Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Bath-time Safety

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on October 19, 2011

Do you remember your baby’s first bath? My children are 8 and 10 now and I still vividly recall the slightly concerned frown when they were first carefully lowered into the baby bath, which quickly dissolved into sheer bliss. Just was exciting was the day they discovered that they had power over the water. If you hit water with your fist it splashes! Talk about a rush – in their minds, the first step to world domination.

Bath time is the first regular contact your baby has with water outside of the womb and can be just as comforting and soothing. Many were the day when I decided at 3pm that everyone needed a bath – not for hygiene, but for my mental health. In went the fractious whirling dervishes, out came calm, sweetly smiling children. Bath-time can be a very positive experience, but it has it’s dangers.

Bathtubs pose the greatest drowning risk for children under one. As any new parent can tell you, sleep deprivation and the demands of an infant can be exhausting and demanding, so it can be difficult to be vigilant when bath-time is at the end of the day, the usual prescription for a good night’s sleep. I’m not suggesting bath-time be moved, but there are some simple rules you need to follow to keep your baby safe.

1. Never leave your child alone in the bathtub. I plead guilty to stepping into the other room to retrieve pajamas and standing there for an extra minute just to gather the strength to get through the next hour. I’ve even slumped on the floor of the bathroom and closed my eyes, just for a minute. I know how hard it is, but if you aren’t listening for sounds of regular splashing and checking every few seconds, your baby could be in danger. And your idea of ‘a few seconds’ when you are exhausted is probably minutes, which is enough time for a child to drown.
2. Never use one of those bath baby seats – the ones with the suction cups on the bottom. They aren’t safe – they can tip over. They sound like a great idea but in my book they need to go the way of water wings. Toy, not safety device.
3. Make it a policy to not answer the phone or door if your baby is in the tub. If the long-awaited delivery has finally arrived, grab the hooded towel and the baby and take them with you.
Once your baby can sit upright, hand them the toys and grab your favorite book or magazine and plop down next to the tub. You are within arm’s length if they lose their balance in the slippery tub, and you are grabbing a few minutes for yourself.
4. Talk to your baby when they are in the tub, tell them you are going to stay near them whenever they are in the water – you are teaching them one of the most important lessons they can learn – have a grownup near them whenever they are near water.
5. Have fun! Remember, bath-time is probably one of the times your baby is happiest and most relaxed. Follow up bath-time with a story like ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’ to further teach your child to be safe in the water, and sweet untroubled dreams will follow – for both of you!

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