes starting at the middle of her face and then moving toward her ears. Places that are easy to forget to wash: behind the ears, between fingers and toes (where an unbelievable amount of lint gets lodged), and the lower back.

Something the nurse at my New Moms group through the hospital told us this week that we have yet to try (because I keep forgetting): Run a clean washcloth along the baby's gums and lips. This not only helps prevent thrush, a painful condition for a nursing mom, but it also gets the baby used to the experience of having her mouth touched, which will be helpful for detecting tooth buds and later for brushing teeth.

For the first couple of baths it definitely felt like bathing a baby would always be a two-person operation. But once we got the hang of it, we found that one of us can easily carry out the entire process, though ideally it's still best to have one person do all the prep work while the other entertains the baby, and then one person ultimately does the bathing, drying and changing for bed. I also thought that the sponge baths you're supposed to give babies before their umbilical stump falls off would be a lot different from full-fledged baths, but the only noteworthy difference is less water and generally less caution a parent must exercise.

Speaking of, the topic of umbilical stumps came up on a recent episode of Pregnant in Heels (guilty pleasure of mine), and Rosie Pope asked a soon-to-be mom when the stump falls off, and the mom said three weeks and Rosie told her she was wrong; the correct answer is 10 days. I wanted to say, "Actually, Rosie, based on my experience that mom is right because our baby's fell off at three weeks," but I resisted the urge to talk to the TV.

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