What’s harder to hold onto than a squirmy baby? A wet and soapy squirmy baby! And what’s even harder than that? Two wet and soapy squirmy babies! Oh, goodness. The heart attacks we’ve all had when combining our children with water. But bathe, we must, at least a few times a week (some of us have it as part of our nightly bedtime ritual, others do not). Just how do you get two little ones clean without undue stress or bodily harm?
The bathtime ritual is a little different for everyone. Some families bathe their kids maybe three times a week, only when really necessary. In the interim, a few wipes can do the trick. Some have an every-other-day ritual, and others have it as part of the nightly bedtime routine. Purely for the sake of cleanliness, most babies do not need a daily bath. Sometimes, especially with the advent of solid foods (how did you get peas on the back of your head?) or toddlers in the summer (c’mon, let’s roll around in this pile of dirt!), it is quite necessary, but not for everyone.
And certainly, there’s nothing saying you have to bathe your kids together! Especially when both parents are home and able to pitch in, there’s much to be said for the one-at-a-time approach. Each baby gets some alone time, and you’ve got two hands to one baby, a nice ratio. That’s what we did for the first seven months or so at my house. M comes home from work, plays with the kids while I prep bathtime. Fussiest baby goes first, you get the idea. It worked pretty well. Except… except the days when M was delayed and I had to do bathtime by myself. Oh my lord, how I hated solo bathtime. But it can be done.
One-parent, one-kid-at-a-time baths require advance preparation and a staging area. Wherever the bath will take place, whether an infant tub, the kitchen sink, or the big tub, you need to get all supplies in order before the first kid has his diaper off. You also need an age-appropriate staging area, such as a bouncy seat, high chair, or fenced-in childproof space for the kid not in the tub. Seriously, we all know that bathtime often coincides with the witching hour, so if it helps to throw on Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, or Cash Cab, you won’t hear us judge. After that, it’s just a question of quick bath and towel dry for baby 1, swap staging areas, and repeat with baby 2. When my kids were still in the bouncy seat stage, I just brought that seat right into the kitchen where the bath was taking place, so everyone could listen to music and hopefully be a teeny bit entertained.
Two in the tub at the same time can be accomplished in a variety of ways. In the pre-sitting days, get yourself two bath pillows (I liked the Safer Bather; a simple foam pillow works as well and is super cheap), put just enough water in the tub to keep the babies warm, and you’re all set. Two-at-a-time is both easier and harder when the babies are able to sit up on their own. Easier in that you have more options, harder in that they can tip over by accident or wiggle around on purpose, thereby upping the difficulty level for mom.
One possibility is the tried-and-true kitchen sink. Depending on the size and shape of your sink, it may or may not work for two at once. But if you’re lucky and have the right size of double sink… voilà! A match made in heaven. Put a towel or non-slip something on the bottom and you’ve got a custom-made double bath that will hold the kids until they’re old enough to be (a little bit) safer in the bathroom tub. Plus, running water can be quite entertaining. (Thanks to Cheryl for pulling that adorable picture out of the archives…)
If you have unstable sitters in the bathroom tub, you’re obviously going to want to use something so that they don’t tip over and whack their heads. Some people swear by two bath seats, which support them but let them wiggle. Another popular hack is to get one large or two small laundry baskets, which can hold babies and toys, and let water in and out, and which Krissy used to great effect when her kids were a bit smaller. I got an inflatable duck tub at my twin club sale, and still have both kids in there. (There are other inflatable tubs that do not involve poultry, of course.) Yes, it’s getting pretty snug, and we’re only still getting by because my daughter is quite small. LauraC tried the same thing, and her boys were not fond of the idea. So you never know what your kids will prefer. Her boys seem to have a darn good time in the tub on their own.
If you’re ready to ditch the bathtub accessories, just plop ‘em in the tub. Ideally, you’ve got some kind of non-slip surface, such as a mat or even a towel, at least while they’re still wiggling around and not so graceful. A cover/guard for the spout is also a good idea, to prevent at least a few of the head smacks. Still, slippery babies will do what they’re going to do. Some days they’re going to flaunt the no-standing-in-the-tub rule, they’re going to slip and bonk their heads. No one will be happy. But, live and learn, and you’ll do it better another day.
No matter what your bathing location and method of choice, always remember basic bathtime safety. Prepare everything you’ll need ahead of time, don’t put more than a few inches of water in the tub, and never ever step away when young children are in the water. We don’t want any of you to make headlines involving the phrase: “tragic accident.” Bathtime can be fun, but it can also be dangerous, so don’t take any chances.
But hey, once you’ve got a method figured out… is there anything cuter than two kids at bathtime?