As the water ran and bubbles filled the tub, she screamed like a cat in an alley fight. Up until this point, was I a fool to think my baby loved baths? For the first year and a half of her life, she was perfectly content splashing around while we used a baby bathtub and sponge. However, once she officially outgrew these items and I transitioned her to the “big” tub for the first time, it backfired... badly.
Whether it was the loud running faucet or the loss of security from using her small tub inside the normal tub, something about bath time was now terrifying to her. After a bit of trial and error, I found the following tips helped her overcome bath time fear and find joy in the activity once again.
1. Give her a role
As a relatively new mom, I’ve learned something about myself: I can be a bit controlling when it comes to getting tasks done. The playroom is littered with toys? I might as well clean it in five minutes rather than spending 45 minutes teaching my toddler how to do it. I know she is going to make a mess attempting to feed herself, so I’d rather spoon feed her into adulthood than scoop yogurt off of the floor. You get the picture.
All of that said… I’ve had to relearn patience and remind myself that taking the time to let my daughter exercise her independence is a huge part of growing up. So, even though it’s a lot easier to do everything by myself, it’s been helpful to let her take a bit of ownership in this activity. To overcome bath time fear, I have let her scrub with a washcloth and shampoo her own hair, both have been a big hit. It seems when she has a purpose to fulfill, she focuses more on the task at hand and less on panicking.
2. Try, try again
I used to have my husband undress our baby while I drew her a bath. Only once the water was warm, the bubbles filled the tub, and the water was shut off, we’d bring her in to enjoy her own personal spa.
However, the first time I tried filling the tub with her in it, she flipped out. Up until that point, lack of participation in the process may have attributed to her sensory overload as the water ran directly in front of her. She just wasn’t used to it and the loud noises scared her. However, by consistently exposing her to the running water, placing her in the tub before turning off the faucet, she became more comfortable and able to overcome bath time fear.
3. Make it fun
My little one is very apprehensive when it comes to trying new things. It’s no wonder she had a difficult time adjusting when we changed her bath time environment. To combat the drama, I started making a big deal about the fun aspects of bath time: specifically bubbles and toys! By focusing on the positives, she was more willing to participate.
Adding fun items certainly doesn’t have to be fancy or an added expense. After all, her favorite toy is a plastic cup from our kitchen! Now she runs into the bathroom, reaching over the side to touch the bubbles and
demanding asking for her cups and rubber duck.
After a week of trying to reclaim bath time, my daughter wasn’t afraid anymore. Now that a couple of months have passed, she requests her nightly bath and scampers up the stairs right after finishing her dinner. Her enthusiasm is a lot better than enduring her screams!
Have you ever battled bath time regression? If you have any tips to overcome bath time fear and restore your child’s love for the tub, please let us know in the comments!
Katie McCall is a lifestyle portrait photographer, content strategist, and producer based in San Antonio, Texas. When she isn’t behind a camera or laptop, she's exploring the world with her husband, darling one-year-old daughter and tiny pup. If you’d like, please follow their adventures on Instagram (@hersideproject)!