Bath time can feel like the Mommy Olympics for babies + toddlers. I know this all too well firsthand.
So, I set out to rewrite my definition of bath time so that it would serve me instead of stress me out. I wanted to enjoy bath time with my children, not just be jealous of them finding time for a bath everyday while I was on day 5 of dry shampoo.
I found that when I changed from looking at bath time as a “must do” to something that was a “nice to do”, I was able to look forward to the sleepy effects of bath time.
Here’s how I use bath time as a sleep cue:
P.S. — If you’re comfortable bathing with your baby — naked or in a bathing suit — feel free to jump in there! You can read about my baby bathing strategy here.
Essential Oil Scents
I used lavender scented epsom salts that doubled as aromatherapy for both of us. The calming scent would help lull her to sleep.
You can buy pre-scented epsom salts, or just add some essential oils to unscented epsom salts. Be sure to check essential oil safety guidelines before doing so, though, because I’m not an expert on the specifics of those!
I would then add lavender to an essential oil diffuser in our bedroom where we practice safe bedsharing. The “lavender” scent has become my daughter’s “sleepy scent” and it automatically cues her to rest, just like holding a special blanket, or listening to a special white noise would.
Music and Sound
Speaking of sound, when I wasn’t playing classical music, I would play a white noise track similar to our bedroom white noise machine by using my Amazon Prime Music app (which lets you download songs and play in offline mode).
Be careful not to lull yourself to sleep. I would often relax so much that doing the white noise in the bath could’ve been dangerous, so I stuck to classical music.
Note: If you haven’t gotten more than 5 hours of sleep the day before, then definitely don’t do the sleep cues.
Nurse in the Tub!
There’s no rule that says you can’t nurse in the bathtub. I actually loved nursing in the bath. I wouldn’t run the water higher than my bellybutton, so that when I reclined against the back of the tub, I could cradle baby in my arms and still have her well above water.
The skin-to-skin comfort pumps oxytocin for both mom and baby, so your milk supply is boosting, baby is getting a strong feed, and you’re both flushed with happy hormones. It’s one of the best feeds I would consistently have.
Tip: If you’re having a tough time with boosting supply, running warm/hot water over your breasts when you get in/out of the shower helps!
Getting Out Routine
Children thrive on order, so having a getting-out-of-the-tub routine is a great way to meet that need.
If baby is old enough, we ask them to help us “pull the plug” and we clean up bath toys as the water goes down the drain. Then repeat, “Kick your feet! Kick your feet! Kick your feet!” as we lift them up out of the tub and do a gentle rocking back and forth as we say “Drip dry! Drip dry! Drip dry!” We get so many laughs from those 2 silly little repeated lines!
Then baby gets swaddled in a towel, and since our bathroom is so tiny, we walk to the bedroom to get into a “sheep diaper” and “pajamas”.
The Honest Company sells sleep diapers with sheep on them, and apart from the extra absorbancy of these diapers, the visual cue that it’s time for a sleep diaper helps take away any explaining or toddler negotiating. Sheep diaper = sleep diaper, because we wear them before we go to sleep.
If you’re taking a daytime bath to breakup those long first year days, then bath time can be the prerequisite to a nap + you should still dress baby in pajamas.
Just change into play clothes when you do the wake up diaper change to signal that it’s waking time. The one extra step pays dividends, trust me!
How do you link bath time with sleep time?
What have you tried to make transitions easier? Share with me here or on Instagram. I’d love to learn from you!