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Bathtime -- Or Potty Time

Q. Help! My 10-month-old sometimes poops in the bath. Is this dangerous? What should I do?

A.
Don't worry. This is quite common and even normal. The water in a warm bath is a muscle relaxant and pain reliever, so it's often easier for a baby to have a bowel movement in a bath than in a diaper, explains William Klish, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist and a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston.

In fact, a warm bath is often recommended when a child is having trouble going to the bathroom or appears to be withholding a bowel movement. "If an infant has painful anal fissures (tiny tears in the rectum) and is withholding stool as a result, placing the child in a warm bath can help him have a bowel movement," says Dr. Klish.

If your baby goes to the bathroom in the tub, remove him, then the poop, drain the water, rinse the tub, and start over. It's important to use fresh water for the rest of the bath so that you're not washing your baby with bits of fecal matter, which contain bacteria. While it's obviously not ideal, don't panic if your baby takes a sip of the water before you can remove him from the bath. "It's doubtful that an infection would occur because the infant already harbors any organisms from the poop in his body," explains Dr. Klish.

If you find that your baby often has a bowel movement while in the tub, you might want to take a look at his schedule. Most babies will go to the bathroom after eating, so it might help to wait an hour after dinner before giving him his bath. And be sure you don't compromise your safety standards when coping with the situation: Never leave your baby's side, even for a second. A baby who is unattended in a tub could drown in less than a minute.

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