Twinfant Tuesday: Bathing

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D has always loved his bath. The very first time he laughed was in the bath, as I trickled water on his chest.

D, one month old
D, three weeks old

A, on the other hand, had a rough beginning. A was initially bathed in the pink hospital storage bins. He hated every minute of it, screaming from the moment he was placed on the scale (precursor to bathing in the NICU) until he was hooked back up to all his various devices, dressed, and tightly swaddled. When he had open abdominal surgery at 29 days old, plus was given his gastrostomy tube, we were told not to bathe him for 6 weeks. Thus, he only had sponge baths, which he tolerated but did not enjoy. Before the 6 weeks had elapsed, A was given a PICC line in his arm, and we were told to not bathe him until he no longer had it. (An older child or adult could, I’m sure, bathe with a central line IV, but trying to keep an entire arm out of the bath and a wet, squirmy baby in the bath, is beyond most people, myself definitely included.) Then he had another abdominal surgery which necessitated a new ostomy for his G-tube, and another 6 weeks of no baths.

And so it was that A, at 5 months old, was given his first bath in an infant tub. I happen to love (love, love, LOVE) our infant tub. We used the “Whale of a PlayTub”. It worked perfectly from negative-three weeks old (D’s discharge from NICU) until almost a year old (longer for A, who is small and has low muscle tone). I was dismayed to see that his early fear/hatred of baths was still present. I mentioned it to his PT/OT from Early Intervention, who used to work as a NICU developmental therapist and is a genius when it comes to sensory issues. She and I gave A his first “swaddle bath” right in my living room.

Giving a swaddle bath is easy. The idea behind it is to help the baby feel safe and warm. A, like many NICU babies (and probably babies, period) felt insecure in the bath and needed to learn to love it. First, fill the tub with a few inches of warm water. Make sure to have a cup or ladle near by, along with towels, soap (if you’re using it), etc. Next, tightly swaddle the naked baby in a fleece blanket. (It has to be fleece; other fabrics quickly become cold when wet.) Then place the swaddled baby in the tub. I was amazed when we reached this step, as A did not scream in the slightest. Pour water over the baby, getting the whole blanket wet. The fleece will retain the warmth.

That can be it. Or, if your baby seems ready, unswaddle one limb at a time, wash it, then re-swaddle it. Always wash the head last, as it is exposed to the air and can get cold, plus the face can be very sensitive.

A's therapist teaching me how to give him a swaddle bath
A’s therapist teaching me how to give him a swaddle bath

As time goes on, loosen the swaddle. Don’t re-swaddle the legs after washing. The idea is to gradual phase out the swaddle, depending on the baby’s needs. For A, he quickly progressed to only needing swaddling when transitioning in and out of the tub, then just in, then just loosely wrapped in a blanket which remained on the bottom of the tub after he was in, and then nothing. Now A, like D, is a water baby, loving baths, swimming, etc.

Because of my husband’s work schedule, I almost always did bath time alone during their first year. My twins couldn’t share a bath for quite some time (15 months is when we began), due to A’s difficulties with sitting upright and D’s propensity to yank on A’s G-tube. So I would put one in a bouncy seat (and later exersaucer) right outside the bathroom door, bathe the other, dress him, and then swap places. It worked very well. Bath time was one of my favorite times with the boys when they were infants, in part I think because it was largely one-on-one, and in part because they both loved their baths so much.

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Ask the Moms, part 15 – bathtime

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What’s harder to hold onto than a squirmy baby? A wet and soapy squirmy baby! And what’s even harder than that? Two wet and soapy squirmy babies! Oh, goodness. The heart attacks we’ve all had when combining our children with water. But bathe, we must, at least a few times a week (some of us have it as part of our nightly bedtime ritual, others do not). Just how do you get two little ones clean without undue stress or bodily harm?

