Experts say a "spa experience" may be better for infants than traditional sponge baths.
Bathing slippery, squealing newborn babies is one of nurse Jean Reilly's favorite duties during shifts at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Reilly and a few of her nursery colleagues were instrumental in instituting the soothing tub bath for newborns, a change from the old nursery standard of sponge bathing.
It started with a growing concern for late pre-term babies who look and mostly act like full-term newborns, but are born just a few weeks early, between 35 and 37 weeks gestation.
Late pre-term infants don't have as much body fat as older babies.
When they get chilly, they have to use all of their resources to warm up.
"It was scary when they dropped their temperature lower than we're comfortable with, you know, because you worried about them more," Reilly says.
"So if the baby is trying very hard to stay warm, then it doesn't have the energy to feed well. And everybody knows a baby has to eat well or else, you know, you're gonna have problems," adds nurse Cynthia Loring.
Problems like low blood sugar, weight loss and jaundice.
Decades of experience led the Brigham and Women's nurses to question whether tub bathing those late pre-term infants would preserve their body heat better than sponge bathing.
They designed a study comparing the methods with 100 babies.
"We found that the babies that were bathed in the tub stayed warmer after the bath than the babies who were sponge-bathed," Loring says.
Their research was published and now they're sharing their findings with other newborn nurseries nationwide.
The nurses also found the babies do better when they're wrapped in warm blankets for 30 minutes after their bath.