Bubbles and squeak: is it OK to feed your child in the bath?

Is it all right to feed a child in the bath? Nadiya Hussain, the former Great British Bake Off winner, says she occasionally does just that. In an interview on the set of her new BBC show, The Big Family Cooking Showdown, Hussain reportedly said: “If [my daughter, aged seven] is a little bit peckish but needs to have a bath, we kind of do both at the same time, so we get in the bath and have some cereal, and it’s all done.”

In some ways, the bathtime meal makes sense. Persuading children to eat can be stressful and time-consuming. Before you know it, five o’clock has slipped to six and they are still at the table when they should be getting undressed. Plus, if you feed them in the bath you can splash the food from their faces while they eat and no clothes get stained. Afterwards, the mess can all slide down the plughole.

Still, there is something about food in bathrooms that seems wrong. “My thoughts on it are absolutely no,” says Claire Potter, author of Getting the Little Blighters to Eat. “You are trying to create a situation where you have happy, family mealtimes that are as much social as about the food ... If you’re feeding your child in the bath, you’re setting a precedent that it’s all about them.” And that, she says, is where fussy eating begins, “When a child thinks: ‘Hey, I’ve got a hell of a lot of attention here.”

Lucy Thomas, a children’s feeding consultant, has other worries. She points out that bathtime meals are “fraught with dangers, because of choking; you are not in control, and you cannot seat a child safely”. However, food in the bath can sometimes work. Thomas’s daughter, Molly, four, had severe reflux as a baby and was confined to a predominantly dry-food diet. So, Thomas used bathtime to let her explore wet foods in a relaxed environment. Molly was allowed to paint the bath tiles with food purees, or dip a rusk in water. “If it got near her mouth, she tasted it, but it wasn’t in a stressful environment.” Little by little, Molly’s tastes broadened.

Potter, relenting a little, thinks bathtime meals could work as an occasional treat. “You do want positive feelings around food. Maybe now and then you could say: ‘Hey, we’re going to have dinner in the bath tonight!’” After all, it was fun for the Romans.