Doctors at UVA Children’s Hospital reviewed newborn bathing practices. They discovered a lack of standards for newborn skin care and professional advice for parents.
NORFOLK, Virginia – For Meghan and Antonio Hopkins, it took about a month to juggle a routine with their young children, Lincoln, 3, and August, 3 months.
These days August gets 6 to 8 diaper changes and feedings, and about 20 minutes of tummy time. Meghan said daily baths are not yet necessary.
“Now that there are more germs introduced, then we definitely do the bath about three days a week, then at least wipe it off the rest of the time,” Hopkins said.
But not all new parents are sure what’s best about bath time. And that could prove problematic for their bundles of joy.
University of Virginia professor of pediatrics Dr. Ann Kellams joined other researchers at UVA Children’s Hospital to conduct a study on newborn skin care in state maternity hospitals. -United. The study, published in September by the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that there are no evidence-based guidelines for bathing newborns.
“What we know about the skin of newborns is that it is very thin,” Kellams said. “And so, anything that we can do to preserve the integrity of the skin is important.”
Kellams said the idea for the study came from the personal experience of a fellow researcher in a maternity hospital.
“One of my colleagues – the lead author of this article – had a baby in the hospital and I was the attending physician,” Kellams explained. “And she said, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing? Why do we use these soaps? Why do you want to do that to my baby?’ … most hospitals across the country do the same thing because that’s the way we’ve always done it. And we decided to look into it. “
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The study included a 16-question survey of bathing practices and advice for parents in 109 hospitals nationwide. The findings echoed the lack of standards for newborn skin care, revealing a wide variety of approaches in maternity wards:
- 87% of hospitals surveyed delayed the first newborn baths by at least 6 hours
- 10% of hospitals, most often in non-university centers and on the west coast, released newborns without a bath
- Health care providers were inconsistent – and possibly contradictory – in educating parents about bathtub immersion
- Little scientific data has been reported by hospitals that have developed their policies
Kellams said researchers also found that parenting guidelines and soap use conflicted, and that some bath products used in hospitals could be harmful to a baby’s sensitive skin.
“The detergents in soaps, including baby soaps, remove some of these natural oils and some of this natural protection,” Kellams said.
Addressing variations in hospital policies and parenting advice is crucial, Kellams said, because the skin care babies receive soon after birth can have long-term effects on their health.
“Does that make you more prone to allergies?”
Researchers stress the need for more consistent, science-based, hospital-to-home practices.
“One of the main points of this post is that we do things differently everywhere,” Kellams said, “and we need to figure out what’s best and develop skin care guidelines.”
Until further research is done, Kellams advises new parents to proceed with caution around bath time.
She recommends occasional sponge baths when needed and abandoning the use of harsh soaps and products to provide the best protection for a newborn’s skin and immune system.
Author’s Note: The video below has been archived since February 15, 2021.