Monday, September 23, 2013

Showering with a Newborn

All of my babies have loved the shower, and I have treasured washing them in this way.  It's pretty much sacred to me.  The magic of steam, skin-to-skin, cuddles, warmth, water, humming, praise, aromatics and the acoustics of water falling are a pretty wombtastic package deal.  Not only is it sensory heaven, showering with my newborns is dovetailing -- in those early days when small tasks seemed like monstrous undertakings (two such = personal hygiene and the baby bath).  This is very detailed, and may make things sound more complicated than a bath ever could be!  I didn't find this to be the case, but I'm disclosing a-plenty in the interest of covering the details for those sincerely interested.  You will be amazed at how quickly this can become an easy habit (fourth joint shower for me was a breeze!) 

  • Esky cried whenever I showered by myself when she was a newborn.  That was the time that Haki just held her and I did what had to be done.  I could hear her screaming in the apartment while he paced. I hated showering as a result.  After some time of showering with her (and no more crying happening during shower time), I found that other times I showered without her she enjoyed just being in the room because of the association.
  • Showering with a newborn is certainly easiest if you have someone else around so you can team it.  The lovely other can then hand in or hand off, or both.  That said, most of the time I shower a babe without an other to help, and it still works.  I'll describe how to do it without a helper here.
  • All three of my babies have loved it.  I consequently believe if a baby doesn't love it, you're not doing it right.  Small sample, I know.
  • I prefer showers to baths in these early days because I find holding a baby who cannot support his or her own head -- with arms extended -- while in a volume of water scares me more than clutching a baby close under falling droplets water.  I also lived in a tiny apartment without a proper bath when I had Esky.  Bathing her meant filling a baby bath from a sink, and I couldn't lift without increasing my bleeding to relocate or empty it.  Yes, I'm speaking frankly.  It made the task mammoth to me that I had to fill this thing and haul it somewhere practical to bathe her.  Then the temperature had to be just right...  All that, or rely on everyone else to help me.  Sometimes that is important -- getting the help.  But after weeks have passed and you want to feel like you're doing more for your baby?  You know the time?  Showering together helped.
  • I think it is also nice that a newborn who pees or poos unexpectedly while being cleaned has not really created an issue, if showering -- it all just washes away (and with water, not wipes)!  Do that in the bath...and it's gross.
Main Areas of Concerns I had (and I suspect you would too):
  • Safety
  • Warmth
  • Success (Will they like it?!  Will you?!)

A Process I found helped minimise these risks (i.e. promoted safety, warmth and success):

1.  Set up your staging area
Things you'll need (many are just the same as when you bathe baby, naturally!):
  • A warm bathroom.
  • A handtowel or large facecloth.
  • Something or somewhere for the baby to sit or lay safely in/on pre- and post- shower (could be a spouse's arms, a bouncinette, a baby bean bag, a bed of towels, a laundry basket with a pillow at the base and towels open on top...).  When my kids are bigger I just use the floor, especially when they can sit up on a towel.
  • Multiple towels (ready where baby will be placed afterwards, open, or to be left open after baby is removed from them).
  • A new nappy.
  • Non-slip mats in and out of bath.
  • Any lotions or creams you normally apply post-bath.
  • Optional: clothes baby will be wearing afterwards.
  • Baby shampoo within easy reach in the shower.
  • A robe or easy-on clothing for you, including...
  • ...(if it is in the very early days) knickers already kitted up with a pad and a towel-rag on the floor where you'll step out (stuff you already know, I'm guessing, but I found I would forget myself because of the focus on the baby's safety and consequently find...things less tidy).
2.  The Baby Waits.
There are many ways to shower with baby.  In the first variation, the baby waits while you shower and clean yourself.  I used this timing combo most often because I found a dry baby happier to wait in the earlier days.  Also, in that order the baby is thrilled by the acoustics of the room etc. for a time, and if she should become unsettled, she will join you in your arms -- the wet baby may be over the thrill of the room and not eager to leave your arms to wait while you do your thing in the shower.  I would sing or talk to the waiting baby while I lathered up.  You can also choose how baby waits -- dressed, or swaddled in a towel -- seasons and your bathroom temperature considered.  It can be a good nappy-free time (an open cloth nappy beneath, for example), since a wash is about to happen.  But if you want to keep everything clean, you could just leave a nappy on and swaddle in towels -- the nappy doesn't take long to remove.  I have mixed this up a lot -- I've had a baby sleeping while waiting, awake and dressed, awake and swaddled, awake and naked, all depending on what suited at the time.  My favourite is probably initiating a shower because the baby is dressed in sicked up over clothes...and then bringing her into the shower clothed -- I then kneel and undress her under the water (hitting my back and running onto her) so she is warm and getting wet...and the clothes are going straight into the machine anyway.  There's something efficient and lovely about it...especially when it is a cold day!  NB: Snappable onesies are easy to pop off leaning out of a shower or in the shower.

