For most babies, bath time is enjoyable and a welcome routine to the day. Some infants may go through phases of insecurity when changing from an infant tub to the big tub, when washing hair or at transition times like getting in and out. Some babies may have difficulty as there are lots of sensory pieces that are a part of bathtime that can be overwhelming. As infants transition to toddlerhood, there are a few parts of the routine that can be handed over to encourage independence and build self-help skills at a pivotal time when toddlers are beginning to develop the skills and the exertion of independence (some may say defiance) against caregivers to show that they can do it themselves. This is an important part of self-help skill building and overall skill development that caregivers need to encourage for future independence.
Bathtime is a familiar routine from birth where infants are totally dependent on adults to provide this experience and make it positive and enjoyable. Too much bath time can strip baby/toddler skin of essential natural oils, making them prone to dry skin and soap build-up, while too little can lead to sores from bacteria and infection in crevices, diaper area and scalp issues. Having a balance of every other day or every two days can allow for cleaning but not create problems. Some families only use soap (tear free to reduce eye irritation) on the scalp every other wash which is based on individuals oil production.
While supporting infants in developing and enjoying this life-long routine, caregivers need to keep in mind that these routines may have times of ease and times of transition, while children are learning what parts they like and dislike as well as building independence. Caregivers may need to make adjustments and modify the routine to help them through while remaining consistent with providing the routine even though it may seem trying. The worst a caregiver could do is stop this routine because it is difficult because starting it again will be more challenging and creates cleanliness issues. Know that this is a phase that requires more support, and with consistency and guidance, it will get easier. Here are some ideas to help through the tough tubby times:
For infants, bring in new or different waterproof chew toys for novelty and distraction for parts they don’t like.
Use a water visor to eliminate water in eyes or help them learn to cover with a washcloth.
For older toddlers without skin sensitivities, bath color tablet or bath bombs or bubbles can make bath time more of play time.
Bring toy favorites that don’t usually come in the tub for a visit which creates novelty and washes away germs from toys, a double win!
Bring hair care items (combs/brushes/spray bottle) into the tub and play salon and have child put soap on themselves by applying it to their hand.
Teach them how to wash their body and give them their own washcloth to use themselves. Also allow them to apply lotion after tub time.
Bring a waterproof baby doll in and model washing; allow child their turn.
Bring paint brushes and paint with water, get finger paints and color crayons made for just for the tub, put colored water in spray bottles and close the curtain to squirt away (while still keeping watch, of course).
Get letters that stick to the side of the bath for older children.
Taking the time to try new strategies and allowing them to do part of the routine can turn the challenge into fun new learning and eliminate some of the struggle all together.