When your little one is old enough to sit up on her own, usually between 6 and 8 months, she's really too big for a baby bath seat. One option is to graduate to a bath seat or ring. These can help keep slippery babies in an upright position, which is handy when your baby is just learning to balance on her bottom and topples easily.
But bath seats and rings aren't essential. Many parents manage the precarious job of bathing babies by climbing into the tub with them.
Bath seats and rings are also controversial. Many argue that they aren't safe because they give parents a false sense of security about leaving a baby alone in the tub for a few moments to answer the phone or run to the linen closet.
Consumer Reports lists baby bath seats as one of five things never to buy your baby for just that reason. It's possible for a seat to tip over or for a baby to slide underwater, even with a parent close by. Government statistics show that between 1983 and 1999, 174 babies drowned in baby seat accidents, and 300 more were involved in nonfatal incidents involving bath seats.
Some public groups have asked the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban baby bath seats and rings, but the CPSC has instead issued mandatory standards for manufacturers to create safer designs. They include strict stability standards to keep the bath seat from tipping over, tighter leg openings to prevent babies from slipping through them, and a larger permanent warning label. Bath seats imported or manufactured after December 6, 2010 must meet the new safety standards.
The CPSC has also been working to make it clear to the public that even in a bath seat or ring, a baby should never be left without a capable adult at arm's reach. Bath seats are bathing helpers, not safety devices.