This particular blog post might seem odd to some, but let me assure you, it’s not. Tips like the one below could mean the difference between a rough night of sleep and a restful one.
Laying a strong foundation for sleep is always step one in my work with families. When I first start working with a family, we have a discussion about what is currently being done to lay a good foundation for sleep, and then what changes can be made to help create a significant shift in the overall sleep situation. A wonderful benefit is that quite often, basic foundational changes lead to immediate and noticeable shifts. When that happens, it means the process of getting good sleep goes more quickly. Who doesn’t love when simple tweaks lead to significant impacts?
Sleep Cues and Temperature Regulation
Washing a baby’s face, hands, and feet before bed is one of those basic foundational changes that can help them (and you!) sleep better. Why? Well, there are multiple reasons. One is cueing, which sends the message that bedtime is just around the corner. Another reason is that they will simply feel better cleaned up, just like most of us do. More importantly, sleep research tells us that washing (especially the feet) helps adjust the body temperature to an optimal level for sleep. By adjusting the body temperature, you are helping set the stage for better sleep. A full bath works as well, but in some families a bath is reserved for morning or is not a daily practice. Plus, some babies dislike their bath so much that the process is more upsetting than helpful.
I cannot guarantee that washing up before bed will lead to your baby sleeping soundly, because of course, sleeping better doesn’t solely (pun intended) rely on washing their feet, hands, and face. Although there can be a vast number of reasons why a baby isn’t sleeping well, I hope you try the washing up tip and that it helps your little one sleep better. If you find it’s not the change you need to make and that you are still needing more guidance, please reach out to me — I’m here to help.
Bedtime Washing Routine for Baby
- A bowl of very warm water. It needs to be a little extra warm because by the time you get baby in position and wring out the washcloth, the water will have cooled down, and we want warm water on baby’s skin.
- A clean baby washcloth for washing, and a clean towel or washcloth for drying. I love organic cotton washcloths such as the ones offered by Under the Nile, but any soft washcloth will do.
- Your favorite baby wash or soap. I suggest only natural ingredients for babies. If you don’t have a favorite, you might want to visit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website. Here you’ll see a multitude of options and their safety ratings.
Once you gather all these items, lay baby down on your preferred surface. I like the changing table because it brings baby closer to eye level, but any place that is good for you and your baby is the perfect place. Chat with baby as you begin by first washing their face, then their hands (be sure to get between the fingers and in the creases of their palms), and finally, end by washing their little feet.
Tips for Keeping Baby Calm
- Quiet chatting, humming, or singing while gently washing helps calm baby as well.
- Maintain good eye contact. You don’t have to go too slowly, but go slowly enough to make it a pleasant experience.
- Be sure to watch the water temperature and keep baby warm. If the room is chilly, keep baby well-covered as you move from head to toe.
- If your baby doesn’t like being on their back, place them on their front. If that is not agreeable to baby, hold them upright, or lay them across your lap.
The most important thing is to do what works best for you and your baby, with the goal being calm and happy sleeping. As a bonus, this type of washing up can sometimes help the reluctant bath-taker learn to be calmer with baths in general.
Good luck and happy sleeping!