One of the questions I am asked most often in my prenatal classes is “How do you bath two (or more) babies?” Bath time is something every new parent worries about, and with the added complication of more than one baby, the task can seem overwhelming. In fact, bath time should be fun, a relaxing time for both babies and parents. Here are some insights to alleviate the stresses associated with multiple bath time….
Firstly, rest assured that the hospital won’t send you home “cold”, that is, you will be taught by the nurse—before you leave the hospital—how to bath your little one(s). This being said, I usually encourage people to send Dad to the bath station to learn the tricks of the trade—this gives him an important role: Keeper of the bath secrets. Dad is also more likely than you at this point to remember all the steps, since you’ve just gone through the drama of giving birth, and are likely still exhausted.
Secondly, remember that you don’t need to do a full submersion bath every night; weopted for the “lower maintenance” sponge bath most nights, and pulled out the “bath tub” only once or twice a week, for the first several months. To do a sponge bath, you keep each baby wrapped up and use a cloth dipped in warm water to clean the face. Then unwrap parts of the baby (legs, arms, etc.) one at a time to clean them, covering them up immediately afterwards with the towel. (Newborns especially hate to have their skin exposed to the air, and you can avoid much screaming if you keep them covered as much as possible while you bathe and change them.) If you are feeling particularly lazy, you can even simplify the sponge bath by focussing on the face, neck and groin areas only. This is referred to as “topping and tailing”.
If you choose to do a submersion bath, be sure to assemble all your tools before youbegin. In fact, since some form of bath will likely be happening daily or almost daily, you might as well set up a quasi-permanent “bath station” for the first several months; this will save you running around to collect everything you need for the bath. We used our dining room table—it was big enough to hold blankets, towels, the bowl/tub, diapers, etc. And it wasn’t like we were going to be entertaining any dinner guests in the first few months anyway! Shampoo is something you need only a little of—hair needn’t be washed more than once a week (in fact, washing a newborn’s hair too often can irritate the scalp and cause cradle-cap, a flaky, dry-skin condition).
Whether doing a sponge bath or full submersion, it is good to keep in mind that with multiple babies, an assembly-line approach is often the most effective: For example, my husband used to bath Twin A while Twin B was in the swing. Then he would pass Twin A over to me to towel-dry, massage and change for bed while he got Twin B out of the swing and began bathing him. In the meantime, I would put Twin A to bed and get back just in time to massage and diaper Twin B while my husband emptied the bath water and tidied up (we rarely changed the water between babies, unless there was a “floater”, which occasionally did happen!) Then it was up to bed with Baby B—Twin A was usually still awake. I would read them both a story and “tuck them in” (lean over and kiss them, telling them “nighty-night”, and that was that. Of course, with more than two babies, the assembly line would continue, and extra hands—if you can convince neighbours, friends or family to help with bath time—are certainly an asset.
Keep in mind that the bath is a great way to build routine. The human brain, beginning at birth, is a pattern seeker. Even the youngest babies’ minds search for patterns, and if you follow every bath with a little massage and then put the baby down for bed (or a nap, if bath time is earlier in the day), the baby will soon begin to recognize the pattern of bath-massage-bed-sleep. A little relaxing music can add to the pattern recognition (we had the same “bath time music” for over six months!), and can also help relax tense parents! Five to seven minutes of infant massage after the bath is a great way to bond with each individual baby—a little sweet almond oil or Aveeno crème works wonders.
As with any other “routine” you establish with your multiples, bear in mind that nothing is forever. The changes in the bath time routine are constant and ongoing. The first change you will notice is when your little ones outgrow the sink or bowl that you originally bathed them in. Not long after you graduate to a larger type of “babytub”, you will find that this, too, has become too small, and you will make your way tot he “real” bath tub, using variousrings and other props until the babies can sit up on their own. For a time, you might even like to join your little onesin the tub (depending how many babies there are, and how big your tub is); this can be great fun! Eventually, your toddlers will sit on their own, and even entertain themselves in the tub, and you will have nearly forgotten those stress-filled first baths of the early days at home with your new babies! If this is the stage you are at, I encourage you to pull out that old bath music CD or the massage oil you used with your newborns, and let your senses take youback three years as you marvel at how far you have come as parents.
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