WHEN I WAS researching for my book, a grandmother from Kolhapur got in touch with me. She said that her daughter had had a cesarean and found it difficult to bathe her child on her legs. The daughter had also begun to suffer from lower back pain.
The grandmother was not sure how to proceed because all the babies in the family had been bathed that way. She was afraid the baby might lose out on some benefits—mainly those associated with a mother's or primary caregiver's touch. She was also concerned about her daughter’s inability to bathe her baby on her legs.
What can we do if we are unable to bathe our babies on our legs—a common practice in Indian homes?
An infant or toddler can be bathed in a baby tub. Holding the baby, soaping, talking or singing to her during bath account for close and intimate interaction between a parent and baby and reinforces bonding. Several studies have proven that activities that involve skin-to-skin contact promote bonding between the caregiver and child.
However, this does not mean that the baby has to be put on its belly on the mother’s calves and bathed and slapped with hot water. If your baby is not showing obvious discomfort (screaming or wriggling too much) in that position, go ahead. But if you are worried about your baby facing the floor and not your face, or about your own comfort level in carrying out that manner of bathing the baby, then there are other options.
Mini tubs specially designed for bathing infants are available in the market. These tubs have an inclined slope against which you can rest a baby whose neck is not yet steady. There are other types of tubs that can accommodate an infant and provide for a toddler or older baby to sit on his or her own later. Try and look for these features when you go bathtub shopping. These tubs can be placed on the bathroom floor, on a stool or on a kitchen counter and require no bending.
Babies are creatures of habit. If they get used to a tub from the beginning, they will enjoy their bath inside it. While I began to bathe my baby on my legs, I shifted her into a tub by the time she was eight months old. This transition can be smooth or a little difficult depending on the baby.
But persistence and patience always pay. So do bath toys, brightly coloured tubs and floor mats!
Next issue: Third part of the series featuring myths and beliefs surrounding lactation