At one, your child is sitting up in a bathtub and probably loves being in the water. If she doesn't like it, her unhappiness is usually due to some factor you can figure out and change. Is it water temperature? Boredom with the toys? Tiredness? Whatever it is, there are ways to make baths more entertaining for your child and even, believe it or not, an effective ritual for cleaning.
Because they are so mobile and curious, one-year-olds get dirty pretty quickly, which means that baths are a regular necessity. You don't have to give a bath every single day, but they should be regular — at least every other day to every two days. Regular baths not only make a child more comfortable, but they cut down on germs and thus illnesses.
It is important for everyone in the family to wash their hands regularly and often, as clean hands prevent bacteria from spreading from person to person. In fact, antibacterial wipes are one of the best products for any family to keep around — in the car, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, and in the diaper bag — because they allow you to quickly and easily wipe away germs.
What if my child is afraid of water?
Is he afraid he's going to go down the drain? Of slipping? Of the running water? You can try getting in the tub with him or have him play in the tub without water. You might also let him watch you or another adult or child take a bath so that he sees how the process goes.
Too many baths can lead to dry skin, so if you bathe your child frequently be sure to keep bath time as brief as possible. If your baby's skin is dry, stay away from water that is too warm. Putting nonallergenic lotion on immediately after bathing will “lock in” the moisture from the bath. Nonallergenic lotions are the safest for young skin because other products, such as those with petroleum and fragrances, can cause reactions.
All-natural products, which typically contain essential oils and no chemicals, are often the safest for sensitive skin. If you notice small bumps on your child's skin, it's possible she has an allergy to a soap or lotion, so try something else. Just because a product says it's intended for babies doesn't mean that it's best for their skin. Read the ingredient list and look for natural oils and ingredients rather than a long list of chemicals.
Making Baths Fun
To a one-year-old, baths aren't about cleanliness but about having their bodies in a new place surrounded by a new and unusual element that's not solid, that changes temperature, and that moves through the child's fingers and changes shape. Before you start cleaning your baby, play with him in the water and help him get to know it. Let the water drip from your fingers, splash a little, and talk about the way it looks and feels. Your enthusiasm about baths will encourage your child to be excited about bath time.
Another way to make bath time fun is to make a bubble bath. Children love bubble baths, but the bath solution is often made from very harsh detergents, such as sodium laureth sulfate, a common ingredient in detergents, soaps, and shampoos. These can irritate skin, especially the sensitive genital area of little girls.
Look for bubble bath that is made of natural ingredients. Natural soaps and bubble baths use vegetable-derived ingredients, so you'll recognize the words in the ingredient list. These may froth a little less, but they are safer for your child and less likely to cause skin irritation. You can find these bubble baths, soaps, and shampoos in the natural food section of your grocery store. Be sure to completely rinse bubble bath off to avoid irritation.
Don't let your child play with the faucet. If he accidentally turns on the water, he could get burned. Make sure your water heater is set at 120 degrees or lower. At the same time, make sure the water doesn't get cold while your baby is in the tub. If it does, add hot water carefully and away from your child.
Be sure to have a couple of bath toys such as a cup, a ball (some of them are made to be soaked and then squeezed dry), and, of course, some rubber duckies. For safety's sake, keep the water level low (about four inches), the temperature warm but not hot, and keep your child sitting, rather than standing, in the tub. If a child slips in the bath, he could drown — even in shallow water — so never leave a child alone in the tub.
How to Clean a Child
Cover your baby's eyes and pour water over her head. Pour a little bit of a gentle baby shampoo into your palm. Rub your hands together, then gently massage it into your child's hair. Use your fingertips to massage her scalp — rather than her hair. The scalp is really what you want to wash, since her hair gets washed when the shampoo is rinsed out. Covering her eyes again, pour water over her head to rinse off the shampoo.
Now, use baby soap on a sponge or washcloth to wash your baby, being sure to keep the soap away from the eyes, nose, and mouth. Be gentle and then rinse her off with a clean washcloth.
Cut or file your baby's finger and toenails with a baby nail clipper or a fine emery board, but don't try to clean inside her ears. Using a cotton swab can potentially lead to infection or earaches.