Typically when a baby is born, the infant is washed within an hour after birth and neatly placed in a pink and blue blanket. However, research is now showing the benefits of delaying baby’s bath for 12 to 24 hours.
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics reported that a number of immune substances are present in both amniotic fluid and the vernix – the waxy coating on a newborn’s skin – that are effective at protecting baby immediately after birth.
The Department of Health and the World Health Association have suggested people wait at least six hours before bathing a newborn baby.
On a local level, all of Memorial Healthcare System Hospitals are now encouraging new mothers not to wash babies right after birth. “Before a baby is born, we let new parents know we changed our process of bathing newborns and now delay their first bath for 12 to 24 hours,” said Nicole Beauregard, who is nurse manager of labor and delivery at Memorial Hospital Miramar:
“Myself along with the lactation team thought about how we could bring this philosophy to our hospital. While some parents still opt to have their babies washed right away, we make sure we explain the benefits of delaying the bath.”
Those benefits include sooner bonding time for baby and parents as well as less stress for the little one. “When a baby is born, they have amniotic fluid and vernix on their skin. By washing them, it washes away the good bacteria away,” Beauregard said. “The baby is less vulnerable to bacterias if the bath is prevented. Giving the baby a bath also drops the baby’s temperature, and they burn their glucose storage.”
Beauregard also said delaying the bath makes breastfeeding smoother. “When the baby is placed on mom’s chest to breastfeed, baby recognizes the scent of amniotic fluid,” she said.
Another factor that isn’t often considered in giving the bath is mom’s age. “Now that we have an older population giving birth, we have more mothers with blood sugar issues, and that can also affect baby,” Beauregard said.
“When a baby is given a bath, the baby will typically fall into a deep sleep and can’t be immediately fed, which can cause a variety of issues for the newborn. Maybe it could’ve all been avoided by not giving that bath right away.”