“Niii-Night” one of my two-year-olds whispered, as he wrapped himself in the hooded towel folding into child’s pose, laying his head down on the towel spread out on the bathroom floor. He’s pretending to sleep because he knows exactly what comes after bath: bedtime. We get dressed, then seconds later his twin brother hops out of the tub and does the exact same thing. It’s almost as if they’re waving the white flag, admitting they’re completely exhausted, and a little relieved (like mama) that it’s finally time for bed.
Just five minutes prior, both were laughing, screaming and splashing an ungodly amount of water on every remaining dry surface of the bathroom, having a grand old toddler time.
But it wasn’t always like this.
A few weeks into newborn life, I was desperate for relief from bedtime fussiness. I started bathing my boys every night, hoping to calm them down and get some much-needed shut-eye. But to be completely honest, I didn’t think I had the time or energy for such an ordeal. Besides, it’s not like they’re rolling around in the mud all day.
Nearly two years later, we’re still reaping the benefits of nightly bath time. It was certainly not easy, but most definitely worth it. Bedtime battles are virtually non-existent and bathtime has become my favorite part of the day. Yes. With twins.
I might lose some readers right here but stay with me. I’m going to share with you the 3 major reasons why you should consider adding a bath to your nightly bedtime routine with your little one(s) whether your baby is six weeks or 16 months old.
3 Reasons Bath Before Bed
For decades, pediatricians, parents and sleep coaches have stressed the importance of a nightly bedtime routine from a young age to help baby learn to transition from day to night, making bedtime easier. Usually consisting of some combination of a bottle, bath, book, then bed, the night time routine actually has more benefits beyond the sweet smell of a clean baby.
1. Quality Time
Whether you work outside the home or stay home with your baby, bath time is likely the most consecutive undivided attention you give to your baby. In fact, a 2015 Johnson and Johnson survey reported 84% of parents reported that bath time was some of their best quality time with their little ones. Looking back, some of my most favorite memories of my babies happened during bath time. Plus, bath time also the most likely time to have technology-free interaction. Plus, soapy hands and sending texts aren’t exactly compatible.
2. Set Yourself Up for Sleep Success
Bath time is a definitive signal for baby the day is over and bedtime is near. Warm water is soothing and calming, putting babies in the optimal state least likely to fight sleep. When consistently included as part of a nighttime routine, bath time helps baby anticipate what’s next (bedtime). When you only bathe him every once in a while, it’s so far out of his comfort zone that it quickly becomes a disaster.
Don’t worry if bath time isn’t a zen-like or enjoyable experience right away. It takes time for baby to get used to this new experience- it’s a sensory overload.
3. Enhances Brain Development
The first three years of life, baby is absorbing information, detecting patterns and relationships faster than any other time throughout the course of the lifespan. Seemingly small everyday activities are stimulating learning experiences and bathtime is no exception. In fact, Andrew Meltzoff, a developmental psychologist and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, explains: “You notice that they’re doing little science experiments in the bathtub trying to figure out how the world works.”
From the smell of the soap to the unusual phenomenon of transparent bubbles floating in the air or on the surface of the water, bathtime engages all of the senses simultaneously. Simply watching and feeling the water splash against his skin is a learning experience, making neural connections and associations about the world.
Whether you choose to bathe your baby every night or not, know that each rub-a-dub-dub not only strengthens your bond and boosts brain development, but it helps him better transition from day to night, equalling sleep success. A win-win-win situation!