A question I often hear on a new mum’s lips, is this: is co-bathing with your baby okay? The short answer is yes, it is your decision how you choose to parent your baby and as a baby professional, I would always want to help you make well-informed decisions.
Co-bathing in fact, can be lovely ways for parents and their babies to enjoy their time together. Co-bathing enhances bonding with skin-to-skin contact with both parents.
Here are some pointers to make co-bathing a safe experience.
settling into parenthood: is co-bathing with your baby okay?
benefits of co-bathing
- - bonding
- - skin-to-skin contact can enhance breastfeeding – great to breastfeed in the bath as the let-down reflex is often enhanced
- - baby feels safe with parent
- - both bathed at the same time - time-saving
- - don’t have to worry that baby is crying as they are safely with you
- - calming
- - relaxing for you both
downsides to co-bathing
- - need to be constantly aware of baby’s safety
- - different temperatures (baby around 37-38 degrees), parent often likes warmer
- - don’t want some adult bath products getting on baby’s skin
- - can be difficult to do on your own
prepare everything before you start
As with any baby bathing, it is important to get everything you need before you start the bath. Once you get in, you can’t go and get anything else: like wash cloths; towels for each of you; a clean nappy; and clothes to put on afterwards. If you do forget anything, you will need to take the baby with you to find it. Therefore, some parents like to keep all their baby bathing items together in a bathing caddy.
Having another parent available is helpful especially for the first few times.
Bath water should feel warm but not hot. Try dipping your elbow into the water, and not your hands, as they are used to hot water. It should feel warm, not hot. There are bath thermometers that can take the guess work out of getting the temperature correct (37-38 degrees) and this helps with safety and confidence. It won’t take long for you to get to know how it should feel.
Your baby will get cold quickly, so continually pour warm water over them with a wet washer or plastic cup.
Prepare the bathroom area and keep it warm.
Getting in and out of the bath can be dangerous if you slip. Having the other parent to hand the baby to you and to take them, dry and dress them is also very helpful. If you are on your own, try putting your baby in a rocker or bassinet close to the bath so you can reach out and get them once you’re safely in the bath.
Non-slip mats or stickers can be helpful as most baths are quite slippery. An inflatable tap cover is a good idea to avoid knocking into this.
Placing some extra towels nearby to soak up any extra water also can be helpful.
positioning in the bath
You can cradle your baby low enough for them to be submerged under the water or sit them on your lap facing forward against you, or you can turn them around with your legs bent with them facing you too. You will find all different positions and it will depend on the depth of the water and the position you are in.
breastfeeding in the bath
If your baby does breastfeed make sure their face is well above the water level and you keep pouring some warm water over them. Many Mums report having some of the best early breastfeeds in the bath, especially when they have been having challenges getting good attachment. Having no restrictions from clothes getting in the way, coupled with the relaxed feeling from being in the warm water for you both can really assist.
what if the baby poops?
If your baby urinates or poops during the bath, you both should get out as quickly as possible. You may consider a quick shower to clean you both off.
what if baby’s head falls under the water?
There is nothing you can do wrong with bathing unless you let your baby’s head slip under the water. And at some stage this may accidentally happen, pull them back above water immediately and pat them on the back.
bathing children together
Babies love being bathed with older siblings, and this is a great way to help them bond with the fun of the bath.
If sharing the bath with others, keep in mind the temperature needs to suit the baby most as they are smaller and will get cold more quickly. There will also be lots of splashing, so just know that you will need to wipe over the floor at the end. This is great for water familiarity for your baby, as occasionally having water splashed in their face doesn’t hurt them and they get used to it quite quickly.
You don’t need to have your baby in the water for very long either. Afterwards, you can dry and dress them on the floor next to the bath while you supervise your older child. It is even easier if both parents are available, but this is not always realistic in our busy lives.
Some families enjoy bathing their baby with close friends and family as well and that is fine, especially if you’re out for dinner in the evening.
the shower option
Many families find co-bathing in the shower works very well. It is especially convenient when both parents are available to help: with one in the shower getting the temperature right, and the other undressing and handing the baby in and then drying and dressing baby so the showering parent can get themselves dry and dressed. It can be done alone but the logistics are more difficult. As your baby gets older, there will be more splashing and water play. You can incorporate bath toys or even just plastic containers to play in the water. It’s a great way to keep your baby familiar with water getting on their face which will help when you want to take them swimming.
Belinda Joyce is a midwife, maternal & child health nurse, author of 'Survive and Enjoy Your Baby' and mum to 4. She has a passion for supporting new parents to find their own path to parenthood, as every Mum, Dad and Baby are different. Belinda loves creating programs and resources for new parents, click here to download a FREE pack of printables and checklists including a feed and sleep tracker, essential equipment, what to put in the hospital bag, nappy bag, childcare and travel bag and a newborn sleep flowchart so you can all get more sleep.