Oct 122012

“Oh, well, your baby’s considered a biohazard if we don’t give him a bath.” –  Postpartum nurse to mother who declined the first bath.

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 October 12, 2012  L&D Nurse, newborn, postpartum  Add comments

  44 Responses to ““…Your Baby Is Considered A Biohazard If We Don’t Give Him A Bath.””

  1. That’s OK, you can wear gloves.

  2. Oh darn, I guess that means she’ll have to stay here with me instead of anyone insisting she go to the nursery.

  3. And we don’t care that the crap that we’re going to bathe them with has potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in it.

    • When I had my son in December, I refused to allow the hospital to use the Johnson & Johnson crap, so they begged me to “at least let us wash him off with water.” Sigh. When he was moved to the NICU for a heart condition, the NICU nurses told me they had to. They probably did not, but I allowed them to wash him ONCE with water only because I was not going to allow that poison on my baby.

  4. So many posts on this site about Doctors leaving blood on the floor for hours and letting women sit in filth instead of helping them, but you are gonna worry about the baby getting a bath?


    • I realized when I was discharged almost three days later (we were being held for observation due to prolonged rupture of membranes and unknown gbs status) that there was birth fluids, meconium and blood all over the bed frame that splattered during the birth. I had to ask my partner to confirm that it was from my birth and not something that had been there previously and he confirmed that he saw it splatter there, but still.

  5. Ok then, I guess he’ll have to stay in my room and you can’t touch him. Sounds good to me.

  6. This one sounds really familiar to me, like I’ve read this before. And it annoys me as much now as it did back then.

  7. I got this one too, from an otherwise extremely baby friendly hospital. We delayed the first bath for a few hours, and the nurses (gently and politely) pushed to do it when I was napping because they’d have to wear gloves until after the bath. We were fine with the bath, that part wasn’t the big deal at all, but I found the reason for the gloves amusing.

  8. That was me. THe nurse complained that she would have to wear gloves to touch him. I was totally cool with that because honestly, in a hospital, I don’t want anyone to touch him – mrsa and other bugs, no thanks!
    The reason we didn’t want a bath was to keep the vernix intact and let it absorb well. At 37 weeks, he had lots of it!

    • Exactly! “Good, wear gloves. I’d prefer you do that anyhow.”

      I really don’t understand their fascination with the newborn bath.

      • it began with the thought that baby was in a warm pool before hand and would transition well to a warm pool after, but it turned into a strange thing when we add soap etc to the mix…

      • A friend of mine is a L&D nurse and I asked her once. Her reply was: “Well, technically we’re supposed to INSIST on the baby being washed if their mother has a bloodborne illness, and most moms find unwashed babies a little yucky. And its a supposed hazard. But more moms are doing the unwashed thing, and that’s not so bad. I always liked bathing the babies though, its an excuse to play with the kiddos for a little bit longer.”

        She also told me that if a couple brings their own supplies, her hospital will allow the nurses (or parents, or parents with nurse help, etc.) to use that instead of the provided stuff. (Which my friend swears smells like surgical disinfectant.)

        • I’m an LDRP nurse and the bath (in the absence of bloodborne diseases) mystifies me too. I’ve sent folks home without one and the other nurses about had a stroke (“ewww…they’re taking their funky baby home?!?!?”). New babies aren’t “funky” they’re covered in vernix and amniotic fluid that’s naturally moisturinzing, antibacterial, and facilitates breastfeeding because it smells like montgomery gland secretions (those little bumps on your areola). I say leave em “funky” if that’s what that is. It’s a better approach physiologically and you’re avoiding all the crap in the soap.

        • I’ve seen a couple of nurses giving newborn baths…and they were certainly not “playing with the kiddos…” Sometimes I wonder if they have gotten so desensitized that they forget the babies are even alive? They just flop them all around, scrubbing at them while they cry and cry…sigh. One nurse even yelled at a baby for peeing on her arm!

          Something I really don’t like about early bathing is that it generally results in a baby whose temp drops, so baby is put under a warming lamp for generally an hour+…separating baby from the parents.

          • At the hospital I had my youngest in, they handed him to me immediately after his bath and told me to put him against my skin to get his body temperature back up. No warming lights unless absolutely needed, they preferred Mommy to warm him up. I hadn’t planned on having him bathed, but I was half-asleep when the nurse asked and agreed without thinking. I did like the way he smelled before his bath, but I will admit I like the smell of his baby wash as well.

