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bathing issues (cross post)

754 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  srain
I posted in the toddlers forum about my 16-month-old's hatred for baths, and I'd LOVE some more ideas of ways to get her clean without forcing her to bathe. We're not willing to make her take a bath every day until she gets used to it, which is the only suggestion made on the thread so far that we haven't tried. Help me get a clean baby without physical force! Details in this thread:
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Do you think that she doesn't like being messed with/manipulated/not in control or do you think the feel of water really bothers her? If it's the later, parents of children with Sensory Integration Disorder seem to find it helpful to use a soft brush to brush the children's body before doing things like putting on shoes. I didn't realize how sensitive my ds was to physical things until he was about your dd's age. It took him a month to transition to short sleeves and pants in the summer, etc.
I work with kids on the Autism spectrum and if I had a child like yours', I would use the same sort of strategies and assume that there was something sensory-wise that really bothered her about the bath.

You said that she is Ok with washing her arms and legs in the sink. Have you thought about getting one of those flexible hose showers that attach to the bathtub faucet? That way she can control where the water goes and how much touches her at once and she can stand where she isn't in inches of water.

I would figure out what the basic amount of washing she needed was and make that my first goal. Then I would look at what she gets now and how I could break down the steps needed to teach my goal. Is it length of time or amount of body parts, or amount of water touching skin, or soap, etc. And then I would sit down and actually write down a plan for doing it. Then I would work on slowly moving through the steps so that she would eventually get used to the amount I considered my minimum while allowing her to get comfortable step by step.

I think a timer is a great idea so that she can hear the ticking or watch the numbers go and when the bell goes off, you are done. I would also choose a very high reinforcer for her (something she really likes) that is only paired with washing time. Start out really slowly, like with 15-30 sec of washing, and then give her the reinforcer (not food - but a special physical activity, a special book you read together, some sort of game to play, etc.) After doing this for several days, I'd up the amount to 30-45 sec, etc. And just do a little bit each day, increasing it slowly. Once she is comfortable with, say, 2 minutes of washing and soap on 3 body parts, then you could do washing time every other day.

but at first, I'd do it very short but frequently so that she gets used to it and gets to have that reinforcer often enough to want it.

Does that make sense? I'd be happy to explain it more fully if you need to.

I've worked with children who have VERY strong aversions to certain physical sensations and this method has worked every time to get them used to it. I would also work on not having any transition time to it - which I think you are already doing by not having her in there until it's time to start - but just "time to wash"...15 seconds later you are done.

I would also start with body parts that she is already not so upset with washing, like hands, face, or feet, and that don't need to be undressed. Once she is okay with them being washed for a certain time, add another body part that has to be undressed like tummy or back. You can start by not actually undressing but just pulling up the shirt and then taking it off so that you can do both body parts.

IME, it is better to take much longer to get to the goal and actually reach it with the child being happy than to try to force it.

but I think that doing it so infrequently is NOT a good idea and is only prolonging her aversion.
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At that age, I often bathed my kids in the kitchen sink. Let them sit naked on the counter (on a towel if its cold) and filled the sink -- let them put their feet in and splash. I would then let them climb in and sit in the sink and wash them down -- but you wouldn't have to push it that far the first time.
Thanks so much for the ideas! And PikkuMyy, thanks for the step-by-step; seems obvious now, but I couldn't come up with it one my own!
Sounds like you got some great ideas here!
I would just like to add that daily washing of a child is not necessary is bad for the skin.
A mainstream pedi told me that it was perfectly okay to bath a child 1X per week or less, so long as the diaper area was kept clean.
My children have always had beautiful skin which I attribute to the natural oils remaining on their skin rather than being scrubbed away.
Of course, if my now toddler gets dirty dirty she gets a bath, but baths are not an everyday habit for any members of the household.
From an environmental stand point it conserves water and we consume less bath type products.
So food for thought, you don't need to get into a bath every day routine, it isn't necessary.
Bath time for us is play time, it's never been a forced issue of "you have to be clean"...
I know that doesn't help, but I had to interject that baths are over rated in American society.

