The LeBoyer Bath

A LeBoyer Bath refers to one of the important elements of Frederick LeBoyer’s famous, revolutionary, and non-violent birthing method, which he first published in the early 70’s.The following are just some of the editorial reviews of Birth Without Violence, describing some of the reasons why it revolutionized the way many caregivers began to bring our children into the world:

“A major breakthrough . . . Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated.”
(Journal of Nurse-Midwifery )
“Frederick Leboyer was the first physician to bring an enlightened perspective to parents, physicians, and nurses. . . . He taught those who would listen a fundamental lesson: treat a newborn infant as if it is aware of everything going on around it and being done to it. Because it is!”
(Suzanne Arms, author of Immaculate Deception )
“Amazing . . . Birth without Violence is a sensual experience, visually and verbally, as its poetic prose blends with the pictures like the unfolding of a happy dream. . . . The impact is strong, [Leboyer’s] appeal inviting.” (The Boston Globe )
“One of the twenty books that changed the world.” (Utne Reader )
“Birth without Violence is a work of art, and Frederick Leboyer is the artist of this century who will have the greatest influence on the health and way of life of the next generations.”
( Michel Odent, M.D., author of Birth Reborn )
“This book, which teaches us just how conscious babies are at birth, serves to expand the focus of a nurturing birth environment to include both baby and mother.”
(New Age Journal )


Giving a “LeBoyer” Bath Successfully

ACHI International

ACHI has supported Dr. Frederick LeBoyer’s techniques because we have consistently seen babies do better in quiet and with the lights dimmed at birth. However, we were reluctant to let our own babies out of our arms once we had given birth and knew many other women felt the same way. After observing babies bathed (“LeBoyer Style”) we feel it is a good and sound practice if the baby is breathing well and vigorous and the room and water is warm. Part of our hesitation about the bath was seeing so many poorly done, with the babies disturbed and the parents frustrated.

It is my personal observation as a five time mother and midwife that all babies are somewhat (in greatly varying degrees) traumatized (slightly injured, or at least experience pain or anguish) by birth. Aside from my personal experience this has been observed by many distinguished scientists and psychologists. Even psychiatrists have noted the importance of birth trauma in personality development of the individual. ACHI believes all babies benefit from a bath because it helps in the transition from uterus to outside to be as smooth and unfearful as possible. But the bath seems noticeably helpful to babies who have had a difficult time in labor and particularly with descent (coming down the birth canal).

The most frequently asked question is, “When do we proceed with the bath, and how long after birth?” The ideal time depends on several factors. First, well after breathing is well-established and the baby has been looked over. It’s been established that the baby is in good condition and needs no assistance. Secondly, the baby is bathed when the mother is ready to relinquish her baby to someone else’s arms. She often needs assistance with the bath and if the tub is on the floor, she may not feel strong enough to squat with the baby in her arms. The importance of the mother being ready for the infant to come out of her arms cannot be emphasized enough. The baby has been part of her body for 9 months and it’s highly important that her personal feelings and curiosity about her baby be satisfied first. And thirdly, the bath should follow nursing, in our opinion, because it’s wise to get the oxytocin hormones flowing to help the uterus contract, insuring an uneventful third stage (birth of the placenta). In addition, LeBoyer has said on a number of occasions the bath can occur anytime during the first three days, but he prefers doing it as soon after birth as possible. We feel this is a good idea because the bath does assist the baby in overcoming the stress and perhaps pain of birth.

On a practical level it is important that the water be deep enough for the baby to float and warm enough to be comfortable. In order for the baby to relax properly and not get cold, water should be deep enough to submerge the baby to the face with several inches to spare. ACHI therefore suggests a large, deep styrofoam ice chest be used if a very deep baby bath cannot be found. Since doing the bath does take the baby out of his mother’s arms, unless she feels well enough to give the bath–we suggest that the bath be done in the birth room. There the mother can see and touch her baby during the bath. Jostling unsettles most newborns. Babies will have a moro reflex, which is an innate fear of falling, from jerky, unsure movements with a baby. When the mother hands the baby to the person giving the baby a bath (often the father), or when changing the baby’s position, careful transitions must be made. Also, tense, unsure parents tend to cause the same response in their babies.

Have the person bathing the baby squat slowly (unless the bath is on a table), holding the baby close to the body. Then with the baby’s head positioned in the bend of the arm, forearm supporting the baby’s back and hand holding both feet, slowly slide the baby into the water feet first When the baby’s body is in the water up to the face, remove your grip on the baby’s feet and move your forearm so that you are only supporting the baby’s head, keeping it just above water in the bend of your arm, while the baby’s body is floating free.

You should visibly see the baby relax. The time the baby is in water depends on how long changes continue to occur in his face and body movements. A very short time may be indicated or it may take a longer time for the baby to adjust to the water and then relax. It is different with every baby. Continue the bath until you get “good indicators” from the baby such as a smile, cooing, good eye-to-eye contact, and perhaps vigorously sucking his fist–indicating that he now needs his mother!

When these things occur, bring the baby out of the water by grasping the ankles with the hand, thus bringing the forearm under the back, with the baby’s head still supported in the bend of the elbow. Now lift the baby’s head first slowly bringing it out of the water. Re-wrap the baby quickly in a pre-warmed receiving blanket or towel. The ratio of the skin-to-body weight in a newborn is very great and many benefits are lost if the baby gets cold. I have noticed reluctant nursers usually nurse vigorously after a bath and they sleep soundly.

And finally, as a beautiful, healthy new baby sleeps soundly, parents can rightly feel they have done a good job and rest themselves, because–of course–birth is only the beginning.

Reference: BIRTH NOTES
Association for Childbirth at Home, Int’l. Vol.11 No. I


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