Breastfeeding is a high priority for the obstetrics staff at Great Bend Regional Hospital. It’s the reason their facility has maintained their status as a High Five for Mom and Baby Hospital. This means that the nursing staff emphasizes skin-to-skin time after birth, and supports and encourages exclusive breastfeeding whenever possible. And recently, the nursing staff implemented a new delayed bathing policy to even further support successful breastfeeding for patients and their newborns.
Tracey Post, a registered nurse in the Women and Children’s Center, is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing education at Fort Hays State University and has discovered new research showing the numerous benefits of delaying the newborn’s first bath for 24 hours. “New research shows that mothers and babies may have a more successful breastfeeding experience if separation is minimized during those very important first hours and days after birth,” Post says. “My goal is to monitor our patients over the next several months and see if it does, in fact, improve our exclusive breastfeeding rates.”
The World Health Organization recommends delaying the first bath for a minimum of 12 hours after birth, but should ideally be delayed for 24 hours. The benefits of delayed bathing include improved stability of the newborn’s temperature and blood sugar levels, along with a scent imprinting that occurs when the vernix from the baby’s skin is allowed to pass to the mother during skin-to-skin time. Vernix, the thick white substance covering the baby’s skin at birth has also been shown to have properties that may help to improve baby’s immunity as well as the health of the baby’s skin when it is not removed right after birth. Finally, by delaying the bath for 24 hours, it gives the mother more time to recover from the birth so she and the family have the opportunity to participate in baby’s first bath.
The hospital’s Women and Children’s Center delivers about 40 babies per month to parents from all over central and southwest Kansas. Dr. Jodi Henrikson and Dr. Aisha Rush are the two obstetricians that see patients at the Heartland Regional Health Clinic on the second floor of the hospital as well as delivering babies in the hospital. Most recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas awarded Great Bend Regional Hospital the highest possible designation as a Blue Distinction Plus Center for Maternity Care.