The bathtime ritual is a little different for everyone. Some families bathe their kids maybe three times a week, only when really necessary. In the interim, a few wipes can do the trick. Some have an every-other-day ritual, and others have it as part of the nightly bedtime routine. Purely for the sake of cleanliness, most babies do not need a daily bath. Sometimes, especially with the advent of solid foods (how did you get peas on the back of your head?) or toddlers in the summer (c’mon, let’s roll around in this pile of dirt!), it is quite necessary, but not for everyone.

And certainly, there’s nothing saying you have to bathe your kids together! Especially when both parents are home and able to pitch in, there’s much to be said for the one-at-a-time approach. Each baby gets some alone time, and you’ve got two hands to one baby, a nice ratio. That’s what we did for the first seven months or so at my house. M comes home from work, plays with the kids while I prep bathtime. Fussiest baby goes first, you get the idea. It worked pretty well. Except… except the days when M was delayed and I had to do bathtime by myself. Oh my lord, how I hated solo bathtime. But it can be done.

One-parent, one-kid-at-a-time baths require advance preparation and a staging area. Wherever the bath will take place, whether an infant tub, the kitchen sink, or the big tub, you need to get all supplies in order before the first kid has his diaper off. You also need an age-appropriate staging area, such as a bouncy seat, high chair, or fenced-in childproof space for the kid not in the tub. Seriously, we all know that bathtime often coincides with the witching hour, so if it helps to throw on Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, or Cash Cab, you won’t hear us judge. After that, it’s just a question of quick bath and towel dry for baby 1, swap staging areas, and repeat with baby 2. When my kids were still in the bouncy seat stage, I just brought that seat right into the kitchen where the bath was taking place, so everyone could listen to music and hopefully be a teeny bit entertained.

Two in the tub at the same time can be accomplished in a variety of ways. In the pre-sitting days, get yourself two bath pillows (I liked the Safer Bather; a simple foam pillow works as well and is super cheap), put just enough water in the tub to keep the babies warm, and you’re all set. Two-at-a-time is both easier and harder when the babies are able to sit up on their own. Easier in that you have more options, harder in that they can tip over by accident or wiggle around on purpose, thereby upping the difficulty level for mom.

One possibility is the tried-and-true kitchen sink. Depending on the size and shape of your sink, it may or may not work for two at once. But if you’re lucky and have the right size of double sink… voilà! A match made in heaven. Put a towel or non-slip something on the bottom and you’ve got a custom-made double bath that will hold the kids until they’re old enough to be (a little bit) safer in the bathroom tub. Plus, running water can be quite entertaining. (Thanks to Cheryl for pulling that adorable picture out of the archives…)

If you have unstable sitters in the bathroom tub, you’re obviously going to want to use something so that they don’t tip over and whack their heads. Some people swear by two bath seats, which support them but let them wiggle. Another popular hack is to get one large or two small laundry baskets, which can hold babies and toys, and let water in and out, and which Krissy used to great effect when her kids were a bit smaller. I got an inflatable duck tub at my twin club sale, and still have both kids in there. (There are other inflatable tubs that do not involve poultry, of course.) Yes, it’s getting pretty snug, and we’re only still getting by because my daughter is quite small. LauraC tried the same thing, and her boys were not fond of the idea. So you never know what your kids will prefer. Her boys seem to have a darn good time in the tub on their own.

If you’re ready to ditch the bathtub accessories, just plop ’em in the tub. Ideally, you’ve got some kind of non-slip surface, such as a mat or even a towel, at least while they’re still wiggling around and not so graceful. A cover/guard for the spout is also a good idea, to prevent at least a few of the head smacks. Still, slippery babies will do what they’re going to do. Some days they’re going to flaunt the no-standing-in-the-tub rule, they’re going to slip and bonk their heads. No one will be happy. But, live and learn, and you’ll do it better another day.

No matter what your bathing location and method of choice, always remember basic bathtime safety. Prepare everything you’ll need ahead of time, don’t put more than a few inches of water in the tub, and never ever step away when young children are in the water. We don’t want any of you to make headlines involving the phrase: “tragic accident.” Bathtime can be fun, but it can also be dangerous, so don’t take any chances.

But hey, once you’ve got a method figured out… is there anything cuter than two kids at bathtime?

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