Most hospitals bathe your baby soon after they are born. However, there may be several benefits to waiting before bathing them. Delayed newborn baths have been shown to help regulate their temperature and provide more time for you to bond with your baby. Delayed baths might also encourage breastfeeding success and reduce your baby’s stress levels.
Here’s a look at some of the benefits of delayed bathing and how to prepare your baby for their first bath.
6 Reasons It’s Recommended to Delay Your Baby’s First Bath
So how long should you delay a baby’s first bath? The World Health Organization (WHO) says waiting 24 hours to bathe your baby after birth is ideal. If waiting 24 hours isn’t possible, they recommend waiting at least six hours. Here’s a look at the benefits of delayed bathing after welcoming your newborn:
1. Maintain a Protective Barrier From Infection
Delaying your baby’s first bath helps maintain the vernix, or the protective barrier on their skin, for as long as possible. The barrier is a natural emollient that absorbs into their skin slowly over 24 hours. Leaving it in place can protect against bacteria, therefore preventing infection and jumpstarting your newborn’s immune system.
2. Reduce Stress Levels
Delayed newborn baths have also been shown to lower a baby’s stress levels. One study revealed that babies bathed 24 hours after birth were calmer than those cleaned immediately.
Skin-to-skin contact has also been shown to stabilize newborns’ respiratory patterns and heart rates, so delaying your baby’s first bath and holding them might help you keep them calm. Mothers can also experience reduced stress when they actively care for their newborns.
3. Regulate Body Temperature
Babies find it difficult to maintain their temperature after birth, and getting wet can make it even more challenging, even if the bath is warm. However, research suggests that waiting to bathe a newborn until their temperature stabilizes is beneficial.
Waiting to bathe your newborn keeps their vernix intact. The vernix protects a newborn from heat loss and can prevent a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature. Waiting to bathe your baby and leaving the vernix in place might prevent hypothermia, as babies in the study weren’t as cold as those bathed sooner after birth.
Regulating your baby’s body temperature can also prevent them from experiencing low blood sugar and breathing problems caused by hypothermia.
4. Prevent Dry and Irritated Skin
The vernix barrier also acts as a natural moisturizer. Since your baby’s skin can react adversely to the air outside the womb, having extra moisture is an excellent thing in the beginning, as it can prevent dry and irritated skin. The longer you keep the vernix on, the healthier and softer their skin will be.
5. Promote Breastfeeding Success
While it is standard practice to whisk newborns off for a bath within hours of their birth, one study looked at the benefits of delayed bathing in relation to breastfeeding success. The study included approximately 1,000 mother-newborn pairs. Under half of the newborns were given baths right after birth, while the other half were delayed baths.
The research shows the delayed bath group had higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding during their hospital stay. The primary reason is likely because delaying the first bath provides more skin-to-skin time between the mother and baby right after birth. By preserving the smells between the amniotic fluid and breast, delaying your baby’s first bath might encourage them to latch.
6. Bond With Your Baby
Delayed newborn baths allow you to form a deep, loving bond with your baby and take an active role in caring for them. Instead of the hospital giving them their first bath, you can take on the responsibility yourself. As mentioned, that initial skin-to-skin contact is essential for your and your baby’s mental and physical health. It also gives you time to recover and prepare to give your newborn a bath on your own or try breastfeeding. Instead of having your baby whisked away for a bath, you’ll have that extra time to snuggle and care for your child.
Preparing Your Baby’s First Bath
When it comes time to prepare for your baby’s first bath, you’ll want to get your supplies ready and not leave your baby unattended. Collect a towel, a soft baby washcloth, natural soap, and a baby tub. You might set the baby tub in a regular tub, though some parents might find the sink more convenient. If you use a sink, ensure it is clean to protect the baby from germs.
Fill the baby tub with just enough water to puddle underneath the baby. Keep the water slightly higher than body temperature, or around 100 degrees F. Carefully place them in the tub and wash them with a soft cloth. Do not submerge the baby, and avoid getting water near their ears. Ensure the temperature is appropriate to prevent accidental burns while not too cold that it startles the baby. Support their back, head, and neck as you sponge them one body part at a time, paying close attention to creases and skin folds.
Rinse your baby well to prevent soap residue from causing dry or flaky skin, and then gently pat them dry with a soft, organic towel.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Baby After Their First Bath?
During the first two weeks of life, you can give your newborn baths a couple of times a week. Newborns shed around three layers of skin within their first week. Giving their skin time to adjust to the dry air is essential. You can prevent irritation by moisturizing them with a safe, gentle lotion and washing clothes with a chemical-free detergent. Follow this bathing schedule into your child’s elementary school years and modify it based on their skin health.
Is It Safe to Bathe Your Baby Before the Umbilical Cord Falls Off?
It is safe to bathe your baby before the umbilical cord falls off, providing that you work around it and keep it as dry as possible. That’s why sponge baths work best for newborns. Avoid soaking your baby in the tub until the umbilical cord falls off on its own, which can take a few weeks. Keeping the cord dry can allow it to heal and detach naturally while fighting infection and preventing delayed healing.
The best way to bathe around the umbilical cord is to gently clean around the base of the stump with a moist cotton swab and dry with the other side.
Invest In Your Baby’s Future With Cord Tissue Banking
There are several benefits of delayed bathing, from reducing your baby’s stress to allowing time to bond with your newborn. Banking your baby’s cord tissue has also grown in popularity in recent years. Why? Because cord tissue can be used to regenerate injuries to the heart and other organs. It is currently being studied in clinical trials for various health conditions and surgical applications.
You can invest in your baby’s future with cord tissue banking at Americord. In terms of health, banking your child’s cord blood is better than simply discarding it after birth. At Americord, we offer CryoMaxx™ Processing, an innovative way to preserve your baby’s cord and placenta tissue. To learn more, call 866-503-6005 today.