Friday, September 23, 2011

My Toddler Suddenly Screams and is Scared of the Bath!

A couple of weeks ago, Joe was giving the munchkin a bath.  Towards the end of the bath, he said she looked down towards the deep end, and then suddenly became really scared.  She leaped out of the bathtub, totally freaking out and jumped into Joe's arms.  Kids do wierd stuff sometimes, so Joe didn't think too much of it.  She was already cleaned and rinsed, so he just dried her off and moved on.

Two night lights later, we were giving her another bath.  As soon as she got in, she started crying and and getting really upset, saying "I don't want this, I don't want this!"  I stripped down and got into the tub with her.  She was still crying and very upset, but it was somewhat better.  We quickly cleaned her up and got her out.  Maybe she was just really tired and crabby?

Then came the next bath night.  As soon as Joe said the word bath, she started shaking and crying and yelling "I don't want this!", over and over again.  I took her into her bedroom and started to strip her down. She was crying harder and harder.  I told her it was going to be okay and gave her reassuring hugs and started to carry her into the bathroom.  I set her down on the floor and got down with her, trying to talk to her and figure out what was going on.  I took a couple of her toys and dropped them into the water to play with them and try to entice her.  She started crying and grabbing at the toys, trying to rescue them and get them out of the water.

She suddenly started shaking and crying and screaming.  She started pointing at the tup and screaming.  She was absolutely terrified.  This wasn't just throwing a fit over something she didn't want.  The was absolute, genuine terror!  It was like she was watching someone murder me.  No lie.  I quickly scooped her up and took her out of the bathroom and into the other room to calm her down.  There was no way I was even going to try to go any further at that point.  It honestly would have felt like child abuse.

I was freaking out myself.  Why was she so scared of the bath?  Normally she can explain things to me somewhat, but there was no way she could verbalize this.  Any time I even tried to talk to her about what was going on, she would panic and all communication broke down.

Once she was calmed down, I decided to strip myself down and just take her into the shower with me.  She needed to be cleaned, but there was no way I was attempting another bath tonight.  She definitely didn't want to get into the shower either, but her reaction was nothing compared to the bath.  Plus I was holding her in my arms, so I am sure that was somewhat reassuring.

Joe helped me out and then we dried her off and snuggled up in our reading chair. I gave her some extra hugs and snuggles and just read to her and talked to her until she was back to her old self again.  I tucked her into bed and left the room.

What the eff was up with that?!

This girl had absolutely loved baths.  LOVED them!  She would lay on her belly and swim and play with all her toys and sing and laugh.. ya know all the stuff most kids do in the bath cuz they are one of the most fun things for kids to do!

I was seriously freaking out.  I didn't know what to think.  Had something happened to suddenly make her so terrified of the bath?  As far as I knew, no one else had bathed her recently besides me or Joe.  Was something wrong with her?  The way she was acting was so crazy and out of character for her.  I had absolutely no idea what to think or make of it.

So what does one do, when something like this happens??

Ya google it.

And so I did.  The first thing that popped up was an article on babycenter written by a child psychologist.   Here is an excerpt:

"We don't know what scared her away from the baths she used to love (it's common for babies and toddlers to be scared that they might be swept down the drain with the water because their sense of scale isn't developed enough for them to realize that's impossible), but whenever a child develops a fear, it's crucial to accept it. It may not seem reasonable to you, but what does reason have to do with fear? You may not share her fear, but you're not the one who's feeling it.

If you're tempted to scoff at her aversion to baths, think about your own fears and ask yourself whether they're all "reasonable" and how you'd feel if you were forced to confront the things that scare you. Do you, for example, like large spiders? If not, how would you feel if someone made you hold one?"

The article was helpful and I am so glad I didn't try to push the issue too much or try harder to get her into the tub. What really made me feel better though, were the hundreds of member comments below the article, that were posted by parents that had gone through the same thing with their child.  One mother's recap over the situation even sounded exactly like ours! Most of these kids were all around the same age as the munchkin.

I can't tell you what a relief it was to find this information and to also find out that it was actually quite common.  I had no idea.  I had certainly never heard of it happening to anyone I knew.

It kinda made sense too.  When she had leaped out of the tub the first time, it was right after looking down at the drain.  Maybe she was afraid it would suck her down too.  She got so upset about her toys even being in there, maybe she was afraid they would get sucked down as well.

Also, I read in a couple of articles that you should never drain the water while your child is still in the tub.  This will help to avoid this ever happening.  Dang.  Wish I had known that.

