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  • Writer's pictureJodi Selander

Don’t Bathe Those Brand New Babies!

The practice of delaying the newborn's first bath is gaining recognition for its potential benefits in neonatal care.

It’s getting more popular to delay the baby’s first bath. The first moments after a baby is born are critical for their health and well-being. Delaying the initial bath has been associated with several benefits:

  1. Enhanced Bonding: Parents want the chance to bond with their newborn immediately after the birth, and taking the baby away to be bathed delays that bonding period. Cuddling your newborn immediately, for an extended period, gives you and your baby a chance to get to know each other, and relax together after the tremendous effort you both have just gone through.

  2. Reduction in Hypothermia: When a baby enters the world, they experience a significant drop in temperature as they transition from the warmth of the mother's womb to the ambient room temperature. Engaging in skin-to-skin bonding time immediately after birth helps in warming up the baby and reduces the risk of hypothermia. This practice not only aids in maintaining the baby's body temperature but also fosters bonding between the newborn and parents.

  3. Decreased Rates of Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia, characterized by low blood sugar levels, can have adverse effects on a newborn's brain function. Research, including a 2015 study, suggests that delaying the newborn's first bath may lower the incidence of hypoglycemia by up to 50%, regardless of whether the infant is considered high-risk or low-risk. This finding underscores the importance of delaying bathing as a protective measure for newborns' metabolic stability.

  4. Delayed Bathing and Breastfeeding: In addition to the aforementioned benefits, delaying the newborn's first bath has been associated with increased rates of breastfeeding initiation. A recent study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic further supports this correlation. Nurses have observed that babies who undergo delayed bathing tend to be more active during feedings. This positive association encourages mothers to engage in breastfeeding, contributing to the overall health and well-being of both the baby and the mother.

  5. Take Advantage of the Vernix: The baby is born covered with vernix (the thick, white cheese-like substance coating the baby’s skin). It’s technically called vernix caseosa, and it protects baby’s skin while they are in the womb, “swimming” in amniotic fluid. There are many benefits of letting baby’s skin absorb this substance, and even rubbing it in like lotion:

    1. Vernix has anti-microbial properties, protecting baby’s skin against harmful bacteria;

    2. it rejuvenates the skin, even having wound-healing properties;

    3. and it moisturizes baby’s skin, which protects it from drying out after the birth.

By prioritizing skin-to-skin bonding, delaying bathing not only reduces the risk of hypothermia and hypoglycemia but also promotes breastfeeding initiation. This is great news for those parents who plan to breast/chestfeed their newborns. And, you now have more research to share with your birth team if you plan to delay baby’s first bath.

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