Babies are dependent on being in a nurturing and loving environment and need opportunities to develop their attachment and trust with caregivers for their emotional and physical development. Children who don’t receive this type of care live in survival mode that ultimately hinders emotional well-being and the desire to discover and learn.1,2,3 To build the ability to form attachment and trust, your baby needs moments to bond with you in meaningful ways.
With the ever increasing demands of work, chores, and responsibilities, it can be difficult for parents to find quiet moments for one-on-one bonding with their children. Your daily bath time routine can provide you with a distraction-free moment to slow down and interact with your newborn baby in a consistent, hands-on way.4
How can you build attachment and trust with your baby during bath time?
- Have heart-to-heart conversations. Talk about what you are doing, what you’ve both done that day, and how happy you are to be spending time with him right then. While speaking, make sure to maintain eye contact, smile, and speak directly to your baby in a rhythmical, sing-song way. This exaggerated way of speaking is called parentese, and young babies respond to these drawn out vowel sounds and high-pitched tones better than normal speech tones.5
- Actively play together. Fill the bathtub with toys, water pouring tools, or bubbles and have fun playing together. Make sure to get silly and laugh together. The more fun you show you are having, the more fun your baby will have fun, and the stronger the bond you will build.
- Give your baby a massage. Physical contact helps your child feel safe and secure and is crucial for attachment and trust.6 While bathing, use your fingertips to gently stroke and massage your baby’s arms, legs, and back. The massage will also soothe your baby and calm him down for a good night’s rest if bathing before bedtime.
- Sing lullabies together. Singing is a wonderful way to play with your baby at this age while building his language skills and musical appreciation. While singing, encourage your baby to coo, squeal, and babble along with you.
- Read bath books together. Get a small selection of plastic bath books to read together. Reading your baby’s favorite story is a wonderful way to build your bond with him. When he gets older, you’ll delight in his ability to repeat the stories back to you, because of the memories you’ve created together.
Bath time can be a moment of great laughter, fun, and conversation (even if it’s goo goo and gaga coming back at you). With busy days in and out, it’s tough to give your baby your entire focus outside of bath time, so go ahead and make the most of it.
1 Gellens, S. R. (2013). Building Brains. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
2 Wotherspoon, E., Hawkins, E., & Gough, P. (2009). Emotional trauma in infancy. CECW Information Sheet #75E. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. Retrieved September 23, 2015, from http://www.wonderbabiesco.org/UserFiles/File/InfantTrauma75E(1).pdf.
3 InBrief Series. “The Impact of Early Adversity on Children’s Development.” Center on the Developing Child. Harvard University. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/multimedia/videos/inbrief_series/inbrief_impact_of_adversity.
4 Why Kids Need Routine. AHA Parenting. Retrieved from http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/family- life/structure-routines.
5 Nugent, K., and Morell, A. (2011). Your Baby is Speaking to You. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
6 Maryland State Department of Education (2010). Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://olms1.cte.jhu.edu/olms/tmp/file/Healthy%20Beginnings/Healthy%20Beginnings%20Book_2015-Updated-Final.pdf.