I have always loved bath time with the girls. They’ve bathed together right from day one to make it easier and to help them bond. It’s a high-octane affair with music, fun and lots of laughs. The music was initially intended as a distraction for Little D when the witching hour struck. You’d always find us, singing along to Sound of Music, Annie and the obligatory Frozen soundtrack at full blast. My neighbour even commented in passing that she loved our cats chorus in the evening (#awkward!). I do love a good sing-a-long – it helps me to power on through to bedtime when my little ones are sleepy and a little ratty.
So I was totally wrong-footed when Little D suddenly decided she no longer wanted to go anywhere near the bath – had the total fear! Clinging to me like a chimpanzee and screaming the house down, she had a melt-down like no other.
This went on for a whole month and was really upsetting for her. I felt like I wanted to respect her fear and certainly not worsen the situation. I hated that this was clearly developing into a phobia and the new normal. The music had gone, the laughter replaced by screaming; the days of happy bath time appeared long forgotten.
What seemed strange was that, while on holiday recently, Little D was more than happy to be in the pool bobbing around and totally at ease in the water. Baffled, I started researching and it turns out that it’s not uncommon for toddlers to develop ablutophobia (fear of baths). Apparently, causes can be anything from not liking water in their ears, shampoo irritation in their eyes, slipping in the bath, or something they’ve heard from a parent or sibling that may have caused worry and anxiety related to the bath.
Now I have to admit that I may be slightly guilty here. I have a running joke with Big D (who never wants to get out of the bath), that there is a friendly monster called the Plug Monster that gets very thirsty – so she needs to get out so he can have his bedtime drink. Boy did that came back round to bite me! Feeling dreadfully guilty, I was determined to do everything I possibly could to help Little D overcome her newfound fear.
This is what I tried:
- Bathing with her – Both Daddy B and I took turns in the bath with Little D clinging to us to try to help her take some comfort from us.
- Water play – Being on holiday helped this as we had easy access to a pool – but I do think taking your little one swimming helps. Also wet play is a great way to make water fun again.
- Bath alone – once we felt Little D was ready to be in the bath without one of us we kept Big D away and tried to keep it as calm as possible.
- Make sure bathing conditions are perfect – Make sure the water is a lovely temperature and shallow.
- Constantly reassure – We counseled Little D through – giving positive messages during and after bathing.
- Make the bath a fun place – Add bubbles, buy a new bath toy, do whatever you can to make the prospect as appealing as possible. Grandma bought a lovely set of new bath toys that proved too much of a temptation for Little D. They were a great distraction and really helped her along (thank you, Grandma!!xx).
Happily, combining all these things meant Little D was able to overcome her fear and is now loving bath time again. I’m so relieved. Big D has joined her again and the soundtrack to our daily bath routine is back playing at full blast. Just like Elsa in the story, Little D managed to “Let it go”!
If you have a similar story or ideas for overcoming bath phobia (or any other type of toddler fear) – do please share them with us, I’d love to hear about it.
Love Mummy B
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