Bath time is a lovely, splashy affair for little ones and a comforting signal to parents that bedtime is not too far away, and now research shows just how beneficial it can be for everyone.
As adults we know that a good soak in the tub can be about a lot more than just getting clean. It’s pure relaxation that is as good for the mind as it is for the body. The same is true for babies. Bath time is a chance to create some really special time at the end of the day and engage with your little person in a way that can aid their brain development and their overall wellbeing – the secret is in the senses.
Sight and touch
Alice Campbell, a touch expert from the Infant Massage Association of Australia, explains that eye contact alone can result in millions of neurons firing in baby’s brain, so combining that with touch creates a very powerful way of transmitting love between parent and baby. Any time is a good time for this, but you can ensure it’s part of any busy day by using bath time to focus purely on holding and touching baby, while the two of you spend time gazing at each other. Straight after the bath is also the perfect time to give baby a gentle massage. Studies have shown that babies who experienced routine touch and massage were 50 per cent more likely to maintain eye contact, and three times more likely to have a positive expression, like smiling, than those who didn’t.
By incorporating sounds into the bathing ritual you can increase the sensory stimulation for baby even more. While you’re giving baby her bath take the opportunity to chatter away to her about the events of the day. Studies have shown a direct link between academic success and the number of words spoken at home, so any chance to talk is a good one.
Many parents worry about adding product to their baby’s bath but by using a gentle cleansing product (choose one formulated specifically for babies) with a mild fragrance you can also help to transform the happy experience of bath time into a lasting memory for baby. “We know that when a scent is experienced it activates both the memory and emotion centres of the brain,” explains Scott Beaudry, Director of R&D Baby Care Asia-Pacific at Johnson & Johnson.
“This is likely due to the fact that these centres are located very close to each other within the brain. When initially smelled, a message is sent to the brain which creates an ‘image’ in the brain that captures not only the memory of the moment but also the emotion of the moment. The stronger the emotion the stronger the memory.
“We can often experience this memory association when we smell a ‘comfort’ food or baby care product from our childhood when we were being cared for by a loved one – we can instantly be transported emotionally back to the feeling of comfort, care, and love.”
Tips for bath time
Get everything you’ll need for bath time ready before you place baby in the water (bath product, flannel, shampoo if you’re using it, then towel, nappy, barrier cream and clothing for afterwards).
Keep the room temperature nice and warm so that baby won’t be cold before or afterwards while undressed.
Always check the water temperature before placing baby in the bath – use your elbow rather than your hand. It should feel warm but not hot – 37°C is perfect. You can get a bath thermometer to tell you the exact temperature if you’re unsure or worried.
Placing a warm wet flannel over baby’s tummy can be comforting for her. Soft muslin cloths are great for gently wiping her face and behind her ears. Gently clean all of those folds and creases, especially around her ears and neck.
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