Bath Safety

Image of baby in bath with colourful toys, smiling at the camera

The bath is one of the most common drowning locations for children aged under 12 months in Australia. In 2022-23, 19% of drownings in children aged 0-4 were due to bathing.

The majority of bathtub drowning deaths occur when there is a break or an interruption to bathing routine; for example, the doorbell rings while a parent is bathing the children.

Babies are at great risk as they can easily slip and fall face forwards into even a small amount of water which can be enough for a drowning to occur. 

Can I leave my child alone for a short time?

No, many parents and carers mistakenly believe they will “only be gone a minute” but this is enough time for tragedy to occur. Most bathtub drowning deaths are of children who were already in the bath when they drowned.

Children should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times while in the bath. This means supervising within arm’s reach and never leaving a child alone.

If you must leave the bathroom - take your child with you.

Why do children get left unsupervised in the bath?

Parents have left their child unsupervised in the bath because they were:
  • fetching forgotten clothes or towels
  • doing the washing
  • answering or making phone calls
  • doing the dishes
  • attending to other children

Make a plan for bath time to be a time free of distractions to reduce the chance of being tempted to leave for a short time. If your child is in the bath it's not a time for multi-tasking or doing other jobs around the house. Ensure you have everything you need in the room with you such as a towel, nappies and clean clothes before running the bath. 

Can you use a bath seat or bathing aid?

Yes, however bath seats or bath aids are not substitutes for constant adult supervision and a number of infants have drowned while in a bath aid. A 2018 study found that in 15% of baby bath drownings, the infant was using a bath aid.

A baby bath aid provides support for your child while leaving your hands free but these devices do not prevent children from climbing or falling out of the seat and drowning, and parents should not believe their child is any safer in one of these devices. There is a risk of the bath aid tipping over, the child climbing out of the aid or the child becoming trapped in an opening of the bath aid. Always keep one hand on your baby while using a bath aid. 

Also ensure that any bath aids you use are suitable for your child's age and size, are in good working order and comply with the Australian Mandatory Standard.

Can you hear your child drown?

Parents mistakenly believe they can listen out and will hear their child drowning. Drowning is swift and silent, it is not accompanied by children crying out or splashing. Bath time supervision must involve an adult in the bathroom with the child. An older sibling should never be left with the responsibility of looking after a younger child.

What else can I do to help prevent my child from drowning?

Make sure you plan bath time beforehand and have all the necessary items ready. Bath water should be kept to a minimum depth, using only enough water to wet the child with your hands.

Empty the bath after use and close the bathroom door when it is not in use. Learn resuscitation – it is a lifesaving skill and the life you save with this knowledge may be a loved one.

Bath Time Checklist

  • Before running a bath, have all equipment ready – towels, pyjamas, slippers.
  • Let the phone ring and ignore the doorbell while the children are in the bath.
  • Have a small fold up chair in the bathroom to sit on while the children are in the bath.
  • DO NOT LEAVE the bathroom at all for any reason.
  • After bath time ensure the bathtub is drained immediately and keep the bathroom door closed when not in use.

Heart Beat Club

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