San Francisco Doula Bay Area Blog

Stop! I’m Not Dirty: 8 Reasons Why You Should Delay Your Baby’s First Bath

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In the hours after your baby is born, there’s a good chance a labor and delivery nurse will offer to bathe your baby. It’s standard protocol at many hospitals to wait 8-24 hours to give baby his or her first bath, and up to 48 hours after a cesarian birth. The World Health Organization now recommends delaying baby’s first bath for at least 24 hours. Babies are not born dirty and there are many benefits to delaying their first bath.

Here are 8 reasons why you should delay a baby’s first bath:

  1. Improved Breastfeeding: Successful breastfeeding begins with immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact. Babies who breastfeed within the first hour of being born have a much easier time with properly latching. The hours after your baby is born should be spent bonding and recovering. Interrupting this time with medical “procedures” or a bath is unnecessary.

  2. Reduced Risk of Infection: Your baby might look “cheesy” when they’re born, this white, waxy substance is called vernix. Scientists have identified lipids, amino acids, proteins, antibacterial, and antimicrobial compounds. It’s a natural antibacterial ointment and can protect your baby against common bacterial infections that can be transmitted during delivery.

  3. No Need for Lotion: Vernix is a natural moisturizer and protects your baby’s skin from the environment. Don’t rub it off, rub it in. Plus, it contains that new baby smell that helps you and your baby bond during breastfeeding.

  4. Improved Temperature Control: Inside your body, you keep your baby at a cozy 98.6 degrees. Your baby has to work to keep themselves warm in the hours after they’re born. Bathing them too soon can cause hypothermia.

  5. Stabilizing Blood Sugar: Now that your baby is born they no longer have their placenta to maintain blood sugar levels. If you bathe a baby too soon after birth, they run the risk of emitting too many stress hormones which will cause their blood sugar to drop making them tired and less likely to breastfeed. In some cases, this fatigue can result in neurological injury.

  6. Improved Maternal-Infant Bonding: Babies need to be placed on their mother’s chest immediately after birth. Skin-to-skin with mom helps to encourage breastfeeding and to maintain overall wellness with your new baby.

  7. Everyone Will Wear Gloves: To prevent exposure to body fluids such as blood or amniotic fluid, hospital staff is required to wear gloves when handling an unbathed baby. Wearing gloves can also help to prevent the transmission of common viruses and infections.

  8. Parents Get to Enjoy Giving the First Bath: Participating in your baby’s first bath can be a special bonding moment. If you decide to give your baby their first bath in the hospital you might want to consider bringing your own personal care products. Hospitals often use commercial soaps, which may contain ingredients you don’t want to expose your newborn to.

    If you decide to delay bathing be sure to include it in your birth plan so that your nurses are aware of your wishes. Delayed bathing is not yet protocoled at some hospitals, but you can still request it.

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