Fall Letter 2016

When it comes to your baby’s first bath in the hospital, don’t be surprised if your nurse immerses your little one in a basin of warm water right up to his little shoulders. This so-called “immersion bath” is becoming more popular than the traditional sponge bath − and for good reason. Evidence shows that babies who are bathed in an immersion bath are calmer, quieter and experience less heat loss than those who are washed in a tub or sponge bathed.

In the hospital, we bathe term, stable newborns after 6 hours of life to remove unwanted bodily fluids, such as blood and meconium – an infant’s first bowel movement. Until now, I have always given new babies a quick sponge bath, which is usually not a pleasant experience for the baby. Even though I move quickly from head to toe, exposing one area at a time, washing, rinsing and drying, most babies cry and I feel terrible having new parents watch this ordeal.

This fall, my unit is moving to immersion baths.

I am looking forward to this change, because research shows babies bathed in immersion baths cry less and seem more content during and even after the bath. And, mothers report a more positive experience when babies are bathed this way at their bedside.

With immersion baths, a small basin is filled with about 5 inches of warm water and baby is placed in the tub, with water covering the shoulders. This technique seems to keep baby not only more content, but warm as well. In fact, one study that compared immersion baths to sponge baths found temperatures of immersion bathed babies were more stable than sponge bathed babies.

You might be wondering about baby’s umbilical stump and whether it should be kept dry. For as long as I can remember, we have been telling parents not to wet the umbilical stump until it completely heals and falls off. But research shows babies bathed in immersion baths had no difference in cord healing or infection than those sponge bathed.

With less crying, calmer babies, happier parents − and research to back it all up, I believe this is one change we will all embrace!

Warm Regards,

Linda Ciampa, RN