In most hospitals, newborns are washed soon after birth, but there are lots of reasons why you may want to wait.
The World Health Organization suggests waiting at least 24 hours before giving your new baby their first bath. Many studies have shown that babies need this time to adjust to their environment and learn how to perform certain bodily function - like regulating their temperature. Giving your baby a bath too soon can disrupt this natural process.
A newborn’s’ skin is typically coated with a protective substance called Vernix Caseosa. This waxy coating is what protects babies skin from amniotic fluid during pregnancy. It acts as a natural moisturizer and cleaner that has antimicrobial properties that can kill bacteria and fungus. Washing this off too soon can keep some babies from receiving its’ full benefit. A good towel rub is all that’s needed to remove any amniotic fluid, blood and meconium.
Here are 5 benefits of delaying Baby’s first bath
Stabilizes infant blood sugar - Giving your baby a bath too soon after birth can cause low blood sugar. In the first few hours after birth, a baby has to adjust to life outside the uterus, including losing the placenta as a source of blood sugar. Bathing causes crying, stress and the release of stress hormones. Stress hormones can cause a baby’s blood sugar to drop, which can make a baby too sleepy to wake up and breastfeed, causing the blood sugar to drop even more.
Improved maternal-infant bonding - New babies need to snuggle skin-to-skin with their mom be given a chance to try to breastfeed. Those first few minutes of life are not meant to be spent with a nurse or any other healthcare professionals. These precious few minutes are meant for bonding with your baby. As long as the baby does not need help breathing or immediate resuscitation, babies need to be held by their mother. Infants who are held skin-to-skin on mom’s chest have better blood sugar and temperature control and have an easier time learning to breastfeed.
No baby lotion required - Vernix is a natural skin moisturizer and skin protectant. Babies need skin protection during the transition from the amniotic fluid into the air environment. If you delay the bath, there is no need for artificially scented baby lotion. Instead, you get to enjoy that new-baby smell.
Everyone will wear gloves - Hospital workers are always supposed to wear gloves when caring for an unbathed baby, to prevent exposure to body fluids such as amniotic fluid and blood. Some studies have shown that glove-wearing keeps babies safer too, by preventing transmission of common viruses and other infections from workers to babies.
- Parents get to enjoy bathing their baby- After you have had time to recover, you can more easily participate in baby’s first bath and it becomes a special bonding moment for you and your baby. You can use whatever special baby bath products you choose and watch your baby coo and smile.
Remember, requesting that your baby’s first bath be delayed is something you should discuss with your nurses and doctor in advance! Educate yourself and speak to your doctor about what you should do for your baby.