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    Childrearing #9

    September 4, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Don’t overly protect Baby’s eyes and face during bathtime.

    This is advice I was given by a friend of mine {who, in her youth, spent many hours lifeguarding and teaching swimming}, after

    a conversation begun by my complaining that my son seemed to have an aversion to water. After my initial complaint, she immediately questioned me about protecting his eyes when I bathed him {to which I answered in the affirmative because that is how one is taught by hospital staff to do such things}, and she pointed at A. {then four-months-old} and told me not to repeat the mistake with her.

    This friend went on to explain that during her years working with children in the water, she noticed a pattern. The moms that were meticulous about soap in the eyes produced children that had greater difficulty with early swimming. She reminded me that the initial lessons consist primarily with learning to hold one’s breath and immerse one’s face in the water. The child is unused to having any water on his face, and so he responds with discomfort.

    I immediately changed my bathing habits with A. After all, we live in a location where summer begins in May and ends in October, and the temperatures soar into the 100s without much mercy. Swimming is a must, especially when Mommy is pregnant and cannot bear the summer heat otherwise.

    What I learned was that when I stopped protecting her face, there was a second side-effect. Whereas E. still squirms when I shampoo his hair, and screaches if I get any suds or water on his face at all during the rinsing process, she doesn’t say a word. She sputters a bit, but that is about it. Now, granted, these children have very different personalities, but I like to think that my new habits have also helped.

    With Baby #3 joining our family in a few shorts months, I am determined to repeat what I have done with A. I tend to sponge-bathe a newborn until about four- or five- weeks of age {unless immersion bathing is hygenically indicated}, so this is not to say that I will be pouring water on the face of a tiny newborn. But it is my hope that by four- for five-months of age the baby will be accustomed to a bit of water in the eyes, and ready to become a fish when it is time to learn to swim.


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