Baby’s bath a big experience

Bathing helps development of tots, says Helen O’Callaghan

Bathing a newborn can be a very daunting undertaking for parents.

“Mega-scary” is how Louise Silverton, a former director of midwifery at the UK’s Royal College of Midwives (RCM), puts it.

“You’ve got a wet, slippery baby. You’re already worried about holding the baby’s head because it’s floppy. You know you have to hold her head but you don’t know how to support it, putting her in the bath,” says Silverton, who continues to work as a consultant for RCM.

New parents also worry about baby getting cold. “The room needs to be warm and the water skin temperature,” says Silverton, who warns that new babies rapidly lose heat.

“Their heat control system isn’t as good as it’ll be when they’re a few months older.”

One of the big essentials is maintaining the integrity of baby’s skin. “You don’t want any foreign chemicals getting into it. A baby’s skin is much thinner than ours. For the first six months, it’s more like that thin papery quality of a very old person’s. It’s thinnest on the face, so avoid rubbing it — pat it gently,” says Silverton, who urges parents to use a product that respects pH balance of baby’s skin (in the 5.5 range).

The Johnson's brand recently announced its biggest re-launch in its 125-year history. Over 400 ingredients were rejected during the reformulation, and the company says the simpler, gentler products are free from parabens, sulphates and dyes and are hypoallergenic with more than 90% naturally-derived ingredients.

Senior director, global scientific engagement at Johnson and Johnson Consumer, David Mays says: “We’re committed to rigorous testing and have worked with scientists, paediatricians and dermatologists to create [gentle] products.”

Aside from keeping baby clean, bath-time has myriad other benefits. With multisensory experience central to WHO recommendations for early care and healthy baby development, there’s a strong body of existing and emerging research suggesting multisensory stimulation — stimulation of tactile, olfactory, auditory and/or visual stimuli, all happening simultaneously — benefits the social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of babies, especially during first three years of life. “If you stimulate as much as possible all of baby’s senses — touch, smell, sound, sight — it’s very good for brain development. And bath-time’s a nice family time, a major time for baby,” comments Silverton.

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