I remember my son's first bath. He was born in a birth center, so he didn't get one on his birthday, or for a few days after. My mom was staying with me and was showing me how she had bathed me and my brothers, and I'm not going to lie, it stressed me out. She didn't co-bathe with babies, but instead she bathed us like many other parents did: in a baby bath. But newborns are not fans of being cold — especially my son. Every time he needed a diaper change or an outfit changed, he cried as soon as the air hit his little wrinkly skin. Like so many things I faced as a new parent, I was just trying to do things the "right way." And when it came to bathing a newborn, the "right way" was the way I'd always seen people bathe a newborn: in the kitchen in a little baby tub.
When my son and I came home, I had the baby shampoo and the brand-new soft baby towels all laid out. I fussed over getting the water just the right temperature. Of course I worried about whether it was too hot or too cold because it felt like a mistake in this would be awful. And even with my mom there helping, I remember feeling overwhelmed. None of it felt natural to me: sticking him in a little plastic contraption on my counter, ignoring his squirms and complaints as I tried as quickly as possible just to get it done so I could snuggle him again. I wanted to bathe with my baby, to keep him calm and comfortable, to do things in a way that felt authentic to me and not just like something we "had" to do because it was the "right thing."
Like so many tasks in parenting, I needed to find my way to do it. There was some trial and error. The next time I bathed him, I did it one body part at a time, leaving his shirt on while I cleaned his legs, and then drying that area completely before moving on to his upper body. I washed his hair last and then rushed to cover his head with one of those cute hooded towels. He still hated it. I was just extending the process.
Once I tried it, I never went back.
Finally, one day, I figured I'd just get in the big bathtub with him. I'd seen a gorgeous birth video where the mother took an herb bath with her baby shortly after she was born. The baby was calm and happy. The setting was so serene, and the mom could cuddle the baby the entire time. I knew at this point I had a kid who didn't really like being put down, so getting in the tub should have maybe been a no-brainer. And once I tried it, I never went back. After watching the video, that little whale-shaped baby bath sat in my closet gathering dust.
Of course the first time didn't go perfectly smoothly. I waited until my partner was home so he could help me get our baby in and out of the tub. I probably held onto him harder than I had to, worrying he'd get slippery and I'd somehow drop him and submerge him. But he was calm and happy, just like the baby in the video. I knew the temperature of the water was comfortable, because I was in it. He got to be skin to skin. When it was time to wash his wispy hair, I could do it while he breastfed.
Pretty soon, I really got into the groove with it. I'd bring his bouncy seat into the bathroom and stick it next to the tub, so I could get in and out without worrying about slipping while holding him. I would have a small stack of towels at the ready, and plenty of washcloths I could drape over him to keep him warm if he decided to breastfeed.
When my daughter came along, I never bathed her another way. And with a new baby on the way, I'm planning on keeping this way of bathing going.
I used my lap to hold him. My legs made the perfect ramp. It was an adjustable incline. He seemed to love letting his feet float and as he got less floppy, and we had a lot of fun playing together in the tub. I'd bob him up and down and he'd giggle. Eventually he learned to splash and kick. And at some point, he was big enough that he could sit in our tub by himself and I no longer needed to get in with him. But I still would occasionally because I enjoyed playing with my toddler.
When my daughter came along, I never bathed her another way. And with a new baby on the way, I'm planning on keeping this way of bathing going. I've seen a lot of new tubs on the market — soft ones that fit in your bathroom sink, deep ones that let your kid sit up, mostly submerged — but I'm glad I have yet another piece of baby equipment I don't need. Because any mom knows, you can go totally overboard with all that stuff.
Logistically, I love bathing with my kids. But I also love it for the bonding time. So often, I was going about my day, keeping busy, and just bringing my baby with me everywhere. But bath time, there were no other distractions. It's just me and my baby, skin-to-skin. I get to really focus on my baby exploring the world. It's a chance for us to babble at each other and to play. And often, the baths were followed by both of us putting on cozy clothes and taking a nap.
Life with two (soon to be three!) kids is often busy, but I know I'll take time out of our busy life to bathe my newborn when he arrives. My other kids might join us in the tub, or we might steal precious alone time together. There are tons of things I'm remembering about parenting a newborn that I'm reminded of as my due date nears. I'm looking forward to almost all of them. (Not so much the fact that getting out of the house to be on time is going to be that much harder. I'm only human.) But nothing is better than nurturing and snuggling and bonding with my baby. And instead of bath time being stressful, it's something blissful that I can't wait to do once he's here.