Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

What's the best way to bathe your child? How can you keep them safe in the tub? A pediatric doctor offers tips for baby bath safety.

Rub-a-dub-dub: Your tyke is in the tub. But don’t go reaching for the loofa just yet. From bumps on the head to the potential of drowning, there are tons of ways your tiny tot can get hurt in the bathroom. When it comes to tips on how to care for a newborn baby – right on up to preschoolers – tub safety is a big concern.

Bathroom injuries, however, can be avoided with just a few extra baby bath safety tips. So, what steps can you take to make sure bath time is super fun, too? To help you keep your child safe, Metro Parent talked to Dr. Marcus DeGraw, pediatrician at St. John Hospital & Medical Center in Detroit, who gave us the low-down on bath time safety for young kids.

Keep out of reach of children

The bathroom is full of shiny razors, noisemaking pill bottles and bright and colorful electronics that are sure to arouse young ones’ curiosity. That full shampoo bottle can leave a nice little goose egg on Junior’s head, and that hair dryer could deliver a shock if it’s pulled into the tub.

“The most important thing is the initial setup,” DeGraw says. “Make sure that nothing electronic is plugged in. Make sure that everything is out of tub area before you bathe them.”

There is also the potential for accidental poisoning as your child gets older, as Medline Plus, a service provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, points out. To avoid pint-sized pill popping or mishaps with bathroom cleaners, the site recommends keeping all your pills in their original, childproof bottles and keeping cleaners up in locked cabinets, away from little hands.

Avoiding slips and falls

“Slipping, falling and hitting their head is another danger,” DeGraw says.

Smaller babies can be put in a special plastic tub for newborns or even a sink – “lined with a towel or rubber mat,” notes the Mayo Clinic, adding that it’s key to get your supplies in advance (sponge, cup of rinsing water) so you don’t have to leave your baby alone.

When baby graduates to the big tub, DeGraw recommends using adhesive stickers or bath mats in the bottom of your tub to keep your mobile kids from sliding around (those mats and stickers come in cute designs, too!).

Once kids emerge from the tub, Medline Plus suggests putting down a bath mat outside of the tub and teaching your child to stay seated in the tub.

DeGraw also likes to tell parents to use bath seats for younger kids because it helps keep them upright – and to always keep an eye on their kids.

“The best thing is to make sure a parent is in constant supervision,” he says. “They can do that by either being in the bath with them or by the side of the tub.”

This is also referred to as “touch supervision,” notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; in other words being “close enough to reach the child at all times.” Avoid distractions, including fiddling on your phone. “Drowning occurs quickly and quietly,” the CDC says – and remember, babies can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.

Avoid the risk of drowning

Of course, supervising your child while in the tub might be the best way to keep your kid safe from drowning dangers. But there are a few more steps you can take.

“I like to have (bath water) no higher than the belly button,”DeGraw says. “Make sure the water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees, or right in the middle of the dial – to help ensure the child can’t adjust the temperature.” Be sure to test the temperature, too, and finish running the water before your tyke is set inside.

Medline Plus also recommends putting a lock on the toilet seat and keeping it closed as your child is learning to walk, to prevent tumbles into the toilet water. And once your child is old enough, DeGraw suggests taking your child into the shower with you. Go gradually, adds, beginning by holding your child in your arms.

“The risk of drowning is eliminated,” DeGraw says of showers, “and the child can get more used to having water in their face.”

This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2016.


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