Up to what gestational age can you apply the water method?
The water method can be applied to deceased babies of any gestational age. Of course, it offers the greatest benefits in young babies, when the skin is most fragile. When a child has deceased and been in the stomach for a longer period of time the skin is extremely fragile which is where the water method can be very beneficial, even in older babies. The baby’s posture is also more natural in the water. Photos are sometimes taken in the water and the child is then dressed or wrapped in a blanket and laid out in a dry area. Anything is possible.
Is special water required?
No, normal tap water is fine. Of course the composition of amniotic fluid, or strong water, is different to that of tap water. As the child will only be kept for a few days until the funeral or cremation, no special water is necessary.
What temperature should the water be?
Cold water is best for the long term in order to retain the baby’s colour. In order to say goodbye and to touch the baby, the child can also be placed in lukewarm water. The container can be kept either in or out of the fridge. If it is being stored in the fridge, the container can be comfortably kept outside of it for up to one hour with no additional cooling required. If it’s to be longer then ice cubes (in the shape of a star for example) may be added if necessary. Another option for keeping the container out of the fridge is by placing it on ice packs. Remember to place a cloth underneath as it could be slippery. Funeral directors also have special cooling plates on which you can put the basin. They must ensure that the cooling plates are not set too high as the water could freeze. This is another option for keeping the water cold if not using a fridge.
Should the water be changed?
It would only be necessary to change the water if it becomes discoloured or smells. A sickly smell may occur after a prolonged period. The best thing to do is to place the container with the child in it under a gently running cold tap and leave it to run for a while. This will effectively clean the water.
How long can I keep the baby in the water?
We now know that you can keep a child looking presentable for up to a week in cold water. However what you will see is that the skin absorbs more and more water whereby after a few days the child will appear swollen. After a while the child’s colour will also change. At this point it really is time for the final farewell, however difficult.
Is it possible to place a fetus that is outside of water for some time, in the water later?
Yes, this is possible. Even if the fetus was outside of the water for over 24 hours, it can be placed in water. The color of the fetus will be lighter and the shape will change in a possitive way. However, it is possible that the color will not be as light as it would be if the fetus was placed in the water immediately after birth.
Can the water method be applied if the baby needs a post-mortem examination?
Yes, in general it can. Check with the hospital first as the doctor performing the post-mortem may not be fully aware of the water method. It may also not be possible in your case. It is recommended to take pictures immediately after the birth, before the child goes into the water. This could be important for the doctor carrying out the post-mortem. It should be noted by the doctor or midwife on the post-mortem request that the baby was placed in water straight after the birth. Following a post-mortem examination it is no longer recommended to place the child in water.
What information should I provide parents?
It’s important to tell that the foetus can change colour, gets a lighter colour after some time in the cold water. Explain them how to change the water and practice it together. Offer something to the parents to bury the child in, in case they didn’t arrange it. For example a blanket, basket or wooden coffin.