How Bath Time Got Its Groove Back

During the first 2 to 3 months of Jack’s life I struggled with the contradiction of wanting to hold Jack close and all of the fancy things that I was supposed to put him in or on. He had a bassinette that we put him in when he fell asleep. Generally it took several tries to get him in there because he would wake up as soon as we set him down. “Geez, this baby hates to sleep!” So then we tried a swing, surely he would sleep better in a swing, that’s what everyone said. Nope, same shit. We didn’t yet know exactly how to listen to Jack. He was speaking to us, very clearly; we just weren’t listening. He was communicating clearly and simply that he wanted to be close to us while he slept.

To my frustration Jack also fussed when we bathed him. We would put him on his changing table, take his clothes off, hold a towel over the part we weren’t scrubbing and work our way down his body. I would wash, my husband would rinse and dance like a jester trying to keep Jack from total meltdown. Forget the fact that Jack didn’t really need to be bathed this often and that he certainly didn’t need to be scrubbed down as if he had been at work all day collecting the city’s garbage.

A couple of months later we felt Jack was ready to graduate to actual running water, but he was not steady enough to sit on his own. We bought a bath chair so that he could sit and we could pour water over his body parts bit by bit. That’s my baby, sitting alone in the tub, while we hover around the tub and reach our arms in trying to make him comfortable while our backs were breaking. I felt an edit to this photo was appropriate so that he will still want to speak to me when he is 14 years old.

We realized that this was not ideal as our backs were sore and Jack was far away all alone in his little chair, so we decided the sink might be better. We could stand straight up in comfort. Jack could play with the water coming at him from the faucet, and it detached so that we could spray his body with water easily. This happened one time. The second time Jack screamed in horror at the water spraying in his face. It seemed he found this frightening. Not the first time, but the second and third time so we called it quits.

Jack was being so unreasonable. We had moved this bath situation all over the house and he hated every bit of it. He clearly thought I was a bad mother and did not feel the least bit shy about telling me this! He was getting a little older and steady so we decided to just put him in the big bath again with no chair. We piled a bunch of toys in and he sat on his butt with me holding his arm to make sure he didn’t slip. He didn’t seem to mind this too much but the water freaked him out sometimes, and I was developing a hunchback from leaning practically completely over into the bath tub for fear he would slip around.

Then he learned how to stand. And from then on the only parts of his body getting a bath were his feet and shins. He wanted to stand every waking moment, and most of his moments were waking ones. As soon as his butt hit the bottom of the tub he would pull himself up and play with the faucet. That little knob to turn on the shower was his most prized possession. Or he would turn to me, grab my hands a do a little dance. This was not working out. Why in hell was everything always wrong? Everything I tried failed. Not just with bathing, but sleeping too as I said before, and breastfeeding, and babywearing, and mealtime. Nothing worked!

But just as we had found our groove with all of those things we found our groove with bath time. I had tried bathing with him before, but it seemed to be too hard. I would get out to dry off, but then he was still there sitting by himself in the tub—too dangerous! I tried to get out with him and get him dried off and dressed first, but this always left me running around naked, wet and freezing. So I figured it just wouldn’t work. I had fixed so many problems before by learning to listen to Jack. Maybe Jack could fix this one for us too. In all of those other situations the answer was the same, Jack wanted to be close to me. I thought about what went wrong before and the problem was always surrounded around how to get myself dry and fixed up. Jack doesn’t care about my hygiene routine. He cares about going from one moment to the next feeling safe, close, nurtured and loved. It all fell smoothly into place when one night I hopped into the bath, my husband handed me Jack, we bathed and played and nursed and laughed until Jack was ready to get out. My husband took Jack, dried him off and put on his jammies. Perfect! And now I get to dawdle in the bath tub, blasting it with scalding hot water just like I love it and spend a few minutes relaxing. Win win.

Abby Theuring, MSW

About Abby Theuring

The Badass Breastfeeder is a mother, writer, social worker, attachment parent, proud breastfeeder and advocate. Her career as a social worker has shown her that gentle and connected parenting is vital for life-long emotional health. You can find her blog at www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheBadassBreastfeeder.

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23 comments

  1. I bath my second born. Biggest mistakes with my first. Not listening to myself or my child…. We all bath together now. It’s fun and a great time to bond.

