bath before bedtime

Bath before bedtime

A bath before bedtime can be a good way to help settle your little one for sleep, writes Lucy Wolfe.

Promoting better sleep

Promoting better sleep is often a number one objective for many parents. Studies consistently suggest that sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges for parents with an otherwise healthy child. There are many schools of thought supporting helping your young child sleep better, often confusing and conflicting. However, one element that is consistently recommended, because it is effective, is the establishment of a calm, bedtime routine.

This can be implemented from six weeks onwards, once your child is responding to social cues and any time thereafter so it is never too late! It does not need to be sophisticated, it just needs to be observed every night before bedtime and ideally with the exception of the bath, the remaining steps should happen in the bedroom where your child will sleep.

Research continuously highlights that children with a predictable and regular bedtime process, go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer – exactly what every parent wants for their baby! Recent Irish research illustrated that a simple, three step bedtime routine is clinically proven to help this to happen and the lovely thing is that, everyone can do this and you can start tonight!

Step 1: Bath

A bath can be a good way to help relax your baby ahead of sleep time. It can be a great sleep cue and may help to anchor the end of the day. Many parents report that this is a lovely start to bedtime and many parents find it a close and connected time with their little one. Also, nursing babies can be bathed by dad and can be a great bonding opportunity for all families alike.

bath before bedtime

1. Make sure the temperature is correct – test with your hand to make sure.

2. Allow for at least 5-8 centimetres of water and pour water over the baby’s body during the bath to prevent a chill.

3. Consider using a bedtime bath oil that may help promote sleep inducing qualities, make sure that any product you use is hypoallergenic, age appropriate and suitable recommended.

4. Don’t get your child undressed until you are ready to put them in the bath.

5. Make sure that the room is not chilly.

6. Be organised, have towels, lotions and shampoos ready before you put your child in the bath.

7. For small babies I would recommend a bath seat to help you feel confident-wet babies are slippery! Always keep one hand on your baby.

8. You could always put your small baby bath into the big bath until your child is bigger, if not make sure it is placed on a flat secure surface.

9. Don’t spend too long in the bath. A quick dip, wash and out again will suffice.

Step 2: Massage

When your bath-time is finished then retreat to the bedroom where your child will sleep. At this is the second stage of the three step routine designed to help you ease your baby into the land of nod. At this point, you should dry and change your baby’s nappy and consider some gentle baby massage. Consider using age appropriate lotions or oils with sleep inducing qualities. It may be well worth taking a few baby massage classes to help you learn some massage techniques.

bath before bedtime

Indulge in plenty of physical and eye contact. Gently talk and sing to your baby as they enjoy being connected with you, start the massage with a gentle hello. It can be helpful to do this exercise in a dimly lit environment, to help promote the sleep hormone melatonin. You may like to use soft playing music or white noise on in the background to help regulate the heart beat and again to help your child learn key words or songs that you say or sing before you want them to sleep.

Tummy Massage:

1. Hold your hand so your little finger’s edge can move like a paddle across your baby’s belly. Starting at the base of the rib cage, stroke down with one hand, then the other, in a paddle-wheellike motion.

2. Massage her abdomen with your fingertips in a circular, clockwise motion.

3. Do the “I Love U” stroke: Trace the letter I down your baby’s left side. Then trace an inverted L, stroking across the belly along the base of her ribs from her right side to her left and down. Trace an inverted U, stroking from low on the baby’s right side, up and around the navel, and down the left side.

4. Walk your fingers around her navel, clockwise.

5. Hold knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward her abdomen. Rotate baby’s hips around a few times to the right. (This often helps expel gas.)

6. Place hand on tummy horizontally and rock your hand from side to side a few times.

Step 3: Quiet time

Before you anticipate that your child will go to sleep, after the bath and gentle massage activity, then indulge in some quiet one to one time with your baby. Sit down and read with them – a book or story board for example. Many young children want to only eat a book, so use a fabric book or tell a story from your head. You could consider, other play-for older children, stacking cups or shape sorting.

Participate in low impact activities that can help to relax your baby and prepare the young child’s body for sleep. Do your best to end this pre sleep ritual with key words such as “it’s sleep time baby”. Turn out the lights and make an effort to help your child to be awake or partially awake before going into their cot, crib or co sleeper.

Over time you will get more comfortable and confident in applying the bedtime routine and you will be able to develop and enhance each step as your child gets older and I would anticipate that your baby will start to go to sleep with ease and stay asleep for longer, so it will be well worth the effort.

More like this:

Help your baby sleep through the night
Baby sleep routines
Top tips to get your baby to sleep


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.