Originally Posted by Electra375
I would just like to add that daily washing of a child is not necessary is bad for the skin.
I'm with you- my 5-year-old still only gets bathed once a week unless there are extenuating circumstances. But a number of people have suggested that routinizing a daily bath for my daughter would help her get used to it. Thoughts on that?
I think she is just going through a stage. I don't think you should try to 'get her use to it'. She will in her own time -- how many adults do you know who do not like showering? Well, if they don't, they don't talk about it and they do it when needed if they are wanting not to offend other by their odor. KWIM???

And how many teenage girls do you know who don't bath? There are a few, but not many. Most teens want to be accepted and won't be if they are dirty and stink -- it's society.

I truly think that not wanting a bath is a stage and will pass. If it doesn't change in a year, I'd readdress the issue. Does she like taking a bath or shower with you? All my kids love that, even if 2 second prior they didn't want a bath!

I had an acct professor in college who hates to get his hair cut, he sympathized with the photos I had on my notebook of my son then 2 screaming at the 1st hair cut. This guy gets his hair cut 2X per year that is all he can handle and it works for him -- by the end of the semester you can tell it's about time for the hair style he keeps. Oh, BTW my ds1 doesn't cry anymore when getting his hair cut and actually asked me to cut it the last time, he keeps it short like Dad.
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you already got some great suggestions. and i do agree that kids don't need to be bathed as often as every day or even every other day...

but here's what worked for me when my ds stopped wanting to take baths (which is normally really fun, he gets in with his sister and they have tons of toys and all...) i asked him if i could wash him the way i did when he was a little baby, and i would set him on a towel on the bathroom counter and wash him with washcloths just the way you do a newborn...i had to do this recently because he went a really long time without a bath and he was having surgery...but it worked really well and he got clean! with no tears or anything.
My ds1 went through the same thing at roughly the same age. During that time I would let him play in the tub with markers or finger paints to get him used to being in there and have it not be a scary place. The markers (washable) and paints wash right off the fiberglass tub wall. He would be fully clothed and had a blast. Then I slowly started having him be naked while he did it, timing it around diaper changes in the morning. Then I would ask if I could wipe him down with a wet washcloth when he was done with running water from the faucet. After a few times with that we started using a foamy soap (because it rinses easy) and would "decorate" his body with it, and use a cup of water that he would fill from the slightly running faucet and rinse himself. Soon enough he wanted to have water in the tub so he could splash and play.

My ds2 had the same fear at about the same age. It lasted a month and we did washcloth wipe downs, but it was gone as quickly as it came. Kids have lots of fears that we as adults wouldn't even recognize. Draining the bathwater with the child in the bathroom can cause a concern that they too, could go down the drain. They don't understand that they simply don't fit through the hole. It can be a very real fear to them. As a child (and even as an adult if I'm forced to use one of those really old outhouses that are just a big hole below, or a portapotty) I was freaked out by the idea that something (sharks mainly -- don't know where that came from) could come up the toilet and grab me and pull me down. After all, if the water went someplace after I flushed, why the heck couldn't things swim up the same way. I guess I wasn't in a place to understand the sewer system and how that all worked.
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Originally Posted by Electra375
I think she is just going through a stage. I don't think you should try to 'get her use to it'.
It's hard to think of it as a "stage" when it's been like this since birth. True, in another year, she'll be slightly more logical and we might be able to convince her to put up with a bath, but it's hard to decide what to do between now and then. I feel like our main alternative to the gentle desensitization ideas that we've received here, which would have to occur pretty regularly to be effective, is to do what we have been doing, which is force her to bathe every month or two even though she hates it. We haven't found that wiping her off gets her REALLY clean, especially when we're dealing with sunscreen/ mud/ etc.

Jish and delicious, thanks for the new ideas!
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