SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A hospital in central Illinois is offering delayed first baths for healthy newborns as part of a low-tech approach to infant care.
Memorial Medical Center began offering the delayed baths in early June, the Springfield Journal-Register reported . The initiative lets the hospital wait at least 24 hours before giving newborns their first bath, rather than doing so within the first hour or two of life.
World Health Organization officials have recommended the new policy. They said the creamy substance covering most babies at birth helps with insulation and keeps them warm, allowing infants to conserve energy, avoid low blood sugar and promote effective breastfeeding.
Hospital officials said the approach could lead to fewer medical interventions, fewer days in the hospital for babies and lower costs overall.
“It’s helping baby transition to living in the outside world after living inside mom,” said Abigail Smith, a registered nurse in the hospital’s maternity unit. Smith helped lead a review of medical literature and practices that led to the new policy.
Nurse Manager Sue McCarty said that later bathing also promotes more bonding between a mother and her baby.
McCarty said the new policy doesn’t apply to babies who have a medical need for quicker baths, such as newborns whose mothers have herpes or HIV. Baths for those babies reduce the risk of disease transmission from mother to child.
Dr. Ashish John, chairman of the hospital’s pediatrics department, said parents who might be exhausted immediately after the births often welcome the time to rest before the bath in the hospital so they can enjoy it more and remember it.
Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin implemented the same bath policy in early 2015. Nurse Courtney Buss said only 7 percent of newborns experience body temperature drops, compared with nearly 30 percent before the policy began.