Bathing in the NICU can be a stressful experience on both babies and their families. The NICU environment is significantly different than the mother’s womb, and research shows early neonatal experiences can alter brain function and structure.
Studies have shown that NICU stress is associated with brain development in preterm infants.1 Preemies have less fat to maintain body temperature and are easily overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. Reducing the discrepancy between womb and NICU/SCN environment is vital in supporting and maintaining the brain development of an infant in the NICU.
A 2014 study performed on randomized premature infants in the NICU observed both the babies’ temperature loss and stress observed from facial expressions and crying during bath time.2 The babies were both swaddle-bathed and conventionally-bathed. The results concluded that both temperature loss and crying time was significantly lower in swaddle-bathed newborns compared to those that were conventionally-bathed. The study showed that swaddle bathing can help improve overall bathing experience for NICU babies.
The TurtleTub from Catapult Products, LLC. is a swaddle-bathing system designed for the NICU and Well-Baby units. The TurtleTub features ribs and high sides to support the infant, and a fleece blanket with thermal properties to help maintain the baby’s body temperature during the entire duration of bathing. Additionally, a temperature strip is featured within the tub so that water temperature can be monitored and maintained consistently.
With the TurtleTub, families can be involved during the entire swaddle-bathing process, offering a parenting activity while their child remains in the NICU. The “first bath” proves to be a strong emotional memory for families in the NICU. Learning to care for their child in the NICU allows for families to take that education home and continue the quality of care while no longer relying on neonatal staff support.
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¹ Smith, CG, et al. NICU Stress is Associated with Brain Development in Preterm Infants.” Ann Neruol. 2011 Oct: 70(4): 541-549.
² Edraki M, et al. Comparing the effects of swaddled and conventional bathing methods on body temperature and crying duration in premature infants: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Caring Sciences, 2014; 3 (2), 83-91.