Focus on... Bath seat safety

2 Jun 2014

Bath taps

Following the deaths of three babies in the bath, we focus on the risk of drowning for very young children, and the very serious mistake of thinking your baby is safe in a bath seat.

In the past months, CAPT has been made aware of three chilling accidents where children have drowned in baths.

An inquest in March into the death of fourteen-month-old Mohammed Rehaan Bashir in Bradford heard how his mother left him and his three-year-old sister in the bath to fetch a towel from downstairs. In the short time she was out of the bathroom, Mohammed slipped under the water and drowned.

In April, the Nottingham Post reported how a mother left her ten-month-old daughter briefly to sort out some clothes. While she was away, the bath seat tipped over and her daughter drowned.

And in Dundee, an 11 month old boy, Karson McNally drowned in a bath when his bath seat tipped over. His mum, Demi, had dashed downstairs to grab his pyjamas.

For many parents and carers, their children’s bathtime is a welcome part of the bedtime routine. Babies and young children love the water and bubbles and the chance to play and splash around.

However, babies can drown in just a few centimetres of water, very quickly and with no noise or struggle. They cannot recognise danger and don’t have the strength to try to reach the surface. This means babies need constant supervision while in water of any description.

Bath seats are not safety devices

In two of the cases above, the children were in bath seats. For parents, giving their baby a bath is a job that requires more than two hands. They need to ensure the child’s head is clear of the water but also need their hands to wash or rinse their baby, play and splash or reach for a towel. Understandably many parents, whether their baby can sit up by itself or not, turn to bath seats to help.

In one respect, bath seats are very useful pieces of baby kit. But – and this is very important – they are not safety devices and can easily give parents a false sense of security. Demi, Karson’s mum said:

“After months of constant use every night I started to trust that if I left my child for even a moment he would be safe.”

However, while a baby may look secure in one, they can easily wriggle or slip out. Or the seat itself can tip forwards, backwards or sideways and immerse the baby in the water.

CAPT acknowledges that baby seats can help parents, but they are NOT safety devices and our advice is unequivocal:

NEVER leave a baby or young child unattended in the bath, not even for a second.

Demi continued:

“I found my child had tipped back into the water and released from the seat. The moments after that were probably the worst experience me and my fiancé will ever go through... It only takes 10 to 16 seconds for a baby to drown.”

Older brothers and sisters

When you’re very busy and urgently need to fetch something or answer the door or the phone, it’s very tempting to think that an older child can look after a younger sibling, or at least raise the alarm if something happens.

However, older siblings should never be given the responsibility of looking after their younger brother or sister in the bath, as a two or three year old is not old enough to recognise danger or act appropriately. They can’t be relied on in any circumstances – even if they say they can, or acknowledge what you’re asking them to do.

Help spread the message

Accidents and child development is a fantastic guide for anyone working with families. It gives you insight and understanding about HOW accidents happen and how risk is linked to child development. It’s an incredibly useful resource to have to hand to answer questions from parents and to bring depth to your work on accident prevention. It costs just £15 plus P&P.

Keep your baby safe is a booklet for new parents. It covers baby equipment, including bath seats, explaining what you need to buy and safety considerations. It also gives essential tips on bathing (including bath seat safety), changing, sleeping and playing with your baby safely. 50 copies cost just £25 plus P&P.

Both publications can easily be ordered online.

More information


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