Gotta Have It: Tummy Tubs

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Tummy Tubs

It was bath time for more than a half dozen babies, and not one of them was crying or complaining. That’s because they were too busy discovering the joys of the Tummy Tub, a bathtub for infants that has made a big splash in Europe and has finally found its way to America.

“It’s designed to mimic the mother’s womb,” Janis McKellar told TODAY’s Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry Friday in New York. As she spoke, her 14-month old son, John, sat serenely in his Tummy Tub, flanked by other parents and their babies, who seemed delighted to be bathing in warm water while curled up in fetal position.

Tale of a tub McKellar — who was joined in Studio 1A by her husband, Brent — was expecting her fourth child in November 2007 when she first set about finding a better way to bathe a baby than the standard tubs she had been using. What she discovered not only filled her requirements — it filled up her basement, too.

She found the Tummy Tub, an infant’s bath that looks like a see-through cross between a bucket and a flowerpot. Invented in the Netherlands, it holds an infant in the fetal position, just like in mommy’s tummy.

Strangely enough, she found that this trendy infant-care product was not sold in the United States. “They’ve been used in Europe since 1996,” McKellar told TODAY. “They’re used in most countries around the world. The United States is one of the last countries to hear about the Tummy Tub.”

McKellar found the product by doing an online search for baby bathtubs. She bought hers from a dealer in Canada. She liked it so much, she decided to get more to give to friends with infants and as gifts at baby showers. But the Canadian source went out of business and she found herself forced to buy 20 at a time from the manufacturer in Germany.

If she was going to have to buy that many, she decided, she’d buy a lot and become the sole distributor in the United States. That’s how her basement came to be filled with Tummy Tubs and other infant-care products. “I was looking for a washtub that would keep my baby warm,” McKellar said. “I did an online search and the Tummy Tub popped up. But I couldn’t find anyone who sells them in the United States.”

The tub is made of nontoxic materials and has a low center of gravity, so it doesn’t tip over. It requires much less water than traditional infant tubs, she said, and because it has a small surface area, the water stays warm longer.

“It’s designed to be just like the mother’s womb,” McKellar said. “The dimensions have been carefully designed. The baby will be supported by the side of the tub. They use them in maternity hospitals in Europe. The baby will just curl up in the fetal position and get really relaxed and comfortable. They’re really safe.”

And her new son, John, loved it. In fact, at the age of 14 months, she said, “He loves to go in there still, especially if he isn’t feeling well.”

McKellar bought her tub in November 2007, three months before John was born in February 2008. She and her husband, Brent, live in South Lyon, Mich., and have three other children, Cora, 7, Eli, 5, and Silas, 3.

The bucket stops here It took a while before McKellar got the idea of selling Tummy Tubs from her home. It was only after buying them for friends and then getting rave reviews and requests for more that she began to think it might be an idea to start Bathed With Love.

“I started importing in larger quantities in the summer and fall,” McKellar told TODAY. “Sales are going pretty good. I haven’t spent a whole lot of money advertising. There’ve been no ads in magazines. There hasn’t been a lot of publicity.”

The tubs are transparent and come in three versions: clear, blue tinted and pink tinted. “It’s so very compact, they store real easily. It’s really lightweight, and it’s made of really high-quality materials,” McKellar said.

“A lot of people say, ‘It looks like a bucket. I could just go out and buy a bucket.’ But a bucket is really unsafe for babies. The Tummy Tub is anti-skid with a low center of gravity. It doesn’t have a handle — that’s a big safety issue. You wouldn’t want your baby chewing on the side of a bucket.”

McKellar also sells a stand for the tub that allows a parent to sit in a chair and bathe the infant. The stand has a storage compartment and doubles as a child’s step stool. In addition, she offers a line of specialty soaps, shampoos and moisturizers. Sales, she said, “have been steady, but it’s not been crazy.” But now that she’s been able to demonstrate Tummy Tubs on TODAY, McKellar added, “That may change.”

Bathe your baby in a bucket? Why didn’t we think of that!

By Mike Celizic,

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