Baby bath seat safety warning – what you need to know

You need to be extra careful when using a baby bath seat due to the risk of it tipping over. Experts and one mum explain the safety issues

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A warning from a mum about the dangers of a bath seat tipping over, has raised awareness again around the safety of using this baby bath product. 

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Suzie Dyball shared on Facebook her harrowing experience when her daughter’s Safety 1st swivel bath seat tipped over and trapped 7-month-old Felicity face down in the water. 

“I was right there by the bath. A couple of the suction pads were still stuck to the bath and it was hard to free her. The few seconds it took felt like a lifetime.”

In those few short seconds, Felicity turned blue and stopped breathing. Her mum was able to get her to cough up the water and by the time the paramedics arrived, she was less blue and even managed a smile for them. “But it could have been so much worse,” warns Suzie. 

What the experts say

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) regularly re-issues its safety advice about the use of baby bath seats. This follows a small number of drowning deaths and accidents involving baths and bath seats.

  • Every year in the UK, around 13 children under 5 die from drowning
  • Around 1 in 4 of these deaths occurs in a bath
  • Bath seats are involved in 1 in 3 accidental drowning deaths in children aged 2 and below 
  • For each drowning accident, there are around 8 non-fatal bath seat accidents that are serious enough to warrant hospital attention

Why can baby bath seats be dangerous?

The danger comes because some parents may believe the bath seats are a safety device, when in fact they’re simply designed to make bathing slightly easier for parents.

Bath seats may help your child sit up in a bath, but this – as the RoSPA and other safety experts mentioned in research findings published in 2005 – is a false sense of security. In fact, 100% close parental supervision is vital as they can tip up (for example, when a baby leans forward to reach a toy in the water) or older children can pull themselves out.

RoSPA’s Peter Cornall explains, “No matter what attempts are made to make the design safer, if parents are there when the seat tips over or the child clambers out, they can do something about it – they can’t if they’re not there.”

How to use a baby bath seat safely

The usual advice is to never leave babies and young children on their own in a bath. But it’s more than just being in the room. Felicity’s mum Suzie Dyball believes that you should hold the seat in place while your baby is in it. 

“My warning is about not trusting the seats,” she says on her Facebook page. “If you have to use one then keep your hands on it or your baby at all times and be aware that they can tip.”

RoSPA’s advice is some of the strongest it gives. “At RoSPA, we rarely advise parents to ‘never’ do something,” says Peter Cornall. “But when it comes to baths, the advice has to be: never leave babies and young children unattended. This advice stands whether or not you are using a bath seat. It’s a way of preventing both drowning and scalds.

“A child can drown in a bath very quickly and quietly. We have heard of many tragic cases in which a parent or carer has gone to get a towel or to answer the door or telephone and their child has drowned in the time they were away. In some cases, parents had thought a bath seat would hold their child securely while they were out of the room, but we cannot overstate the fact that seats must not be used in this way – not even for just a moment.”

Babies and young children can drown in a very shallow bath. Katrina Phillips, of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, explains that it takes only a few centimetres of water for a baby to drown, very quickly and with no noise or struggle.

“Babies can’t recognise danger, and don’t have the strength to try to reach the surface. This means you need to stay with your baby all the time near water.”

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