In honor of National Bath Safety month (January), we thought it would be useful to review some of the most important bath safety rules. After pools, baths are the leading cause of injury and death in the home and drowning is the number one cause of death in children aged 1-4. We know everyone is generally aware of the bath time “best practices” but it’s never a bad time to refresh those rules.
Infants require slightly modified rules depending on their age and abilities. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to bathe your infant in the kitchen or bathroom sink directly, there are infant bathtubs designed to make your life slightly easier.
Always, always watch your kids while in the bathtub.
I had to put this one first because it seems like the most logical rule to bath safety but it’s often overlooked by parents of toddler-aged children. Obviously an infant that can’t hold up its own body needs 100% supervision but it seems acceptable to leave a toddler who can walk and run in the bath alone. Please don’t leave your children alone in a bathtub at any time. Government websites recommend 100% supervision of all children under 5. While it’s difficult to assess when a child is ready to bathe alone, I would say that once a child truly understands water danger, he/she is ready to be left alone to bathe.
Never leave an older child to supervise a younger child.
If you aren’t ready to leave your older child to babysit for his/her younger sibling, then you shouldn’t be ready to let the older child supervise bath time. It’s often difficult for a child to understand certain dangerous consequences and they do not have the skills to react to a life threatening situation.
Check the water temp before putting your child in the bath.
This is another logical one that even I have sometimes overlooked. You start the water at what feels like a comfortable temperature only to realize once the bath is ready, it’s suddenly really hot. The ideal water temperature is 98-100⁰F (37-38⁰C) for children. Adults tend to like the water warmer but children have sensitive skin that doesn’t need to be exposed to higher temperatures. We highly recommend using a water thermometer and they make cute rubber duck thermometers that double as a functional toy. But even with the thermometer, it’s still best to check the water each and every time you put your children in for bath time.
Get all your bathing accessories ready before the bath.
The number one reason parents step away from the bath is to get a towel, or washcloth, or some kind of favorite toy. Make sure to have everything (towels, soap, toys, shampoo, etc) available before you put your child in so you don’t have to scramble once you’ve already begun. I’m a big fan of the shower caddy and toy holders to ensure everything is organized before and after bath time. I’ve seen some really cute designs or you can simply get a plastic container at the dollar store and drill drain holes at the bottom.
Buy an appropriate infant bathtub.
I said earlier that bathing an infant in the sink is perfectly acceptable but I highly recommend buying a dedicated tub. They are designed with the correct positioning in mind and it really takes the additional stress off holding, monitoring head placement AND washing. Also, the bath can double as a toy and accessory holder once your children has outgrown the tub. If you drill drain holes at the bottom, the plastic basin can live in your tub while not in use and effectively drains/dries to prevent mold growth. The model pictured below is one of our most popular because it grows with your child from infant to toddler years.
Empty the bath water after bath time.
Water is a drowning hazard even if bath time is over. Even if there is a rim around the bath, toddlers are top heavy and leaning over the tub is enough to accidentally slip into the water. Children can drown in only a few inches of water. Drowning can be very quick – it can take only a moment. Young children can also drown silently, without coughing or splashing, so you might not even realize they’re in danger.
Use a kneeling pad.
Bath safety isn’t just for kids! Since using a kneeling pad, I have found that my knees and back hurt much less after bath time. Before using the kneeling pad, because of the pressure on my knees from the hard surface, I had the tendency to lean forward, causing a painful and unnatural curve in my back. Now that I’ve been using the kneeling pad, my back is in a more natural, upright position and I have much less back/neck and knee pain. You can purchase a dedicated bath kneeling pad or you can purchase one from the gardening section.
Place an anti-slip mat on the tub floor.
The combination of soapy water makes for a slippery tub floor. Also, toddlers (at least mine) have a tendency to stand up a lot in the tub. It’s likely due to their compulsion for constant motion but it makes for a dangerous situation. I have found that my kids slip much less with an anti-slip mat under their feet during bath time. Make sure to rinse it well as soap scum builds up fast.
Check for mold growth.
This one doesn’t fall under the immediate safety hazard but it’s certainly gross. I once cut open a rubber ducky bath toy and I found months of mold growth inside the duck. Blech! Also, my son tends to throw non-bath appropriate toys (metal cars) into the bath and I occasionally miss these during clean up which leads to rust growth. Make sure your kids use only water/bath appropriate toys and periodically check those too. Even the “anti-mold” bath toys can fall victim to the yucky black-green spores. Life hack: Try gluing the blow hole shut with a hot glue gun.
This isn’t just for bath time. This is a really important skill to master. Many of your local police/fire departments actually offer free or very inexpensive courses taught by professionals. CPR can seriously mean the difference between life or death. Remember an ambulance takes at least 5-10 minutes to arrive.
Be safe and have fun!