When I became a dad in 2018, I felt there was very little I could do to prepare for the arrival of our baby.
I felt pretty disconnected from the whole process and it’s not till my son was in my arms that I really know something had changed in my life. All that can make it hard to prepare emotionally, and if you’re like me, and often struggle to process ahead of time anyway, you’re a bit of a lost cause.
But all is not lost. What preparation we might struggle to do emotionally and physically as dads, we can make up for in practical preparation. It’s for these reasons that Commando Dad has become so popular. With some instructions on what to do and how to do it, we can make up for some of the instinctive skill of the baby’s mother.
There’s plenty to prepare for and all the NCT training and ante-natal support you can do with your partner is super helpful. That often gets you in a great place (albeit terrified) for the actual birth. Yet sometimes we neglect the routines post-birth that can be a big help. Knowing your way round a swaddle, a nappy change or bathing your little one is a great way to give your partner extra rest. Taking ownership of these sorts of routines and feeling confident doing them is a huge unlock for making those early months as parents more peaceful.
At GRASP we’re being on inspiring confident parents and nothing inspires confidence quite like getting on and doing it for yourself. While diving in can seem scary, especially when there’s a little one’s welfare on the line, the best we can do to counteract that is prepare well.
So here’s the 7 steps to prepare well and be a master of your baby’s bath time.
Step 1: Make sure you have everything you need for the bath before you bring the baby in.
Quite simply, the advice is to never leave your baby alone in the bath. The age this goes up to is a little more dubious and how far you go and for how long you leave them is a factor too. Most of that you’ll just judge based on gut feel. But as a simple rule of thumb, till they can walk confidently I’d stay with them the whole time.
That means, that certainly for about a year, you’re going to need to be with them in the bathroom so you better make sure you’ve got everything on hand that you’ll need. Towel, nappy, body wash, moisturiser. You can see our check list of ‘ingredients’ for a great bath time here. Obviously a lot of these things might live in your bathroom anyway and you might even move them to another room to moisturise, put a clean nappy on or get them dressed, so this doesn’t need to be difficult. Just make sure you’ve run a quick mental checklist to take care of everything if you’re going to be bathing them by yourself.
Step 2: Get the temperature right for bathtime.
As Sean Paul never said, “I got the right temperature fi your baby bathtime.” But if he actually had said that he’d be showing a great awareness of the importance of temperature when it comes to your baby’s bathtime.
You might be familiar with the need to get the water temperature right, but often neglected is the need to make the temperature of the room nice and warm as well. As a general guide, erring on the side of slightly cooler water, but a nice warm room is the way to go.
Making sure the water isn’t going to scold your baby is important, but keep in mind that you don’t want them getting cold either. You can use your elbow to check the temperature of the water, or use once of those ducks that change colour when the water is too hot. But the water will cool pretty quickly in a cool room, so keep the bath quick and try and bath your baby in warm room if possible. If you’re using a stand alone bath tub for your baby and your bathroom is quite cold usually, try putting some towels down in a warmer room and bathing them there.
Step 3: Bath water first, baby second
This is a quick one, but just make sure you prepare the water and are happy with the temperature and the amount of water in the bath before adding your little one. Get the bath water level right (lots of stand alone bath tubs have a hand guide for where to fill the bath too) and make sure you’re absolutely happy with the temperature. Once the baby is in, you ideally just want to leave it alone (especially if you’re planning on making it warmer.
If you really want to adjust the temperature or add more water, just take the baby out first, wrap them in the towel and then start again, that way you avoid scolding them or only half concentrating or supporting as you refill or adjust the bath water.
Step 4: Worry less about the skincare, and have fun
Bath time itself is obviously for washing your baby. But we’re often guilty of using too much skincare product and focusing more on washing them than just having a relaxing time.
Making bath time a fun part of your baby’s routine is more important than making sure they’re thoroughly clean. If you’re not careful you can make the whole routine more stressful by trying to clean them thoroughly, exasperating your baby (and then toddler) and yourself and ultimately growing your dislike of the whole routine. Better to take it easy on the hair washing sometimes and just focus on letting them play. If you can build a positive connection between them and the whole experience you’ll make life a lot easier in the future.
At GRASP we focus on making the tools to help baby’s and young children do things for themselves. It’s about them having fun learning and discovering how to wash and look after their own personal hygiene more than getting the job done. So have this mindset going into the whole bath time routine and enjoy it!
Step 5: Have a great bath towel at the ready
A great bath towel is one of the secrets to great bath towels. You’ll definitely sour the whole experience of bath time if you’re left with a screaming baby at the end who is getting cold because you can’t dry them quickly and thoroughly while keeping them warm. You’ll also find it pretty miserable yourself if you’re soaked from trying get them out and cuddle them when they’re wet, and your towel doesn’t cover them or protect you. This guide to choosing a great bath towel should cover all the bases. Just make sure your towel is close to hand to dry eyes and wrap them quickly when you get them out of the bath. Our number one tip though is to use a hooded towel!
Step 6: Get their nappy on first
Aside from having a towel at the ready, having a nappy on-hand is the next must have. A chilly baby, especially boys, are more likely to do a wee, so getting the nappy on quick is key if you’re not going to undo the work of the bath they’ve just had.
Keep your baby warm and swaddled as quickly as possible to stop them catching a breeze and then focus on drying their nappy area first so you can get a fresh nappy on as soon as possible. You can come back and dry the rest of them thoroughly and focus on moisturising them after that, but first get that nappy sorted. Keep the rest of them covered as best as possible (head and chest) with the towel while you change them, so they’re not totally exposed while not yet dry.
Okay so no one actually has moisturiser on tap, but if you treat it that way, your kid’s skin will thank you.
Our own mixed-race kids need particular attention when it comes to moisturiser, but all kids could do with a little more. Bath time is a great routine, but it’s important to make sure moisturising your little ones thoroughly is a big part of that routine. We often think about skincare as getting our kids clean, but we forget that helping protect their skin from dryness and damage is also a key part of looking after them.
Baby’s skin is more delicate and less naturally moisturising than adult skin so it’s actually a key part of looking after them. Use the time before they’re dressed to thoroughly cover torso, legs and arms with a lotion and then use a moisturising cream for their face. Ideally, make it part of the routine every day when they’re getting dressed, but if that’s too much, keep it to just bath time. Water actually dries out our skin so it’s important to replenish and support the skin’s natural barrier after the bath.
***So that’s it. There’s your 7 steps to preparing mentally and practically for a great bath time with your baby. Now you’ve just got to get on with it and work out what little hacks and tips