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Baby's First Bath: A Family Experience

For the longest time, dads were given the opportunity to give their new baby their first bath. The new dad would get the to spend this time with his new baby while the health care professionals tend to the mom. But, things change, and swaddle baths are becoming the norm.

In the past, the dad might use a soft washcloth and warm water to clean up the new baby under the watchful eye of a nurse. The baby usually cries because they are cold and the experience was shocking. Then, the dad would snuggle the baby while waiting to go to the recovery room.

Now, swaddle baths have taken the spotlight in North Colorado Medical Center’s Monfort Family Birth Center. And, this change isn’t just about the dad. It’s about the whole family.

Swaddle Baths for Family Bonding

Registered Nurses Penny Vance and Dianna York are spearheading the change to swaddle baths to help families bond after the baby is born and make the actual bath more soothing for the baby.

The idea? Simply swaddle the baby in a blanket and put her in a nice, warm bath. This simulates the warm, soft, comfortable feeling the baby had while in the mother’s womb.

“We actually do the bath 6 to 24 hours after birth,” said Vance. “We swaddle them, and lower them into a flat-bottomed tub filled with water warmed to about 100 degrees. Then, we slowly lower them into the water up to their collarbone.”

They slowly go through pulling one limb out, washing it and putting it back in. They do this until the baby is clean, and as York notes, once the baby comes out of the bath, she’s alert, looking around, calm, content and happy.

It sounds too good to be true, right? But, it’s even better.

The Benefits for Families

Because the nurses now delay the baby’s bath, it gives the mom and the baby some immediate bonding after birth. Plus, it allows mom to be there for the actual bath. In fact, the family and nurses bathe the baby in the patient’s room.

“First-time parents get a chance to find out what's normal and what's not,” said York. “There’s a lot of education during the first bath.”

York adds that there isn’t much scrubbing with a swaddle bath, and the focus is on being gentle using hands. And, they teach everything during that first bath so parents can continue the swaddle baths at home.

Also, the parents can choose to allow older siblings or grandparents to be present during the bath.

Vance and York presented the idea to the medical staff, which received the information incredibly well. North Colorado Medical Center, Banner Fort Collins Medical Center and McKee Medical Center have already picked it up as standard practice. East Morgan County Hospital is in the process of going live with the swaddle bath. Vance and York now plan to do a formal study and, eventually, would like to see it rolled out at all Banner Health hospitals.

“My dream is for every baby to be bathed this way,” said Vance.

Parenting Children's Health
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