Those of you who have read this blog, albeit inter­mit­tent­ly writ­ten in recent months, know that my main focus is the care, neu­rotyp­i­cal devel­op­ment and edu­ca­tion of all chil­dren. That being said I have a grave con­cern about the actu­al dai­ly phys­i­cal care that babies and tod­dlers receive from their par­ents and carers.

Yes­ter­day I was in the com­pa­ny of two fine and hap­py lit­tle fel­lows – a one-year-old and his two-year-old broth­er. A friend and I were respon­si­ble for their care while their father was rehears­ing with his cho­rus and in all respects they are mak­ing fine progress. These chil­dren are both in full time care while their par­ents work and the com­mon fac­tor I rec­og­nized from my own work expe­ri­ence in child­care is: they both had sore bot­toms. By which I mean there were too many red patch­es on their bottoms.

From my dai­ly per­spec­tive it is almost as though most par­ents can’t or don’t bathe their babies each day. I took great pride in rarely using wipes once our sec­ond son came along and I’d learned what a dif­fer­ent tem­pera­ment a clean baby has! 

As an aside — when my 95 year old friend was bed­bound in a nurs­ing home I kept her free of bed­sores sim­ply by once dai­ly wash­ing her low­er back and bot­tom with warm water! That even sur­prised me despite what I knew by then about keep­ing babies clean! 

But a BIG les­son was learned in basic hygiene. Knowl­edge I put into place when we removed my like­wise bed­bound hus­band with bed­sores from his assigned nurs­ing home and brought him back to health, at home, with…simple basic hygiene! 

Sore bot­toms are a rel­a­tive­ly easy fix in babies (in some cas­es a food or juice will cause a sore bot­tom, but it still requires effort and thought for a par­ent or car­er to recog­nise ‘the problem’). 

Clean­ing any baby at its most basic lev­el sim­ply requires ‘topping and tail­ing’ him at least once a day. 

Top­ping and tail­ing means: gen­tly wip­ing the baby’s face (the ‘top’ — even­tu­al­ly all tod­dlers, and even 3’s, love hav­ing their faces gen­tly wiped clean with warm water and a damp flan­nel (wash­cloth) — it makes them gig­gly if you do it right — babies usu­al­ly wail a bit unless you tease and coax them!) then thor­ough­ly clean­ing a baby’s bot­tom (the ‘tail’) with soap and water and next, and quite impor­tant, a thor­ough rinse. Dry your baby well and apply a heal­ing and pro­tec­tive cream, then the nap­py (dia­per). Done! 

Tod­dlers and 3’s MUST have a dai­ly bath — the com­mon ‘stand up’ nap­py (dia­per) changes in day­care (designed more to encour­age ‘sales-pitch-wor­thy’ toi­let train­ing than the hygiene of the child!) pre­clude car­ers prop­er­ly clean­ing those chil­dren’s bot­toms dur­ing the day. 

One ear­ly sign of neglect I’ve seen in tod­dlers and 3’s is mat­ted hair. It may be ‘clean’ because they went in the show­er but I sus­pect their hair was­n’t brushed and pos­si­bly not even washed. Such chil­dren usu­al­ly also show lan­guage and oth­er devel­op­men­tal delays. 

If a par­ent or car­er decides to wash a baby prop­er­ly at every change the baby’s life and tem­pera­ment (and his parents’/carer’s!) will improve at least a hun­dred fold. How­ev­er, for work­ing par­ents fol­low­ing the above instruc­tions twice a day, morn­ing and evening, would be an amaz­ing step for­ward. It’s basic TLC!

Day­care work­ers are gov­erned by dif­fer­ent hygiene prob­lems. But if a baby’s bot­tom ‘sud­den­ly’ becomes sore dur­ing the day (as has hap­pened on my watch in the day­care set­ting) if he is prompt­ly washed with soap and water, rinsed well, dried well and cream applied then and at every fol­low­ing change, by the end of the day his con­di­tion will not have deteriorated. 

A clean baby is a hap­py baby! At least you know a baby isn’t cry­ing because of a sore bot­tom or a dirty nap­py (dia­per).

I’ve known all this since our sec­ond baby came along when I had bet­ter fam­i­ly sup­port after my C‑section. My phys­i­cal health and lack of famil­ial sup­port fol­low­ing my first C‑section made it real­ly hard to even lift my fast grow­ing baby into his bath let alone emp­ty his baby bath full of water! 

The best advice I received from my La Leche League leader for bathing my first nurs­ing baby, who was by then 4‑months-old (why did I wait so long?), was this: 

Sit in a warm bath and nurse your baby on one side, then wash the vis­i­ble side of him; when he’s ready flip the baby to nurse at the oth­er breast, wash that side of his body. When he is thor­ough­ly fed and rinsed bun­dle him in a fluffy tow­el and set him in a baby seat beside the bath. He will prompt­ly fall asleep and you will get your relax­ing bath or shower!

Mum and baby are clean and rest­ed – no wipes needed.