I have three kids so I should be an expert at this parenting gig by now, right? Wrong. It doesn’t matter how all over it you think you are, it only takes a few seconds for a small child to drown in the bath, as I was all too scarily reminded of last week when my youngest had a very narrow escape.
It had been a long day
I was staying at my mother’s house and had just given my almost 14-month-old son a bath while my older two were fighting and carrying on as they finished dinner in the kitchen with my husband. It had been a long day and I was really tired. I just wanted to get my baby dressed and his milk ready as quickly as possible so that at least one of the children could be put to bed. As I pulled him out I mentally thought to ask my hubby to put away the bath toys and empty the water for me, but stupidly I didn’t actually verbalise it – probably because there was so much noise and chaos going on.
Only a matter of seconds
I got my son dry and dressed in the next room and then placed him on the floor as I reached over to grab the wet towel. By the time I had turned around, he was gone. I quickly went to the bathroom to hang up the towel and empty the bath (never dreaming he would have made it all the way there before me). To my utter shock I heard a small splash before I entered, and then saw my baby sitting in the water-filled tub fully clothed with not one other person in sight or even aware he was there.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. He is a busy little tacker but I didn’t know my toddler could run that fast (he hasn’t been walking very long), and I had no idea he knew how to climb up into the bath. The thing is,neither did he, I think. As I rushed to pull him out in a mad panic he began to scream, I think he had been choking on water silently moments beforehand and had only just managed to catch his breath as I grabbed him. I’m guessing that he fell in head first, was submerged and swallowed water, only surfacing as I entered.
What I should have done
Thankfully my son was unharmed, and after many tight cuddles and a fresh set of pyjamas he was back to his happy self. I was completely shaken up, as was my husband and mother. It was absolutely terrifying how close he had come to possibly drowning. I was so angry with myself; something like this should never have happened. I instantly thought of what I could have or should have done:
- Unplugged the bath when I took him out – Yes it was an extra step and I was tired and my son would have wriggled and run away as I took the water out, but when I think about what could have happened this is a complete no-brainer.
- Closed the bathroom door tightly – Why hadn’t I just shut the door when I left the bathroom if I was worried about the bath? My bub has actually worked out how to open certain doors (especially those at my mum’s place) but it would have slowed him down or made more noise to make me more aware of what he was up to.
- Walked in to ask my husband for help – I should have gone into the kitchen and asked my husband directly to empty the bath while holding my son, so why hadn’t I?!
- Skipped the bath altogether – When you’re tired or sick, you’re not thinking straight, so in this instance I probably should have just missed the bath time routine and opted for a top-to-toe wash down instead.
It’s not the first time
This scary bath incident made me recall another time one of my children had experienced a possible near drowning moment, which was when my second son was a similar age and was bathing in a baby seat next to my eldest. They were playing happily and I was standing right there. I only turned to the bathroom cabinet for a few seconds to get something out, when my older boy suddenly started calling out “Mummy, Mummy!” He couldn’t talk much but thank goodness he got my attention because, lo and behold, his younger brother had slipped out of the seat and was completely submerged. Luckily I was able to pull him up quickly and nothing bad happened, but again this could have been a disaster.
Multiple kids is no excuse
You’re always so careful with the first child, but once you have more than one it can be hard to keep your eye on everyone at the same time (especially when kids are close in age), and it’s also too easy to be complacent and distracted. This is not an excuse and after what recently happened, I’m now reminding myself of all the important bath safety rules you need to stick to when you have little ones.
A few bath safety rules
- Don’t run the bath unattended
- Never leave children under five unsupervised in the bath – not even for a moment
- Keep your eye on them (especially babies) at ALL times
- Never leave older siblings to supervise younger ones
- Check that the water temperature isn’t too hot before putting them in
- Don’t have your phone or other distractions in the bathroom with you
- Point mixer taps to the cold setting
- Prepare a towel, clean clothes, nappy, etc. before you get them in the bath
- Empty the water out immediately once bath time is over
- Don’t leave any containers like buckets full of water inside the bath
So whether you’re a new mum – or one in need of a good refresher – I think we all need to keep these firmly front of mind to avoid the unthinkable happening to our little loved ones. I know I will be.