3.  Showering with Baby.
I used a thermometer in the early days, but have since found any shower I'm comfortable in (not enduring to soothe back pain, for example) baby is comfortable in.  Your water can be pretty warm, since baby is having droplets hit the skin -- it has cooled down a lot by that point, and isn't as overwhelming.
Bring baby into the shower space. Undress / de-nappy, if necessary, in or out of the shower.  I've done this from a cubicle with the door open, where I crouch and get baby ready, her waiting on the outside.  I've also brought baby into a bath with a shower over us.
I also prefer to face away from the water and hold baby tight and then slowly turn into it -- get the hold and closeness right and enjoyed before adding water to the mix.

I slung a wet wash cloth / flannel across my chest to provide a sense of grip between us in the early weeks with Esky and Ivy.  I found I didn't bother with Mia because I felt so confident with the holds and what I was doing.  It may help you.

There are two positions I switch between during a shower with a newborn, reverting between them to access different areas, as required;
  1. The Burper -- baby's face is up over your shoulder, with baby sitting on your forearm and your hand of this arm tightly gripping the thigh closest to your other arm.  For me, this is on my left side, freeing up my right arm to wash baby, including her hair.  From this position I could also tightly hold her at the top of her back and at her hairline while leaning forward (with her, not leaning her) to rinse her hair.  Holding the baby close and tightly is key -- baby feels safe, you feel less anxiety, and baby embraces the water, warmth and skin to skin because of feeling secure.  My babies often did most of their early smiling during the rinse in the shower.
  2. The Traditional Cradle -- when I want to wash other areas, I then slowly move baby onto her back on the same arm she was sitting on and continue to hold the thigh tightly again to brace her against my body.  In both holds, if the baby is over the left shoulder, I'm holding baby's left thigh tightly (just like you hold an upper arm under the back in the baby's bath).  
4.  Towel Time and Dressing
Place baby into the safe spot of open towels -- mine was a soft round doughnut shaped thing,  most often.  Sometimes it was just a bed of towels on the floor!  Then I swaddled her up.  Sometimes I put a nappy on, sometimes I just lined the top towel with an open cloth nappy that could easily be pulled out afterwards, if soiled.  I then dry off and throw on some clothes or a robe, and baby watches me and smiles (Kind baby! And non-verbal about what has been witnessed...awes').  Finally, I open up the baby's towels to find her miraculously dry (sometimes poo everywhere, awesome), and then dress her.  This ending can vary of course, however -- sometimes I just put on a robe and we go lay in bed and I nurse and then dress baby later (increasing skin to skin).  Sometimes Haki takes the baby straight from the shower in a towel and dresses her -- in which case, I can wash the baby first and stay in the shower to do my stuff.  Like I say, variations are a-plenty, and the more you take on the routine, the more flexible you become, I think.  On dressing:  I found warm onesies/coveralls were the best after showers...pulling a singlet over head and arms through clothing tunnels after a shower was not fun for me.
I'd love to hear if you try it for a while, already have a showering with bub routine in your household, or why you prefer bathing newborns.
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