Reflections From The Bathing Grandma
Yes, my new title is the Bathing Grandmother because I know how to bathe newborns without making them cry.
How I move and speak and handle newborns is automatic after mothering nine children. I learned intuitively, by trial and error and of course from books. In fact one of the biggest jokes in our family is about the time I bathed my oldest child for the first time.
I was nervous about bathing a newborn. It is hilarious to admit now but I actually had a book propped open with one elbow awkwardly holding it open to the right page, while my baby was in a bathtub on the table. The book was my security blanket, I guess.
My new husband, who was the second oldest of ten children and completely relaxed with babies, walked through the kitchen, shook his head in disbelief and said quite wisely,
“Melanie, there are some things you just can’t get out of books.”
The Bathing Grandma’s Bathing Tricks
How to bathe a newborn…
- without making them flail about in terror.
- so they relax and enjoy the warm water
- so they remember being in the womb.
First rule is not to bathe the baby like the nurse showed you in the hospital. My son tried that, wiping the baby from back to front just like the nurse had and the baby cried just like he cried in the hospital. Nurses are wonderful people but they have a lot to do and are efficient. Babies do not like efficient baths.Don’t treat babies like objects or bath time like a chore. Relax, talk and relate to this new little person in a soothing, calm voice that reassures him that he is safe, loved and protected.
My daughter-in-law asked me to do the next bath and she was thrilled that her baby did not cry. She ran downstairs to tell my son all the things I had done differently than the hospital. I am delighted to have some claim to fame. so here are the time-tested strategies for a happy bathtime for infants.
The bathing room should be draft free and warm, even hot. A bathroom is the easiest to close off and warm up, even if it is with shower steam. Make sure the water is deep enough to cover the baby’s entire body because when the chest and tummy are exposed, the baby feels vulnerable and is also cold .
The main trick is to move slowly and keep body contact with the newborn. That means bending over in slow motion as you lower the baby into the water, still hugging him, even when his bottom touches the water. You can place either a very warm face cloth over his chest or a hand on his tummy as he slowly relaxes in the water. Also the water should be quite warm. This sounds crude but think how hot your own urine is..that is how hot the amniotic fluid was in the womb. When the water does not feel warm enough, babies stay tense and don’t relax in the tub.
So basically my advice is to relax, enjoy your baby, move slowly and keep him warm and he will love his bathtime almost as much as you do!
The Joy of Mothering