Balancing bath and bedtime with a baby and toddler
Bringing a new baby into your little family bubble can be a daunting, yet exciting, experience for second time parents. The fear of how to deal with two children, when you have one child who holds your attention, starts to become real and you begin to try and work out how things will work logistically.
Having a think about how you might manage some of the practical aspects of baby care and toddler management in advance of your new baby’s arrival will help you to feel more prepared when the time comes around. Do expect everything to be twice as hard in the early days, but you will soon become accustomed to dealing with two at the same time and in another six months from birth, be wondering why you ever worried! Managing both children is all about setting yourself up for success, planning in advance and making things as easy as possible for you.
In my years as The Parent and Baby Coach, one of the most common questions that second time parents raise at my Prepping for Your Second Baby Workshops is ‘how will I manage bath time with two?’ Understandably, this is one of the most common anxious events of the day for many mums who worry about things like:
– How to manage bath time with a young child and a baby without drowning the baby?
– How will I stop my first child running around wet and naked everywhere, totally out of control?
– How does it work?
– What do I do when one needs to come out?
– There isn’t much space in my bathroom, how will we all fit?
The truth is that all of these things can happen, and probably will at some stage, but always be kind to yourself and remember that practise makes perfect. Here are my top tips to set yourself up for success, whilst you become more confident at bathing your baby and toddler together:
– You may want to ask a friend to pop in for the first few times that you do it by yourself. Allow them to be there, but only if you need them. This way your confidence will build. Or ask Daddy to get home early, if he can, until you understand how it works and build up a bit of practice being able to bath them both at the same time.
– Explain to your older child what is going to happen and set clear boundaries. If they start misbehaving in the bath, they are going to need to learn that this is not ok. It may have been fun before baby arrived, but this is now something that could endanger your new baby. Use a firm tone and be clear with instructions. You may want to introduce new “bathtime rules” in advance of baby arriving, so that they don’t feel that the baby has ruined their bathtime splashing and fun.
– Provide lots of praise for your toddler when they do what is expected of them. Use a soft, happy tone of voice and lots of eye contact. Remember that they are probably getting tired at this time of the day, so clear boundaries with lots of praise will work in everyone’s favour.
– Have a baby changing mat and chair to hand, as well as nappies, baby and toddler pyjamas and whatever else you might need. Try to have everything all within hands reach (including towels!). Make sure that the room is warm and you are set up, before putting the children in the bath.
If you follow these tips, you should be in a brilliant position for success. I have two approaches that I recommend with my parents, which I have outlined below:
Routine for bath time success – Approach One:
1) Take both children upstairs and get everything ready in the bathroom
2) Run the bath with baby on the floor and first child either helping or playing in their room/alongside you
3) Undress your toddler and put them into the bath, allowing baby to kick on the mat for no nappy time
4) Explain to your child that baby is coming into the bath, lift baby in and ask your toddler to be gentle and help wash baby
5) Encourage fun games between them and make sure that you involve your toddler to keep them busy, e.g. “please can you pass me the flannel?”
6) Once baby is washed (only has to be a few minutes), lift baby out onto towel on changing mat – dry and change into night clothes.
7) Pop baby into chair or let her kick on the floor if happy
8) Turn around and wash your toddler, at this point baby might be unhappy as they usually want to feed straight after a bath. This is where they start learning the art of second child patience! A dummy if they will take one, is really useful here just until you are ready to feed.
9) Lift toddler out, dry and change into PJ’s
10) Bath time complete!
Routine for bath time success – Approach Two:
If your confidence is not quite there yet and you would prefer to bath the children separately, have your toddler help you bath your baby but start a little earlier. You can then feed baby immediately after the bath and then, depending on how long a feed takes, settle them to sleep and then bath your toddler later, pushing their bedtime back slightly. This should not be too late, otherwise you will end up with an overtired and cranky toddler, but it is an option if you feel that managing two is too much like hard work.
The other option is to bath and put your toddler to bed and then bath baby later on. This may work well in those early weeks, and baby can hang out in the sling whilst you bath your toddler if no one else is at home. No doubt you will get to the point where you want to be able to bath them both though, so this is likely more a short term plan.