My child is scared of the bath

baby-bathQ. My daughter, who is just 11 months old, slipped in the bath the other day and got a scare. I was right there with her at the time so she was fine, just a bit upset. However, now she does not want to get in the bath anymore. I don’t want to force the issue with her, but what can I do to reintroduce the bath to her? I have taken now to washing her with a cloth, which is fine, but I would like to get her back in the water – she used to love it so much, especially when I had her in with her three-year-old sister.

A. A young child can be easily put off bath time after a fright such as slipping or getting water in their eyes. The good news is that with reassurance, fears do tend to fade over time and your daughter should be able to return to having a bath. However, it is important to be patient and you are right to take a break from having a full bath for the moment. Forcing the issue could get you into unnecessary conflict and might increase your daughter’s fears. As a result, I would suggest you continue with washing her with a cloth until she shows signs she is ready to give the bath another go.

Get her interested
You could continue to have a bath time with her older sister and have her nearby without any pressure for her to get in and take part. That way she can see her sister splashing and enjoying herself and this could begin to remove the fear for her. Be patient, and proceed slowly at her pace.

She might first show interest in the bath, by watching her sister happily or by looking in the water. The more you are relaxed and communicating a happy feeling about bath time, the better – singing songs together as you watch her sister bathe can all help.

Proceed gradually

If she continues to show fear or reluctance to get in the bath, you can proceed even more gradually by first getting her used to playing with water again – perhaps by setting her up with a small basin of water and a few favourite bath toys, or taking her to the paddling pool at the swimming pool (if she enjoyed this before).

You could also remove the water from the bath and place her in it to play with a few of the toys she likes. If it helps, you could get in the bath with her and only gradually add the water once she is settled and having fun. A patient and gradual, child-centred approach like this should help her overcome her fears and get back into enjoying bath time with her sister.

Dr. John Sharry, Irish Times Newspaper. John writes in The Irish Times Health+ every Tuesday.