So now I know its not that uncommon after all and I didn't need to worry about it too much.  But now what?  The girl needed to be cleaned.  I didn't want to have to take a shower every night at 7:30 just to get her clean either.  So, I read through the comments and considered what worked for other parents.  I got on amazon and ordered some new supplies.

California Baby, Calming Bubbles
Foam Letters and Numbers
Foam Yo Gabba Gabba Characters (she never even watches this show, but I thought she would still have fun with them anyway)
A Long bath mat to go most of the length of the tub and cover the drain so she couldn't see it.
A tray to store all her new stuff in.

I spent way too much money.  Mostly because I am sometimes over cautious and paranoid and do not like anything possibly toxic to be in the tub with her and her naked private parts.  I read too much, and some of the things I read cause me to err on the side of caution.  Hence, why she has never had bubbles in the bath tub before. Nontoxic bubbles are not cheap.  But, I just wanted her to like baths again!  It would be worth it,  if they would distract her enough to make her want to get into that tub again.

So two days later, the items arrived.  I removed everything, including all of her old toys, from the bathroom and cleaned everything out really well.  I laid the mat down, covering the drain and put all of her new toys in their place.  When it was time, I distracted the munchkin in the play room while Joe started the water with the bubbles.  Once the tub was filled up, I started talking about daddy playing with the bubbles and all her new toys and talking in a really excited and fun voice.  We started walking towards the bathroom.  She was slow and apprehensive but wanted to know what was going on.

As we got closer to the tub she could see the bubbles and the new toys.  You could tell she was very nervous as she got closer, but she was still very curious about the new stuff.  Joe and I started talking about the bubbles and all the new toys and how much fun they were as I slowly started removing her clothes and diaper.  I picked her up and set her in the tub.  She started to whimper and look around, and started to look like she was going to cry.  I started picking up the foam characters and letters and showing her how they stuck on the wall and talking to her about them and how much fun they were as Joe started washing her.

We made it (very quickly) through the bath without her totally freaking out.  She didn't like it, but she didn't seem terrified either.

The next bath went pretty much the same way, and maybe not quite as well.  The newness of the bubbles and toys had worn off I guess, and weren't distracting her enough from her fears of the tub.  We hurried through it as fast as we could.

For the next bath (and her most recent one), I thought I might take a new approach.  About thirty minutes before her bath, I got out a "bath time doll" she had gotten for her birthday.  It came with a little duck and a puppy and a towel.  We gave them all baths and talked about how much fun they were having and how much they loved the bubbles.  She was really having fun "washing" them and then "drying" them all off.  She kept saying how much the baby loved the bubbles and then how much she loved the bubbles.   It seemed to help a little bit, because after we put her in the tub, we even got a few laughs and squeels from her as I blew on the bubbles and stuck them to us.  I picked up bubbles and put them on my arm, then daddy's arm, then her belly and talked about how silly it was and how funny it was daddy had bubbles on his arm.

It didn't last too long though, cuz after a while she started crying again.  I told her we were almost done and she started pointing to her towel, crying and sobbing "almost done! almost done!"  We finished up quickly and pulled her out.

So that is where we are now.  There is definitely some progress, but it doesn't look like she is going to be enjoying baths again any time soon.  I am hoping things will just keep getting better and eventually she will get back to loving her baths again.

But seriously, kids are crazy little people.

Maybe I should order her some of this??

They sell it HERE!

Anyone else ever go through anything like this?? What did you do?  How did it turn out?


Karen said...

My daughter turned 3 in May. We have all kinds of drama. We had bath drama also, and had to use the blow up Munchkin duck tub until ~ I believe until about 2 1/2. It's about $10 and it was great because it really never lost air, so I just cleaned it and propped it upside down in the tub to dry. We used it in the big tub until she actually was too long to stay in it. By then she was older and more mature so the transition was fine. If you get one, blow it up and let her play in it on the floor before you bathe her. You could also use it on the kitchen counter and then transition it to the bathtub. If she loves to use crayons ~ we buy the bathtub ones at Target. My daughter is sensitive so it seems like there is always something... She as been potty trained since May and we have yet to potty in a public restroom. She always hated the loud flushing sound. She is getting more used to that, but still covers her ears. My first daughter didn't have issues with much, second daughter had more issues, but number three has issues with most everything ~ ESP stranger anxiety. I just wanted to reassure you that it's okay and that our personalities seem to dictate how we handle issues even as little ones. Sounds like you are doing everything right! Did you belong to the Babycenter birth group? I still pick other mom's brains that have kids born the same month. It's always nice to know others are struggling with the same issues.

Lil' Woman said...

Aww bless her heart for being that terrified and you and Joe for having to figure out this mystery...I hope Munchkin can learn to love baths again for you