This is a paid collaboration as part of my Ambassador role with Johnson’s Baby
It’s fair to say that we’ve had an up and down relationship with bathtime in our house. Both of our boys have had phases where they’ve hated the bath, and although we’re in a good phase now, the thought of doing a bath and then the ensuing crying when you get them out is often too much to face at the end of a long day. Our boys tend to get 2-3 baths a week, rather than the bath forming a key part of our bedtime routine.
But what if a stricter bathtime routine could help them to sleep better?
The Johnson’s Baby 3-step bedtime routine consists of a warm, scented bath, massage, and quiet time with a story or a lullaby before bed, and can help babies and toddlers fall asleep more quickly, and sleep for longer too.
Ben is a pretty good sleeper these days, mostly sleeping through, but waking once a night on the odd occasion. But as parents, sleep is something we all want more of! So I thought I’d do a little experiment of my own, to first throw our current routine out of the window, and then to reintroduce a strict Bath – Massage – Book routine, and see what effect it had on Ben’s sleep.
Why is bathtime so important?
Through my role as a Johnson’s Baby Ambassador, I’ve been learning more about child development and the importance of a familiar bedtime routine. At our last meeting, we were lucky to have Dr Angharad Rudkin, a child clinical psychologist at the University of Southampton, join us and talk to us about the positive impact of bath and massage to a baby’s development.
I was fascinated to learn that in the first 3 years of a child’s life, every single interaction they have develops and shapes the brain. How amazing is that?
One way of creating more powerful associations is to combine different senses – like touch and smell – making bathtime the perfect opportunity for this. The smell of the bubble bath, combined with your gentle touch as you wash your baby, is an ideal way to stimulate those senses and develop a strong bond.
The Power of Scent
Scent is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think about Johnson’s Baby, and it’s no coincidence that their products all have such distinctive aromas. I’ve always found smell to be one of the most powerful senses and it was fascinating to learn that smell can trigger more emotionally vibrant memories than other senses.
The processing centre for smell in the brain is located close to the emotion and memory centres, which explains why so often a certain scent can bring back a strong memory of a time or place. There are so many smells that can evoke memories for me – the scent of lavender takes me straight to Tuscany where we stayed in a villa where lavender hedges lined the property; the smell of Charlie Red body spray transports me right back to my teenage years. And the familiar scent of Johnson’s Baby brings back so many fond memories of my own childhood, just as I hope it will for my boys. That smell just is the baby days for me!
Our Sleep Experiment
I have to admit that I was sceptical starting out whether this experiment would have any effect on Ben’s sleep. I’d call him a pretty good sleeper these days compared to how he was 6 months ago (which if you didn’t read my rantings back then, was about as bad as a baby can get!). But any improvement is worth having when it comes to your baby’s sleep, so I was keen to give it a try.
I felt it was important to make this a fair test, so we abandoned our usual routine for the first week and just went with the flow. I limited the number of baths to 3 a week, and I switched our usual Johnson’s Baby bathtime bubbles for one which was less scented and not familiar to Ben.
As you’ll see from the graph below, he took around 15-20 minutes to get to sleep each night, which is pretty usual for him. What was unusual was that he also had quite a few wakeups in the early evening, some of which he self settled, and some we had to go in to settle him.
I have to admit that I was keen to get back to a more structured routine by the end of the week, even if it did mean a bath every night. And I had definitely missed the boys smelling of the purple Johnson’s Baby Bedtime smell! Once our ‘control’ week was up, we moved back to our usual Johnson’s Baby Bedtime range products, with the familiar NaturalCalm™ scent. As part of our usual routine we use the Bedtime Baby Bath, Baby Wash, and Bedtime Baby Lotion.
The new bedtime routine was definitely a hit with Ben. He loves his bath at the moment, and because his older brother insists on having his own bath, it’s a lovely bit of one-to-one time for the two of us. We head up to the bathroom around 6pm, after he’s had his bottle of milk downstairs, and we have quite a low key, quiet bath, compared to the huge levels of splashing that a bath with his older brother involves. Ben’s at that age where he’s curious about water – he loves pouring things, seeing what floats, squeezing toys and just having fun.
The massage has been a lovely addition for us. I do moisturise both boys after a bath as I know how important it is to keep children’s skin hydrated, but it’s tended to be more of a rushed job than a massage – mostly because they don’t like being removed from the bath and are crying at that point! But after a couple of days, Ben started to love his massage and would beam as soon as he saw the Baby Lotion come out, which has made the whole ‘end of the bath’ process much smoother.
When I take Ben out of the bath, I wrap him in a towel that’s been on the radiator to keep it nice and warm. No-one likes getting out of the bath and being cold. When it comes to a massage, Ben has a definite preference for Baby Lotion over Baby Oil, and I rub it together in my hands first to warm it up. It’s not often that you get that opportunity for skin to skin once your baby is past the newborn stage, so I’ve loved that it’s felt like a lovely little bonding ritual at the end of the day.
Once Ben’s dry and in his pyjamas, we move into his bedroom for a story. We have so many books in our house, and I’ve loved exploring our old favourites with Ben. Despite my own love of books, Max has never really been a huge fan, but Ben has taken to them straight away and finds them really engaging. We love the ‘That’s Not My’ series, and they’re always the ones Ben will pull off the shelf to read.
And to extend our routine a little bit more, on the walk over to switch his nightlight on and draw the blinds, I’ve started singing a lullaby to him. It’s funny how things change – I used to be an opera singer and sang every day, but since having my children I rarely sing (unless it’s singing along to Disney in the car, which is mandatory!). The lullaby is a lovely little addition to our routine and one that I’m really treasuring.
How did the 3-Step Routine help Ben’s sleep?
At the start of the first week of using the 3-Step Routine, I wasn’t seeing much difference in Ben’s sleeping (although he was back to sleeping through thankfully). But it was when we hit Day 11 that it started to become clear that the routine was doing a fantastic job in helping Ben get to sleep more quickly. Instead of the 15-20 minutes it had been taking the previous week, Ben was getting to sleep in 5-10 minutes. It was clear that he knew exactly what was coming next – after his story he would point to his bed, asking to go in it!
I’ve documented Ben’s sleep diary in the following graphs, which I think make clear how beneficial we found the stricter routine!
You’ll see from the graph that in our third week we did have a few early wakings (these were 5am onwards) and one night where Ben was up all night – clearly a good bedtime routine isn’t going to help with teething or illness! But on the whole, the difference in his sleep, and in the calmness of the whole bedtime routine, has been amazing. I’ve found myself to be far less stressed by bedtime, even though I expected that doing a bath every night would be really stressful.
And the key question – are we keeping up the stricter routine? It’s 2 weeks after our little experiment now, and yes, we are still doing it!
If you fancy trying out the 3-Step Bedtime Routine, I’ll be running a giveaway this week on my Instagram account for two lucky people to win a Johnson’s Baby Bedtime Gift Set, containing Bedtime baby wash, Bedtime baby oil, Bedtime Baby Bath and Bedtime Baby Lotion.
Disclosure: #AD This is a paid collaboration with Johnson’s Baby