Like many, you might remember that when you were little, that bath time always came after dinner or after a certain length of time after eating a snack.
A bath, a shower, a swim in the pool or at the beach, terrorized our parents with the thought we might accidently drown because of being unable to digest our meal. This belief is explained differently nowadays and is called cold shock response, even though it has been explained as false, many parents still worry about it, especially when they are talking about their baby.
Cold shock response is a common misconception
Our parents believed that going in the water presented certain dangers and they thought (because someone told them this) that the greatest danger for this was while they were digesting food. For this very reason, many of them starved themselves for hours without even having a snack, so they could go in the water. Many of us might be able to recall how boring that was, while enduring the city heat (during summer of course) and asking our mother every few seconds if enough time had passed to go into the pool.
Overtime, it was discovered that the problem didn’t have to do anything with the digestion but the temperature change. What was dangerous was the drastic temperature change from sitting in the hot sun and then suddenly being immersed in cold water that was a considerably different temperature. This produces cold shock response that has a physiological response making the person unconscious temporarily while in the water; this is of course very dangerous.
Our dear parents genuinely believed that what they were doing was correct, by letting us play out in the hot sun and getting hotter and hotter. But in reality, they were putting us in more danger because this was increasing our internal core temperature. Ideally, they should have let us go into the water gradually after eating to get acclimatized slowly and not running in, as most of us would once they told us we could finally go in the water. Most of us are still alive because that wasn’t our destiny.
The digestion, on the other hand has absolutely nothing to do with cold shock response, but a very heavy meal might increase your chances of suffering from cold shock response (just as doing strenuous exercise right before having a cold shower, or jumping into an ice-cold body of water, etc.)
So the question is, when should you bath your baby?
The reality is we have already answered that question, but we will repeat it so the point is clear: it doesn’t matter when. It isn’t a big deal if your baby has already eaten or not. Many people decide to bath their baby after they have eaten, because their baby becomes relaxed and then falls asleep, or some parents choose to bath their babies before eating because once they are nursed, they fall asleep. Overall, it is a personal decision, to bath before or after eating.
Both cases are correct because the baby’s health is never at risk. The only thing that should be taken into serious consideration is the temperature of the bath water, making sure there isn’t a drastic difference between the water and your baby’s body (the bath water should be around 35 to 37C). If the water is at 26 degrees Celsius, we would be putting our baby at risk if we quickly place him in the water, whether he has eaten or not.