In the UK around 13 children (under five years) die from drowning each year. One in four of these deaths occur in a bath. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says that one out of three of accidental drowning deaths in children aged 2 and below involves bath seats. It is recommended to use a baby bathtub with either a moulded seat or sling that holds your baby in place and keeps them from sliding underwater.
It’s important to prepare the room before you begin. Close windows and doors to keep the room temperature high as babies can cool very quickly. If your child is a bit more mobile, ensure toilet seats are also closed to prevent climbing accidents. Make sure you have gathered all supplies needed before you begin (towels, cleansers, clothes, clean nappies) as it is crucial you are focused on your child at all times. Before you put your baby in the bath, add cold water first, then swirl in hot water to ensure the water is evenly heated. Water temperature should be approximately 37 degrees (body temperature). To test, pop your elbow in the water to check, as it is more sensitive to heat than your hands would be. If you find it too hot, you child may be almost immediately scalded. Use a thermometer to check if you are unsure. Fill the bath up to 8-13cm, which is the ideal level for newborns up to 6 months.
Babies do not need to bathe daily pending you do clean their face, neck, hands and especially the diaper area every day. Wash your baby’s head last to avoid heat loss and only worry about washing their hair 1-2 times a week. Use a cleanser made especially for babies as their skin is more sensitive and react differently to different products.
Make sure you are prepared before you put your baby into the bath and do not answer your phone or the front door until you are finished. Babies can drown in as little as 3cm of water, and as the water will be filled to at least 8cm, this is a major safety hazard. Keep your attention on your baby and ignore distractions at all times.
Timing is key
Make sure to bathe your child when they are not tired, hungry or straight after feeding. It may be useful to make it part of a daily routine, as some children respond differently to bathing and may find it a cause for stress or vice-versa. If they find it to be more calming, it may be best to make it an evening routine before bed.
Remember, bath time is one of the best times to bond with your child, as they can feel most vulnerable at this time. Giving them your unwavering attention builds trust and makes the experience a positive one, which will only help as they grow older. Ensure you are taking all precautions and concentrating on only your baby at this time will make it a more pleasant part of their day for both mum and baby.