Babbar Gets His First Bath -- 10 Hours After He’s Born

July 13, 2017

Babbar Singh Bohgun burst into the world at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, with a head full of black hair, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces.

Doctors immediately handed him to his mom, where he laid on her chest, skin-to-skin for hours.

Babbar wasn’t whisked away so nurses could take vital signs. That happened as he snuggled next to his mom. He wasn’t taken away for a bath. That didn’t happen for another 10 hours.

And that’s exactly how it should be, says Dr. Emily Scott, newborn medical director at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

Waiting to bathe newborns is all the buzz lately, but it’s not new for Methodist. It has been practicing the procedure nearly four years.

Since the fall of 2013, Methodist has been waiting at least eight hours to bathe newborns. The policy is based on research, backed by evidenced practice, which shows keeping a baby with mom immediately after birth has a wealth of benefits.

Among them: Better regulated temperature, blood sugar and breathing rates for newborns. And babies are more likely to take to breastfeeding if left with mom right after birth.

At Methodist, the wait to bathe practice has resulted in a decrease in admissions of babies to the neonatal intensive care unit.

“In the old days, when babies were born, they were taken away from their mom right afterward and immediately put in the bath to get them clean,” Dr. Scott says. “And then they were handed back to mom all fresh and smelling like baby powder.”

There was zero benefit to that practice – except a fresh-smelling baby.

after bath

“Now, we know there are so many benefits to keeping the baby still smelling like mom for the first couple hours after birth,” Dr. Scott says. “That time with mom is very important for the bonding. Everything else can wait.”

Emily Roberts, clinical nurse specialist for the labor and delivery and mother and baby units at Methodist, says the practice is simple at its core – keep baby on mom’s chest.

“It’s exactly where baby should be,” Roberts says. “Mom is the best source of heat. Babies are meant to go there and stay in that spot for that time period. No warmer or other intervention would be any better than mom’s chest.”

The practice has required some education for moms and dads. People were used to babies immediately being taken away for baths, vital signs and measurements.

“We can actually do all their vital signs, their medications, everything except the weight and the measurements, right while baby is with mom,” Roberts says. “That’s usually the rush to get the baby off the chest, to get those stats out to family and friends. But, we try to say, ‘Just take this time to bond, take this time to help baby out.’”

After all, those hours only come once in a lifetime.

“You’re never going to get that time back with your baby,” Dr. Scott says. “So, we treasure when the parents get that time.”

Parents, of course, always have a choice. If they prefer to have the baby bathed immediately, they can. Most moms, however, are very open to doing what the hospital believes is best for baby.

Some parents even ask that their newborn not be bathed at all, to have the first bath at home. Dr. Scott is 100 percent behind that.

“The longer the better,” she says.

The World Health Organization has been advocating this practice for years, recommending newborns not be bathed until at least 24 hours after birth.

Babbar, seemingly, would have been just fine with that. He wasn’t a fan of his bath on Wednesday. Nurse Kristine Brannock soothed and cooed at him as she gently dabbed Babbar with water and baby soap.

As she wrapped him up, she said, “There you go birthday boy. What do you think?”

And then, Babbar went right back where he wanted to be – on his mother’s chest.

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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