Fort Worth, Texas,
16:44 PM

Water births, Thalasso baths & neck floats

The Doc Smitty addresses these trends

A recent report was released about a baby who was delivered via water birth earlier this year (in Texas) that died from pneumonia and a rare infection presumably contracted at delivery. There are several details about this case that need to be specifically addressed (I’ll get to those in a minute).

The growing trend of water birth needs to be addressed on many levels. First off, we need to come up with a definition of what a water birth actually is. Does it mean sitting in a tub during the first stage of labor or going all the way to delivering the baby into the water?

Secondly, we need to be clear about the benefits of water birth. There have been a few reviews that show that water birth can decrease the amount of medicine used during labor.

Finally, can we all agree that if we are going to be using water birth, there should be guidelines and a trained professional (with specific training in water birth) available?

The baby who died in Texas was delivered in a circulating tub, with difficult to clean tubes. The water was drawn from a well, purified with commercially available drops and left to circulate for 2 days prior to delivery. We can pretty safely say that none of these strategies would be in the guidelines.

If you are considering water birth, ask questions. Make sure that you understand the benefits and any potential risks.

If you need or want details, check out this article by a great friend of mine, Dr. Clay Jones: An Update on Water Immersion During Labor and Delivery.

Thalasso Bath Method

A “cute” and “relaxing” video is circulating around social media of twin babies in a bath who, “don’t even seem to know they are born yet.”

The video highlights a bathing method known as the Thalasso method which was developed by a French nurse, named Sonia Rochel. She gives babies a bath in relatively deep water, with water running over their face and eyes and then submersing the babies to where just their face and mouth are above water. The proposed benefit is that the bath is an environment that mimics the womb and thus is calming and peaceful for the baby.

I say that the videos are “cute” and “relaxing” because that’s what all the commenters say, but, frankly, I find it more “anxiety-provoking” than anything else. I have seen the nurse say in several interviews that this should only be done with a health care provider who is familiar with the technique, but I doubt that this prevents many people from trying it out at home.

Consider that the babies in the videos are relaxed and happy, but remember that they are putting their best foot forward. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they cut a few videos of screaming, wiggly babies. Seeing that would make this technique look a lot less safe. Just a few things to think about.

Water Neck Floatie Things for Babies

This is, by far, the easiest one to pick on. It’s basically an inflatable flotation device that you stick around your little baby’s neck and leave perilously floating in the water. Apparently, there are even spas cropping up where you can pay to have your baby do this and then be taught how to give them a full body massage.

I am all for physical touch with your baby, but I think we can skip the floating around. Lest you say, surely parents aren’t completely trusting these things to actually help keep their child floating on their own … check out the pictures. I’m hoping there are parents right outside the frames of these things, but often there are 4 or 5 infants floating in a single pool with no parent hands in sight. If you want your baby to like water and physical touch, let’s go ahead and combine the two and hold them in the water.

We should evaluate anything we see as a new trend with skeptical eyes and with a grounding in common sense. If you have questions, ask your pediatrician.

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page. He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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