Baby’s first bath: A family experience

Newborn baby swaddled

Welcoming both of my daughters into the world was near perfect. Forget the fact that my sleep patterns would likely never be the same or that I would be traumatized from changing diapers. None of that matters when it comes to those first few moments.

I gave my first daughter her very first bath. Under the watchful eye of a nurse, I used a soft washcloth and some warm water. I remember my daughter crying as she laid under the warmer. I’m sure she was cold and not happy about the experience.

After the bath, I got to snuggle my daughter while we waited to be called back to the recovery room. I will never forget those moments with her, but honestly, I will always wish that my wife could have been there, too.

Those moments are becoming a focus of a major change 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.

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 is simple: 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. 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.

Because the baby’s bath is delayed for a few hours, 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 bath is now done in the patient’s room.

From a personal stand point, I would have loved this. I have always felt my wife missed out on a very important moment in our daughter’s life.

“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.

When Vance and York presented the idea to the medical staff, it was incredibly well received. It has already been picked up as standard practice at North Colorado Medical Center, Banner Fort Collins Medical Center and McKee Medical Center. 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.

Read more about healthy kids at the Banner Children’s GO MOM blog.

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