I just completed a wonderful day of teaching baby professionals in Denver about using The HUG with expectant and new moms and dads. Among the many interested things we discussed, we reviewed the common, but sometimes anxiety producing task, of bathing a newborn. A recent article (by Maria Burgio)gives practical advise on bathing a baby: how to check the water temperature, how to hold the baby in the washtub, and how to avoid getting soap in the baby's eyes. However, we discussed another part of the bathing experience: reading the babies body language. The HUG helps parents recognize a baby's SOSs - Signs of Over-Stimulation. These signs include changes in a baby's body (movement, color, and breathing) and a baby's behavior ( "Spacing Out", "Switching Off", "Shutting Down".)
Look at the first baby above. Let's read his body language. See how his forehead is relaxed and smooth, his eye are half closed (looking relaxed), his mouth is loose, and his fist are open. This baby is saying with his body, "I'm enjoying this bath!"
Now look at the second baby. His body is saying something different- he is having a slight SOS. See his forehead is slightly wrinkled, his eyes are wide open, his mouth is open (and you can almost hear a little gasp), his nostrils seem flared, and his fist are squeezed tight.This is a normal stress response to a bath, but a response a parent can respond to.
Some baby's my nature are going to find the bath a bit more challenging that naother baby. However, when a mother recognizes these body changes, she can often respond in ways which will help her baby with this transition. The mother who sees this SOS can lean over and speak quietly in a persistent, calming voice. She might place her hand on the baby's chest for a few seconds or hold his hands against his chest to see if his body starts to say, "I'm ok, Mom!" as the SOS melts away.
The bath is not only good for getting clean, it's a great time for a baby to practice responding to a slightly stressful event with the attentive and loving care of his mother.
Watch for that SOS and get clean! That's really double duty!!