If there’s one thing most parents can agree on, it’s that you probably shouldn’t stick your baby in a sandwich bag. That’s why one British mother was shocked when her premature son was placed in a plastic bag directly after birth.
Jennifer Derwent had her son 10 weeks early after experiencing nothing more than a mild stomach ache when she was out shopping. Although she didn’t think much of it, her husband took her to the hospital because he had a premonition that she was about to give birth. His instincts paid off when their son, Isaac, was born later the same day.
Isaac, who weighed 3 pounds, 11 ounces at birth, was placed inside a plastic bag as soon as he arrived in the delivery room. Derwent said she was told the bag kept him warm while doctors readied his incubator.
Although the Derwent family was startled and confused by the use of a plastic bag to keep Isaac’s temperature up, the practice isn’t uncommon for premature infants. In the United States, neonatologists (doctors who specialize in premature infants) have long used special plastic wrap spread across preemies’ bassinets to retain their body heat.
Preemies often struggle with temperature regulation, so using a layer of plastic to keep in their own body heat allows them to conserve energy that would otherwise be wasted on maintaining their temperature. When preemies’ body temperatures drop by even 1 degree, their oxygen needs can increase by as much as 10 percent. Keeping them warm is a critical aspect of preemie care.
Although plastic wrap for preemies isn’t new, these special plastic bags for use in hospital delivery rooms are a more modern invention. A 2012 study found that 20 – 29 percent of hospitals used these specially designed plastic bags in the delivery room for babies with low birth weights. Although these wraps look like generously sized sandwich bags, they are actually made specifically for preemies and cost only about $3 each. As medical equipment goes, that’s a steal, and it may explain why the bags are becoming more common in hospital delivery rooms around the world.
If you find yourself giving birth to a preemie, don’t be shocked if doctors put your baby in a glorified sandwich bag. Sometimes putting a baby in a bag really is the best thing you do can do for them.
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