How to Keep Baby Clean - another not-a-Mommy-blogger post

It is so long since my children were babies that Queen Victoria was still on the throne saying how amused she wasn't, and Charles Dickens was still deciding between the names 'Oliver Twist', 'Oliver Quickstep' and 'Oliver Macarana' for the protagonist of his new book.

Hm ... or ... maybe .... Oliver Salsa?

But just because I parented so long ago doesn't mean I can't pass on advice, and one of the things you modern mothers and fathers need help with most, I know, is How to Keep Baby Clean.  I struggled with this tricky area of parenthood just as you do.  So I hope you find my ideas helpful.

1.  Finding out why there are so many different cycles on the modern washing machine

When I was a young parent and living in London, washing machines weren't even invented.  We went down to the Thames with the family and scrubbed the baby's clothes clean on any piece of old driftwood floating at the edge of the water.  Then we would hold Baby firmly under his arms and dip him in the river a few times, swishing him about a bit especially if his crevices were particularly stiff with ... residue.  Bingo, job done!  And we were lucky if we could afford even soap - I sometimes used to use the froth from the top of my drunken husband's tankard of ale to get up a lather, although he wasn't best pleased, and I can't say it helped marital harmony much.

But you, modern parents, have the best of technology at your disposal.  Why else was the 'gentle wash' programme developed if not so that you can manoeuvre Baby gently into the machine, tucking his legs in to make sure he doesn't scrape them on the way in?   Then just set the dial to 'gentle wash', leaving him to tumble happily in the suds until he's nice and shiny again.  While he's on the spin cycle, you can play a fun game with Baby, waving at him every time his smiling face goes past the little window and shouting 'Peek-a-boo!'  Babies love this kind of early interaction, and all the books say what a help it is to the development of the self-esteem.

People maintain, don't they, that technology has ruined our world.  Well, all those gleaming little Babies soon puts paid to that notion, eh?!!

2. Finding the positives about your husband's drunkenness.

Another problem all parents have is how to clean Baby up after one of those spectacular 'I-bet-you-didn't-think-my-bowels-could-hold-quite-this-much!' incidents with which all babies love to treat their parents.  It's disconcerting, isn't it, to find that the very day you dress Baby in the white or cream Babygro is the very day he chooses to send most of his insides to the outside.  My, the TRIALS of being a parent!  Sometimes one wonders whether it is worth FEEDing the little darlings if that's how they reward us!  But that would be cruel.

Well, one solution I always found helpful was this, and again it was my dissolute staggering drinker of a husband who gave me the idea when he uncorked yet another bottle of porter one evening.  He threw the cork across the room into a dark corner, whereupon inspiration struck, and I dived after it, wrestling it from the jaws of a rat who mistook it for its evening meal.

From then on, the days I had run out of the green and brown garments and therefore had to dress Baby in light colours were the days I used the cork to make sure there were no little accidents.  Yes, it's true, Baby's distended belly wasn't that attractive, but I just dressed him in the next size up and that problem was soon sorted.  And those were the days I laid him on his back, just so that he didn't get uncomfortable.  One so hates to be accused of thoughtlessness.

These giant Babygros could be very handy on an especially bad day ....

3. Finding bad weather to be of assistance.  

You'll probably have read about Victorian London.  The smogs were terrible, but it meant I had an advantage over you modern parents, in that no one could actually SEE my babies when I put them on the doorstep in cardboard boxes just to get a bit of fresh air into their lungs.  Yes, passers-by could perhaps hear their coughing (so SWEET, those little eh-heh eh-heh coughing sounds when they're only days old!) but because they couldn't actually see them, I could cut down on washing time with a clear conscience.  Oh, the joys of a clear conscience!  

For you, however, you will have to rely on other weather systems to help you out, and rain is one of God's greatest gifts to parents when it comes to saving time doing all that complicated bathing routine stuff.  First, strip Baby of all his clothes and then get ready to let Nature wash him.  Follow my simple chart for instructions:

Light drizzle - suitable for minimally-stained Babies only.  Only limited effect, therefore you may need to leave Baby outside for longer.  More time to read the newspaper, though!!!

