Behavioral and neurohormonal responses of mothers and their children during two bath conditions
Every day bath routines are ideal opportunities to interact with babies through touch and their multiple senses.1-5
In addition, research has shown that these types of interaction, in association with tactile stimuli, decrease salivary cortisol levels. This study measured whether a baby’s bath can influence mother/baby behavior and mother’s and baby’s salivary cortisol responses.6
Participants in this study were 19 healthy mothers and their babies between 6 and 18 months old. Participants were divided into two bathing groups: baths with water only (the control group) and baths with water and a scented bath product* (the experimental group). Two home visits for each mother-baby dyad were conducted.
- Results were measured based on the Nursing Child Assessment Teaching Scale (NCATS), which allows observation and ratings of child-caregiver interactions
- Behavioral cues were observed, such as:
- Subtle engagement cues (eye widening, facial brightening, hands opening)
- Potent engagement cues (facial gaze or focus, mutual gaze, smile)
- Subtle disengagement cues (hiccough, facial grimace, eyes clinched)
- Potent disengagement cues (crying, whining, fussing)
- There was no significant change in NCATS scores after a bath in either group
- Regardless of bath condition, mothers’ and babies’ salivary cortisol levels decreased after a bath
- Control group mother—before-bath cortisol level = .154μg/dl; after-bath cortisol level = .134 μg/dl; P<.01
- Control group baby—before-bath cortisol level = .131 μg/dl; after- bath cortisol level = .095; P<.05
- Experiment group mother—before-bath cortisol level = .204 μg/dl; after-bath cortisol level = .174 μg/dl; P<.05
- Experiment group baby—before-bath cortisol level = .177 μg/dl; after-bath cortisol level = .134 μg/dl; P=<.10
- In the group that used the scented bath product, higher after-bath maternal NCATS scores were associated with lower neonatal after-bath cortisol levels
Research demonstrates that bath time routines can positively impact a baby's growth and development. In this study, it was confirmed that a bath reduces stress for mothers and their baby. A scented bath product may enhance this experience as well. When mothers added the JOHNSON’S® test product to the bath, higher after-bath maternal NCATS scores and lower babies’ after-bath cortisol levels were observed. Gently fragranced bath products should be used to further relieve stress and enhance bonding for mother and baby.4-8
*JOHNSON'S® HEAD-TO-TOE® with 0.3% Jubbly Bubbly fragrance.
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6. White-Traut R, Watanabe K, Wiegand B, et al. Behavioral and neurohormonal responses of mothers and their children during two bath conditions. Poster presented at: University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing. 2014; Chicago, IL.
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