At 10-12 months of age you may find yourself dealing with a problem you never anticipated – how to handle a baby who is standing up in the bath. When we are shopping for baby products, we sometimes focus on the first several months and may not anticipate just how quickly our babies grow and how dramatically they will change.
So what can you do? And can we be better prepared to deal with bigger, active babies who are intent on moving and playing in the bath?
In this article we’re going to examine the problem and try to find a way to make the problem itself go away – the best solution whenever possible.
We’ll start by taking a closer look at the core issues: Standing Up in the Bath, Falling, Water Play, Bathroom Safety and finally, the Baby’s Bathtub.
Standing Up in the Bath
Standing up is a normal and important part of development. It combines the baby’s desire to raise themself to their highest possible position along with abilities in strength, coordination and balance – all of which have been developing from their very first few weeks. Standing up is innately human and babies naturally (and forcefully!) reject attempts to prevent them from standing. Because of this, the best solution makes the problem go away and allows standing up whenever the baby wants.
Should we try to prevent falling? Falling in itself is just a natural and necessary part of learning how to balance oneself. Without falling babies can not master sitting, standing, walking or running. The key for parents is to provide an environment that lets babies fall safely – without getting hurt or injured. Watch how babies normally fall when trying to stand. They simply fall back onto their bottoms or forward onto their hands. When we give babies a way to steady themselves and take the hazard out of falling, we’ve created an optimal environment.
Babies LOVE to move and play in the water: splashing, spraying, throwing toys and anything else they can imagine. We know babies love play because play is at the core of infant learning and how babies become masters of their own bodies, environments and experiences. Babies thrive when play is sensory rich and dynamic such as in water and sand. They also need the opportunity to repeat actions as a way to test and validate. Since bathtime is both – a sensory rich experience that happens regularly (unlike going to an outdoor pool or beach), babies quickly begin to expect that bathtime is playtime. Traditionally, attitudes about bathtime have focused almost entirely on hygiene. Our schedules may not always allow for free play during bathtime. Nevertheless, understanding our babies’ expectations and supporting their need for play are the good and right things to do.
Lets look at some of the benefits of water play:
- Engages all the senses in an immersive experience that encourages curiosity, attention, focus, self-regulation and independence.
- Develops motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, reach and control
- Introduces physical and dimensional concepts such as volume, weight, quantity, buoyancy, slipperiness, resistance, reflection, refraction and temperature.
- It’s calming and fun!
Consider how a baby experiences a modern bathroom. Almost everything is hard, smooth and slippery when wet. Bathtub walls are not only too smooth, hard and slippery, they are too wide at the top to be easily grasped by a baby’s hand. At the bottom they often have exaggerated curves that can cause a slip if stepped on. To babies who are still acquiring balance, awareness and judgement abilities, standing in the bath is just dangerous. In addition to walls, we have floors, thresholds, faucets and knobs.
Every year in the US over 30,000 babies visit emergency rooms because of bathroom slips, trips and falls. Babies, when active, wet and slippery, can also fall from our arms or off elevated stands. Most injuries are to the head, neck and face and many times more babies get hurt without going to the ER so 30,000 ER visits represents just a fraction of what’s actually happening. What’s clear is that the bathroom itself, and not any baby behavior, is the actual issue.
The Baby Bathtub
Traditionally, baby bath products: tubs, bath seats, rings and transats have been designed to keep your baby fixed and in one seated or reclined position.
They use various methods to restrict free movement:
- Cupping the body using slings or molded curves
- Fixing legs using wells molded into the floor
- Confining the entire body in a bucket shaped container
- Molded in bum bumps and crotch stops
Because all human beings hate being restricted, babies wiggle, twist and push their way out of these contraptions and then find themselves in dangerous situations. As a result, product makers dodge responsibility for safety by putting it all on parents. They instruct you to basically stand guard (in reality kneel or bend over) and prevent your baby from standing up in the bath.
Additionally, how is a baby supposed to learn bath competency unless they are able to move around while bathing? By keeping them seated, aren’t we just delaying accidents until they are older? Look back up at the chart and see how many 4, 5, and 6 year old children have bath accidents. What would this chart look like if bathing was made safe and competency was achieved at two years?
Traditional baby bathtubs have been designed without providing much real value. This is why so many people wonder if they should even bother with buying a baby bathtub.
Common Features of Traditional Baby Bath Products:
- Stackable – one piece molded items that are cheap to ship and store on a shelf. This is why so many are shaped like buckets with narrow bottoms.
- Gimmicky – using animal shapes like whales, ducks or flowers
- Cheap: inflatable, foam pads or other flimsy materials
We believe that bathtime can and should be a rewarding experience for both parent and baby. The Stand and Play Bathtub is the only product available today that supports bathtime in this way from newborn to toddler.
The Story behind The Stand and Play Bathtub
When my boy was one year old, I realized that preventing his standing and playing in the bath or shower was unworkable. I set out to address what I saw as the real problem which was that baby bathtubs themselves aren’t designed to deal with active, playful babies. The walls are too low and the interiors of these products are excessively sloped and/or filled with bumps and wells that are intended to prevent babies from doing what comes naturally to them. This passive restriction leads to frustration, twisting, kicking, rolling and pushing. Once that happens, they are in danger of falling out and hitting hard tile, the tub or a faucet.
I decided to make a kind of “playpen” for the bath of shower. Playpens sometimes get a bad rap but in this case, they make perfect sense.
Below is a picture of my son in the first prototype. I made it using plastic pipe and fittings and a plastic storage bin. It worked very well. Before this I tried using a laundry basket but that didn’t work – too flimsy, too low and sharp edges around the cutouts. Something made for carrying a few pounds of clothes is not fit for an active, energetic, growing human being.
This is what it looks like now:
And there’s still two other stages for babies who are lying down and for those who are learning to sit up.
I would be happy to help you and your baby achieve the best bathtime experience possible. You don’t need to purchase any product. If you would like the plans to make a similar prototype to the one I made just let me know. I would also be happy to share more of my own experiences and discuss your own ideas for solving the problem. Feel free to send me an email.
For more information about The Stand and Play Bathtub visit: https://youbebaby.com/
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