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Traditionally, newborns have been sponge bathed as part of their normal, routine care, and tub bathing has been deferred until the umbilical cord has fallen off. However, literature evidences show superiority of tub bathing over sponge bathing.
The objective of a study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing was to compare the effects of tub bathing versus traditional sponge bathing on newborn body-temperature stability; umbilical cord healing; infant contentment; and maternal pleasure and confidence with the bath.
The present study recruited 51 mother-infant pairs with newborns receiving sponge bath and an equal set where the newborns were given tub bath.
The results indicated that tub bathing provides advantages of maintaining body temperature and preventing temperature loss in healthy newborns as compared to sponge bathing. Tub-bathed babies were found to be statistically and clinically more content than sponge bathed babies. Meanwhile, mothers whose babies were tub bathed significantly reported higher pleasure than mothers whose babies were sponge bathed. On the contrary, no significant differences were found between the tub bath and sponge bath with respect to cord healing scores and maternal confidence.
Therefore, the findings suggested that tub bathing is safer and a more pleasurable bathing option for infants and their mothers. Its advantages include – body-temperature stability and safety in cord integrity. Tub bathing should be recommended as the method of choice for bathing healthy term newborns as it provides added benefit of enhancing family-centered care. Furthermore, tub bathing does not alter cord healing scores, hence, transitioning to tub bathing seems safe for neonates.
Source: Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. 2004 Nov;33(6):704-12.