Sunday 17 November 2019

Bath time made easy: Making bathing less of a challenge for mums and babies

Giving babies a bath can be a bit of a challenge. Arlene Harris suggests ways to make it more enjoyable for both mums and tots

Bath time
Bath time

For some babies it's the highlight of their day but for others it can be a fearful experience - so it stands to reason that how children view bath time will determine whether or not it is something their parents look forward to.

Midwife, Tracy Donegan says bath time should be enjoyable - so if your baby finds it distressing make the bath shorter or perhaps look into getting an upright tub which mimics the womb and keeps them in a 'sitting' position.

She also says it's not necessary to bathe a baby in their first 24 hours and when you do take the plunge, don't let them spend too long in the water.

"New-born babies are often born with a white covering called vernix which melts into their skin so there are benefits to your baby to leave it on for a day or so," she says. "Tiny babies also have difficulty maintaining their body temperature so bathing within the first 24 hours can drop their blood sugars and result in a medical condition called cold-stress.

"So although it's routine in most hospitals to demonstrate the baby bath, it's not medically necessary and can cause unnecessary distress for your baby. Just keep the first bath short (5-10 minutes) and once a week is usually enough."

Dr Suzanne Kelleher of the Children's Health Clinic in Dublin says children with certain conditions may need extra care during bathing.

"Generally babies only need to be bathed once or twice a week for the first 6-8 weeks of life," she says. "Parents of premature or underweight babies should bathe less as they are more likely to get cold quickly. ,"For babies who dislike bath time, a top and tail wash may be adequate in the first few weeks of life. However it is important to bathe them also as areas of skin such as the groin, axila and neck may be missed and can be prone to infections.

"There aren't really any times when you shouldn't bath a baby, even if they have a cold, as long as they are dried properly and kept warm."


* An infant with a fever should not be put in a cold bath, as this can cause shivering which increases the core temperature, tepid sponging is safer

* Parents need to be careful that a child's skin may be slippy when wet if emulsifier is added to the water.

* Following bathing, emulsifying ointment or Silcocks base may be applied to sensitive or eczematous skin.

* There is no harm bathing an infant daily as long as skin is moisturised after.

* For those with eczema or seborrhoeic dermatitis bathing helps remove scaly skin which causes the itching.

* Bath temperature for babies with eczema should be lukewarm, as warmer water can aggravate skin.

* Bathing can be used to bring down temperatures in conjunction with infant paracetamol or ibuprofen.

* For children with chickenpox bread soda added to the bath helps.

* For infants with recurrent genital infections, a capful of Savlon as an antiseptic can be added to the water.

Irish Independent

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