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Let's make bath time stress REDUCING, not stress INDUCING!

Swaddle bathing is the most developmentally appropriate way to bathe your
newborn infants and even your premature baby. There are so many advantages to bathing an infant in this manner. As a mom of a preemie and as a healthcare provider for neonates, I can speak first hand to this. Often when we ask other moms of patients how things are going at home, a common response is "my baby hates bath time". WHY? Bath time is supposed to be such a pleasurable, bonding experience between parents and babies. Bath time should be stress REDUCING, not stress INDUCING. Reducing stress and maintaining body temperature are two priorities when bathing babies, particularly preemies. For many babies, their first bath is less than pleasurable. In fact, it can even be traumatic. Swaddle bathing embodies all principles of ideal developmental care and is a great way to bathe your infant in a low-stress environment. Our goal for bath time via swaddle bathing is to reduce the physiological and motoric stress and improve the baby's overall state control. When you do this, a cascade of positivity ensues. In fact, it has been shown that a baby can demonstrate improved participation in feeding immediately after a swaddle bath, likely due to improved state and an increased feeling of security. Not only is the swaddle bath great for babies, but it is so beneficial for parents. Effectively swaddle bathing your infant and turning that dreaded bath time into an incredibly positive experience, in turn, allows parents to gain increased confidence in their parenting skills and enhances the overall interactions and bond with parents and their babies. 

So, how does swaddle bathing work? How do you do it? During a “swaddle bath” or “swaddle immersion bath”, a baby is loosely swaddled in a blanket, and then the newborn is immersed into a tub of warm water, up to the baby’s shoulder. Each limb is then individually unswaddled, gently washed, rinsed, and then re-swaddled. This is such a great practice compared to the outdated practice of traditional sponge bathing. Those are just so stressful when they don’t
need to be!  

Take-home points for the swaddle bath:
  • A swaddle bath for your newborn baby can be a great relaxing and bonding experience. Keep in mind newborn babies do not require frequent bathing, once per week should suffice.
  • NEVER leave your baby alone in the tub.
  • Bathwater should be comfortably warm, but NOT hot. The water should feel comfortable to the inside of your arm.
  • Support your baby throughout the bath and be mindful of his or her cues.


Written by:
Dr. Roper
NICU Physical Therapist

April 30, 2020 — Embe Babies Inc.

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