          • I read this out loud to my nursie friend, she says people like that are a disgrace to the calling and need to get sent to the laundry.

            Her words: “Babies may not be the china dolls some people think, but there isn’t any reason to be rough! Its Baby’s very first everything, first bath, first diaper, first outfit, make it count.”

            Her hospital does skin to skin warming apparently. And has decent lactation aids. (she says she had to do a six week course to qualify.)

          • First they said my oldest daughter’s first baby had to have formula because her blood sugar was low. I offered to nurse her but they though I was crazy. I offered to express milk and let them sterilize it, but they still thought I was crazy. So after the poor baby got formula and got her sugar up, they said she had to have a bath and that would make her temperature go down which would probably make her sugar go down again. My daughter had asked me not to go home until she got her baby back, and I had been awake for 24 hours, after sleeping two hours after working a full shift as an aide at the nursing home, and I was exhausted. I said no, no bath. They said it was part of their standard orders. I said, “Call the doctor.” (I knew he would be on our side on this.) “They said, you want us to call him at 3 am?” I said, “Yes. Or you can write down that we refused the bath. ” So they called him and he said fine, no bath, and my daughter finally got her baby. I went home and slept six hours and came back and brought them home. The place felt like inside out and backwards world to me after having my last six babies at home.

        • I watched the nurse bathe my baby in the sink, and I swear she used the hand soap from the wall dispenser. After all the rubbing they did right when she was born I’m shocked she had any skin left, let alone vernix (42 weeker; not much to begin with).

  9. years ago, at a staff meeting, a nurse complained that night shift had left them 6 “dirty” babies. somebody mentioned that if we had had 6 births in one night, we were super busy and so what if they had not had a bath. i used to tease coworkers that we should probably dip babies in a strong solution since they were “dirty” and we had all kinds of fun with this. biohazard indeed! sheesh!

  10. Why are they so obsessed with giving babies baths? My otherwise awesome hospital was strangely insistent about it. They said ‘well, its not necessary, but your baby smells!’
    I thought she smelled amazing

    • Smells like baby, maybe ;D

    • You know, I wonder if the baby actually smelled bad to the nurse. (Not that it would give her ANY right to dictate whether you bathed Baby or not.)

      You know how we’re wired to love some smells, like the way moms always smell warm and comforting to their child?(well, my mother did. And not just when I was a kid either.) Or how a perfume can smell awesome on one person but not the next.

      I wonder if the substances on a newborn’s skin are somehow “formulated” to smell wonderful to the baby’s parents, better than they smell to nonfamily. So you’ll love your kid’s smell so much that you don’t let them get eaten by an animal? (Err, at least that’s how it would’ve started.) Evolutionary good smells.

      How would you test something like that? Have a bunch of mothers sniff their babies, then sniff someone else’s baby and decide which baby smells beter?

      Sorry, really strange thought. But the nurse shouldn’t have said anything unkind. If you can’t say something nice and all.

  11. I always liked the smell of my just-born babies. Call me crazy, but amniotic fluid is more pleasant than any baby soap’s perfume.

    • Exactly! There’s a reason our babies smell so amazing to us after they are born! Mine have all had a sweet almost cotton candy smell to them. :)

    • I didn’t get to hold either of my babies until after their baths, due to the fact they were “emergency” c-sections (and I didn’t realize I could refuse the baths).

      My lucky DH did get to hold them immediately, and said they smelled wonderful. The first one he said smelled like fresh-baked bread. :)

  12. Biohazard? Really? Then I suppose you shouldn’t touch him, huh. Wouldn’t want you to get little newborn boy cooties.

    • Its blood born pathogens they worry about, and its not ridiculous. Universal precautions are important. But the solution to “biohazard baby” is to wear gloves. Its not a big deal, but it really is a biohazard to not wash off body fluids and be in a hospital where multiple people are required to handle the baby.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but after the baby is out and the vitals are taken, why should anyone be “required” to handle the baby? I threw a pedi out of my room for picking my 1 day old baby up and examining her while I was asleep without informing me. The pedi tried to insist the exam “had to be done” but the nurses defended me saying that the baby had been examined after birth so another exam wasn’t necessary until my first pediatrician visit after release. If baby is healthy, maintaining temp, and eating well why would anyone but mom be “required” to handle her?

