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 for the staff to call us 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

Read more: 16 Things to Pack in Your Hospital Delivery Bag infographic


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Baby’s first bath: A family experience

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