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When Is It Safe to Leave a Child Alone in a Tub?

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Giving your baby and toddler a bath is a pretty common occurrence for moms–one that doesn’t usually receive too much media attention. Because, well, baths intrinsically aren’t all that controversial. However, the Consumer Products Safety Commission recently released an emotional video warning parents about the need for constant supervision.

About 87 children die every year from drownings at home, and an estimated two-thirds of them in baths with as little as two inches of water. Non-fatal accidents also occur at the same rate, where children suffer injuries such as permanent brain damage.

Not to scare you, but these accidents can happen in literally a matter of minutes. Ellyn Pollack, CPSC spokeswoman, stated in TODAY:

READ: When It’s Not a Total Disaster, Bath Time Can Be a Beautiful Thing

“A child can drown in a matter of minutes. It happens quickly and silently. A baby can slip under the water without crying or screaming or splashing around. No product can replace adult supervision. Even if a child is secured in a bath seat, do not leave them even for a second—it could still fall over. Every single one of these tragedies was preventable. By increasing awareness, we hope to save lives.”

So what does this mean when it comes to supervision? What’s the age where you can leave your child alone? Experts widely disagree on the age, leaving many parents feeling confused. Some experts say age 4, while others feel 6-year-olds are more ready.

Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, stated:

“There is no official recommendation and no real upper limit because kids develop at different rates. Their independence and ability to handle situations varies greatly, so there is no clear answer. 

At age 4, you might be able to reach around to the other side of the bathroom, and then eventually leave them alone for brief periods. Teens obviously need their privacy. But it is a continuum.”

So basically: It’s a case-by-case basis. Parents, you know your children best, so use your best judgement, like you do with nearly every other situation. Because really, what situation in life is ever clear cut and easy? Not many.

Watch the harrowing video below:

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