by Alan Greene, MD, FAAP
"When do mothers of new babies bathe? Seriously, I have a friend who has a newborn, and she never has any time to herself!" -- Christine M. Du Bois
The addition of a new baby throws the family rhythm into a tailspin! Moms, dads, and siblings often feel their needs aren't being met. A new baby directly requires much of everyone's time and attention.
As if that weren't enough, the new baby has partly "taken their place," requiring much attention which each person had previously been accustomed to receiving. Remember that every member of the family has valid needs, not just the new baby.
Dad may need to have an extra half hour to unwind after work before diving into family time, since family time now requires so much energy. An older sibling may need daily one-on-one time from each parent in order to feel secure. Mom and Dad may each need some time set aside daily for their grooming routines in order to maintain positive self-images. It is a good idea for the family to talk about the changes the new baby has brought and tell each other about their new needs. Then they can discuss how to work together so everyone's needs can be met.
Having said all that, here are a few suggestions regarding time for the mother of a newborn to bathe:
- Many children are comforted by the sound of running water and will sit peacefully close by while Mom or Dad takes a shower. Make sure the baby is dry, fed, and comfortable. Then put the baby in an infant seat or car seat. Take the little bundle into the bathroom so the baby can see Mom or Dad and hear a parent's voice. When the baby gets a little older, games of peek-a-boo work very well from the shower!
If you don't have a baby who enjoys shower time, try one of these ideas:
Set aside a time each day that is Dad's special time to spend with the baby and Mom's time to take care of her own personal needs. Establish a period that is long enough for Mom to really feel that she has had a break, but not so long that Dad feels abandoned. Even a brief amount of time can make a huge difference to a new mom! (Hint: consider including a five minute soak in a steamy mineral salts bath. It can seem like an hour to tired muscles.)
Arrange to trade child care with another new mom from your neighborhood on a regular basis. If both babies spend an hour with one mom, then an hour with the other, each mom has one very busy hour and one hour to herself. It is ideal if both moms live in the same building or on the same block, but be creative.
If you don't know of other new moms in your area, you may find older neighbors who are unable to spend time with grandchildren of their own and would love to spend time with your baby on a regular basis. Including them in your extended family can be a wonderful, mutually beneficial relationship.
Find out if Dad's company offers "paternity leave" so the two of you can share more of the responsibility for the baby in those precious first few weeks.
What works for one family may not work for the next, particularly if it is not a traditional family configuration. Follow the rules of experimentation and observation until your family comes up with solutions that really work for you!
Dr. Alan Greene, author of Raising Baby Green and Feeding Baby Greene, is the founder of Dr.Greene.com and the WhiteOut Movement. He is a frequent guest on such shows as Good Morning America, The Today Show, and the Dr. Oz Show. He is on the Board of Directors of Healthy Child Healthy World and The Lunchbox Project. Dr. Greene is a practicing pediatrician at Stanford University's Packard Children's Hospital.
Copyright © Greene Ink, Inc., all rights reserved. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org. Reviewed by Alan Greene M.D., F.A.A.P. aka DrGreene February 7, 2008.