Bath Time Ritual
A bath ritual provides multisensorial stimulation through direct skin-to-skin contact, such as the touch of their parents’ hands during massage;10 engaging in direct eye contact;10,14 hearing the sound of their parents’ voices;17 and recognizing familiar scents, such as that of a parent21 or the bath products used.10 The initial and continued exposure of babies to these textures, sights, sounds, and smells through the bath time ritual provides uniquely rich opportunities for multisensorial stimuli that can stimulate a baby’s tactile, olfactory, visual, and auditory senses.
The benefits of multisensorial stimulation and the bath time ritual
When a ritual is implemented as an everyday practice, stress is reduced in parents and results in a better quantity and quality of sleep in babies.22 A ritual that includes a warm bath followed by massage with a gentle skin moisturizer and quiet activities is a scientifically supported and simple behavioral intervention for improved quality and quantity of sleep in babies. The routine was associated with less stress of parents.22 Mothers and their babies (n = 206), ages 7 to 18 months participated in a 3-week study in which mothers were instructed to conduct a specific bath time ritual of bath, massage and quiet activities while the control group continued their babies’ usual ritual. Maternal mood significantly improved in the group that undertook the ritual and babies experienced an improved quality and quantity of sleep.22 Such a routine can be said to be multisensorial, in that it combines what babies feel, see, hear and smell.
Bath time has a calming effect on a baby as well as the parent, particularly when a scented product is used. Babies (n=30) who were given a scented bath (compared to a non-scented bath) cried less and spent more time in deep sleep following the bath. At the same time, the parent giving the scented bath was more relaxed and provided increased skin-to-skin contact to their baby. The cortisol levels of both the infant and parent were significantly decreased after the scented bath, supporting a decrease in overall stress levels.10