  2. I learned the hard way that sometimes babies like to poop in the bath, whether mom is in there or not!!

  3. Ditto. I bathe with my daughter and daddy gets to get her dried and dressed while I soak after she’s clean. It’s the only way I can get her hair washed

  4. That’s exactly how we do baths too! It helps that he likes hot water also = D

  5. I’ve been bathing with my son since he was born! His dad was gone five or more days a week for work, this was the only way I could figure that I might get a bath every now and again too.

    I’ve always had padded bath mats near the tub, so when he’s all done I put him on his back on a towel on the floor and wrap him up while I dry myself off so that there’s no scary stepping out of the tub with a baby business going on. I’m so very not graceful I didn’t even want to try!

    Daddy says he wishes his baths came with a “swim-up bar” too. Lol! :-)

  6. What works for us is to put my daughter in a plastic baby bathtub inside our regular bathtub. I push her to the other side of the tub and I stand and have a shower. Since she was a newborn I’ve never had the problem of not having time for a shower, and when her bath gets cold I just use the shower hose to add in some warmer. I found when I used a bath chair she got too cold and wanted out, she liked her body to be completely underwater.

  7. My nursing and I shower together! In my opinion it is much easier than baths together

  8. This is exactly how we do bath time! We started doing it this way in the very beginning because I found the only time I was able to bath myself was when I was bathing our daughter, and passing her off to daddy allowed him to take part in bath time too. Great minds think alike:)

  9. This is EXACTLY how we do bath time! We use it as ‘family time’ – dad sits with us, holds our baby while I get my bath, then hands her off to me. He will walk the dogs or something and give us a few minutes to bathe, sing, and play and then comes back in with a big towel waiting to catch her. He takes her, dries her, puts on the jammies while I tend to myself. I think we’ve been doing this since she was about 2 1/2 months. She’s never been back in the sink again!

  10. I shows with mine 1 month old – he nurses so well and it saves my back, took him in the tub for the first time the other day since I had a csection and wasn’t able to sit in the bath before. I don’t care. What other people say it works!

  11. I’ve bathed with my now 7.5 month old boy since he was born. It honestly came from the fact that we lived in a tiny apartment with no place to store a bath seat. Either his dad or I get in the tub with him, bathe him, play with him, and then whoever is on the sidelines takes him to get dressed and the one in the tub showers. It’s just one of those things that came so naturally to us.

  12. I’m so glad to hear you guys found your groove. Since my son’s first bath on his own in which he screamed the whole time, I have bathed (with assist from my dear hubby) with him. It has been such a lovely expiereince and I love the time we share being close :)

  13. I can relate! Our bath time ritual has evolved into the same thing! It’s soooooo much easier on momma’s back! My daughter is 16 months and the trick I use to wash her hair is to lay her back over my thigh and nurse her so the back of her head is in the water. Sometimes she even closes her eyes. I can wash her whole body this way too :)

  14. This made me smile the and laugh the whole way through! I’ve bathed with my daughter (now 4 months old) when she was about 8 weeks old. But we never really had a problem with bathtime. She loves every part of it. She doesn’t even mind if the water is a little hot. Bathing with her was scary, she was so slippery! It was nice that you had your husband there to help you. But I guess the single mamas are going to have to do the cold naked running around version of that, if their babies don’t like being in the tub alone. The point of this post was clear, “Listen to your baby, he/she’ll tell you what they want/need”. Thank you for this witty and adorable reminder. :)

  15. My partner and I have been taking turns bathing with our little one since birth. She loves the water and play time! If my husband isn’t home I put a towel in her car seat and transfer her over while I have a quick scrub down. Makes me glad the baby tub I bought was a few bucks second hand as it never got used!

  16. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS!! This is pretty well our bathing experience. It’s so nice to know we’re not alone and that I don’t have the only high needs baby!! Keep up the great writing! Take care!

  17. Haha – I just happen to be reading this while lounging in the bath, just after my other half helped me bathe our daughter, then dried her off, put on her jammies and took her downstairs! What a coincidence ;-)

  18. Your Commentsthats how we do things at our house. It just seems to work out so much better for everyone involved!

  19. That is how we do baths every night! It is heavenly!

  20. ob my god.. kindle autocorrect! !! NAKED not baked. Hahahaha

  21. My gal has always loved the bath. BUT she gets especially excited when she sees me getting baked to get in with her. “Bath and boobies! Oh my!”

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