Baby, Bath & Beyond

Baby’s bath time, for Rhode Island grandmother Sharon Couto, is an opportunity to pass on to her daughter an experience that she held dear.

“We had an old house with a big basin sink, and I used to plop the kids in that sink and just let them splash and soak,” Couto says of her mom years. “Sure, the floor got soaked and the counters needed wiping, but the joy was palpable.

The fun was reborn when Couto’s eldest grandson, 4-year-old William, came along. She found her daughter, Audrey, was timid about bathing her first child. It brought memories flooding back for Couto of her struggles in the early days of motherhood and her mother-in-law, Flo, coming to her rescue.

“What my mother-in-law taught me was that if I was organized with everything close at hand, the actual bathing was a delight for the baby and the mommy. This is the lesson that I learned so well, and was able to pass along to Audrey when she had the same fear of bathing her first little guy,” says Couto (who writes at www.momsgenerations.com). “I bought a small infant tub, filled it with warm water, placed my beautiful new grandson on the mesh part, and just soothed him with the deliciously warm water. My daughter could not believe how much he loved the water! And I would sing to him.”

The before-bedtime ritual is become an important step for children’s physical and emotional health.

And then there are the statistics. The National Safe Kids Campaign blames scalding water for more burns on children under four than any other source. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reports drowning is the second-leading cause of death for unintentional injury-related deaths in American children and 60% of drowning victims under the age of one die in the bathtub – leading the American Academy of Pediatrics to caution adults never to leave a child under the age of four alone at bath time.

Scary stuff. And good reasons for an experienced grand to offer to help to new parents who are just getting acclimated.

“Grandparents aren’t afraid of babies,” says out pediatrician Jennifer Shu. “New parents often believe their babies are fragile, and they may be timid in holding the baby – not a good thing, especially around the bathtub!”

Grands got past fears of bathing squirmy infants years ago, and the examples we’re setting for our own kids can make a big difference in a grandchild’s life, as illustrated by the research of psychologist Dr. Howard Steele of the University of Central London that revealed children who were bathed at least three to four days a week were three times less likely to develop emotional problems when they became teenagers.

The reason? The warm water of a bath combined with loving touch produces oxytocin the hormone linked to the development of trust and feelings of love or connection.

“Most children feel relaxed in the bath,” says family therapist Michelle Barone of Sunland, California. “That gives us time to sing songs,help them practice their ABCs, and play.  Kids really bond through play.”

“It’s never the same game with them, even if the toys are the same,” says Karen Howe, the Dallas grandmother of Daniel, 5, and David, 6. “They take a plain plastic cup and make it become so many different things I sit and wonder why we adults don’t imagine like that anymore.”

In Couto’s family, the torch passed down from her mother-in-law burns bright on evenings when she stands back to watch  her four grandsons readied for bed.

“I see the joy in how Audrey approaches bath time now,” Couto says. “This is perfectly illustrated in how she allows her three older guys to help bathe Henry, the baby. She has the boys get Henry’s washcloth, soap, diaper. She fills Henry’s little blue tub with water. The boys pull up chairs to easily reach her kitchen counter top. She has the boys test the water for warmth. She lays Henry on the little net, and each boy takes a turn ‘washing’ Henry’s legs and arms and tummy.

“I have the joy of watching them… their faces, their smiles. I see them relaxed and safe and happy. There is nothing quite like bath time in the course of the day.”

 Added Information – NEW IDEAS

TUB SAFETY

  • Reset your hot water heater:  Scalding hot water is the leading cause of burns to children under 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests setting a household water heater no higher than 120 F.
  • Install safety locks: Kids and chemicals don’t mix, so add child safety locks to bathroom cabinets or move cleaning fluids, medicines, razors and other obvious dangers to a high shelf. The toilet also poses a drowning danger, so a lock to keep the lid shut is also advised.
  • Stock up near the tub: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises adults should be no less than an arm’s length away from any child under the age of 4 during bath time. A child can drown in less than an inch of water, so check to ensure you have ample supplies before running a bath
  • Protect your outlets: Kids splash. If you have electrical outlets anywhere near the tub, replace them with ground fault outlets and slip on locking outlet covers
  • Stop skids: Bubble baths and soaped up kids are a dangerous combination on the smooth surface of a bathtub. Non-skid mats or adhesive strips are a quick fix.

*Daily baths? Nope.  “Bathing a baby too often can dry out her skin,” says Atlanta pediatrician Jennifer Shu. “Infants only need a bath two or three times a week. On non-bath days, it’s fine to focus on problem areas such as around the mouth and neck, the hands, and the diaper area. Until the baby is crawling/walking and playing in dirt, a daily bath is not needed and not even recommended.”

*If it’s on the baby shelf at the store, it’s good for baby? Nope. “Some products may contain phthalates, which can interfere with normal hormone development in babies,” Shu says. “Choose phthalate-free products or just avoid fragrances, since phthalates may be found lumped into an ingredient on the label called ‘fragrance.’ ”

JEANNE SAGER

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