        • Their job requires they try to do those exams, but you are not required to consent, so you’re not really wrong. But from the staff’s perspective, they are “required” to touch the baby. And if the baby has vernix, amniotic fluid, meconium, blood, maybe even some of the mother’s feces, then yeah, in a hospital that is a biohazard lol.

    • My nurses didn’t care that we refused a bath, it was never even mentioned. They barely needed to touch her anyway. They took her vitals while we held her. The pediatricians didn’t care either. They washed their hands before and after they did anything like they should, but no one treated my daughter like a biohazard.

  13. Pardon me for being juvenile, but the first response that sprang to mind was: “Your MOM’s considered a biohazard!” I must be tired.

  14. Bodily fluids are a biohazard, but you don’t call a baby that!! Most babies do get a bath within hours of birth. A lot of people prefer it. But I could care less if a patient refuses a baby bath! It’s their kid and they can do what they please. While you are in the hospital though it is protocol to fully assess the patients each shift so it is required to touch the baby. As long as I get warned about the baby not recieving a bath I’m cool with whatever. I would prefer NOT to touch another persons bodily fluids if I don’t have to.
    I would tell you what I preferred to do about my baby’s first bath but since it differs from the people’s on this site I’m going to keep that opinion to myself so I don’t get attacked.

    • Well I would like to hear! I personally was more than happy to have my babies bathed after an hour or so of skin-to-skin right after birth. And to get cleaned up myself! I also have very pleasant associations with the scent of baby shampoo so being handed a baby who smelled like that was totally fine to me! People freak out about carcinogens and other things, but with all the other things I could worry about I’ve decided that I’m not too worried about that one thing. Partly because I don’t bathe my babies every day. They do NOT need it! So they get exposed to the baby shampoo maybe a couple times a month. I’m not going to worry about it.

      All that being said, I think people should be able to decline the hospital baby baths if they so choose. Hospital personnel always washed their hands AND put on gloves any time they touched me, so why would it be so much of a hassle to put on gloves when you handle the baby? I mean really!

    • I had a client who preferred that her baby be taken to the warmer immediately after birth, get cleaned up and wrapped into a baby burrito, THEN brought to her for snuggling. I do understand the benefits of skin to skin and everything, and we did talk about it prenatally, but if a mom has the heebie jeebies about it, I am not going to insist she is wrong and has to make the choices I would make. Her baby, her choice.

      And fwiw – she had him (and the several babies that followed) without any pain meds or other interventions. And she liked coached pushing with people counting for her. She made the choices that worked for her.

  15. See, one more reason to birth in the water. My babies got a nice rinse off on the way to my chest, no soap needed. Water alone is as gentle as can be :)

  16. I got the exact same speech when my 9 month old was born. They were fine with me declining the bath right after birth, but once I was out of the delivery room they really started pushing for the bath. I finally gave in when he was around 6 hrs old after a nurse and my delivering midwife harassed me in front of my older kids and made a big show out of putting a biohazard sign on the door and forcing my IL’s and older boys to wash their hands repeatedly.
    Of course his temp dropped post bath and they insisted skin to skin wouldn’t be sufficient. At least they brought the warmer into my room *sigh*

  17. Actually, this was mine (the one before this, about checking the epidural site or cesarean incision, is mine too, which is how I know – I sent them in together). Funny, though, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one with crazy nurses that think unbathed babies are biohazards. ;)

    I eventually consented to a bath, but made her do it in our postpartum room since they don’t allow parents into the nursery. She dragged a giant warmer into our room, insisting that he would need to stay in the warmer after. I argued, saying skin-to-skin would be best and eventually gave in (I was EXHAUSTED). He stayed in the warmer for an hour and his temp was still low, so she threatened to take him to the NICU.

    I refused to let him leave and told her to give me fifteen minutes with him on my chest. Fifteen minutes later, she came in and ta-da! He was warm. She did a lot of eye-rolling and muttering under her breath. She also shoved a giant wad of vernix down into his ear while giving him a bath that made him fail his hearing test 3 times. You know what’s NOT fun? Having to take your infant to a hospital 45 minutes away for a hearing screen at three days postpartum with your almost-2-year-old and a sore vagina for them to tell you that oh, he’s totally normal (just like I thought).

  18. I do understand wearing gloves to handle a newborn who hasn’t been bathed. But with babies I’ve seen born where the parents didn’t want baby bathed, the nurses never said a word about it. They put on their gloves without a word or sour look. They didn’t make a big deal out of it at all. And lots of parents I’ve worked with brought their own baby washes and gave the first bath themselves.

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