Steady but not heavy rain - will shift most dirt, although accidents of the sort described earlier may prove stubborn.  If Baby's diet the previous day has included lots of soup and spinach puree, you may get away with it.

Heavy rain - it is on these days that parents can feel more confident that, even if Baby has had a significant ... let's call it a 'burst of activity' ... the rain will sluice it all away and leave him sparkling.  For VERY stubborn deposits, such as those collected in the backs of Baby's knees, dangling his legs over the edge of the curbstone and in the puddles collecting at the side of the road will prove very effective.

'Major-flood-risk' rain - Every parent's DREAM, eh?!!  In fact, on these days, you won't even have to go to the trouble of opening the front door to put Baby outside, making the rest of the family suffer from the strength of the wind blowing down the hallway.  Just suspend him out of any window on a secure rope and let him kick his little legs happily while Mother Nature does her sterling work, lashing his exposed body until he is as clean as a nun's favourite joke.  Obviously, don't forget to bring him back in afterwards.  The cold night air can be harmful to newborns.

'Darling, look at that storm brewing!  How fortuitous, just after Baby's  projectile diarrhoea incident!'


  1. Dear Fran--I hope modern day parents of young babies will now realize how clever we old timers were to be able to figure out how to keep babies clean despite not having today's labor saving devices. There is one point you should have mentioned, however. After running baby through the washing machine, he should be toweled off--hanging them on the line made every one of my three children cranky.----(The other) Fran

  2. Of course they still need to be cleaned as toddlers, children and teenagers. I find taking them to Nottingham Market square and making them run back and forth in the fountain has multiple advantages.
    They can clean their clothes at the same time and also get that healthy workout recommended by the government. Then running home afterwards (as they try to keep up with the bus) dries them off a treat.

  3. Thank God I live in the modern age. The adjustable pressure hose is such a boon!

  4. Power cleaners are efficient , I'll give you that .
    But to my mind , say what you like , the old fashioned ways are still the best . That wee woman from the television with her Handy Andy and a bucket and brush did it in half the time .

  5. And when they've flown the nest, you can only pray that they become activists, earning themselves a good dousing every few months. Those water cannon certainly get behind the ears, besides getting up the nose.

  6. My brother-in-law inadvertently put his cat through an entire wash cycle in the washing machine. You could try that for kids, except that I'm afraid the cat didn't make it.

    But it was very, very clean.

  7. Goodness, Fran, this has encouraged an alarming rash of sadism from your usually jolly readers. (I was just about ok with it till we got to the cat story.)You need to start getting buses again to lower the horror quotient of your posts.

  8. As you know, I just last month became aware of your (& your blog's) existence last month. I immediately became a follower. Today I decided to take a look at some of your older posts. I read for about 2 hours & I now have to take a break because my tummy is sore form laughing! Your blogs & poems are FUNNY, FUNNY, FUNNY!!

  9. I meant sore FROM laughing!

  10. Fishducky - thanks for all your lovely comments and for spending so much time reading Me. Sorry about your sore tum! But it's not a bad way to get a sore tum - better than food poisoning anyway.

    Charlotte - your comment about them trying to keep up with the bus made me giggle.

    Steve - what will you do if there's a hosepipe ban? Heaven forbid! Dirty children!

    SmitandSon - old fashioned is good. And just as well, I say. I don't do modern half as well.

    Frances - I really really don't want to think that story's true.

    Isabelle - see above comment! I was shocked, too! I will try and get a bus as soon as possible. But they have cut down our evening buses now to virtually nil to save money. Talk about horror!

  11. And (see your comment on my Joe Swift post) you are not to start posting things about hearts. Especially cats' hearts.

    Well, I'm sort of enjoying my retirement, thanks for asking. It seems to feature taking my mum to the doctor a lot. I must start doing something fun.

  12. You lost me at ...keep baby clean. I don't 'do' cleaning


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