Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida recently shared that "swaddle baths" are becoming a preferred way to bathe baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

By Maressa Brown
July 19, 2018
Premature baby's hand
Credit: Kristina Bessolova/shutterstock

Parents and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) take a variety of measures to keep premature infants healthy and comfortable. Unfortunately, bathing delicate babies born prematurely has always been a bit of a challenge, because the stimulation that is involved in a regular, or even sponge, bath can be overwhelming. They also struggle to keep their body temperature up during the routine. In turn, L.O.s often react with crying and distress, which is undoubtedly heart-wrenching for everyone involved. 

"Before, it was all about giving the baby a bath fast, so they didn’t get too cold. It mattered less whether they enjoyed it," Joan Muth, RN, a nurse in the NICU at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. "Now, it’s more developmentally correct to have the babies feel comfortable and secure. There are clinical reasons that we don’t want bath time to be stressful."

And to that end, Muth and her team are practicing and sharing a unique, lovely way they've been bathing preemies: via swaddle bath. It looks just as relaxing and comforting as it sounds.

During this unconventional bath, the newborn is swaddled in a soft, snug blanket, then gently lowered—while in the swaddle–into the warm water.

In a press release, the hospital notes, "With swaddle bathing, the blanket helps to keep the baby warm and snug, providing a more womb-like environment. Each limb is gently unwrapped and washed, one at a time, and then wrapped up in the blanket again."

Annike, the mother of Elizabeth, the baby girl featured in the video, admits that it can be intimidating to think about bathing her fragile daughter. "She’s so tiny, I don’t want to break her,” Annike shared. "I rely on the nurses a lot."

But swaddle bathing gives everyone more peace of mind around the process. It just looks spa-like! And you can tell from Elizabeth's relaxed face that she's not only comfortable—she may even be blissed-out. Who knew a simple bath could be such a beautiful thing?