Thinking about skipping the hospital bath for your newborn? Wondering what the benefits are of delaying that first bath for your baby?
There are so many decisions you have to make for your newborn during those first few days of life, with a bath being one of them. But, recent research has been showing that delaying this first bath can actually provide several benefits for both mom and baby.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends waiting at least 24-48 hours before bathing your baby. Some studies suggest waiting up to a week postpartum. And, some hospitals don’t even offer baths routinely anymore.
But, what’s all the hype about? How can delaying a simple bath be so beneficial?
In this post, we’ll cover the top 7 reasons why you should delay that first bath for your baby.
7 Benefits of Delayed Bathing for Your Newborn Baby
1. Improves Immunity
You know that creamy white stuff that babies are born with on their skin? Yea, that’s called vernix, and it’s the perfect protection for your newborn baby.
Vernix is antibacterial and helps fight germs and boost the immune system. So, instead of washing the vernix off, we should really be rubbing it in to help keep our babies healthy and happy.
It’s especially important to leave this antibacterial goodness on your baby if she was born via c-section and wasn’t exposed to all that good bacteria in your birth canal.
2. Nourishing for the Skin
Not only is vernix the perfect immune booster, but it’s also the world’s best moisturizer for your newborn. Vernix is lipid-rich, so it helps keep your baby’s skin soft and smooth.
Plus, too many baths in general can dry out the skin, and many hospitals use soaps that can be too harsh for delicate newborns. Soaps can dry out the skin and make it irritating and flaky.
Your newborn really doesn’t need soap at all. If there’s meconium or blood that needs to be cleaned, just wet a cloth with plain water and rub it very gently. And, try to do all this with your baby in your arms.
3. Reduces Birth Trauma
Newborns are more aware and sensitive than we might think. If we interrupt the postpartum bonding process for silly, unnecessary procedures, then we may be creating fear and feelings of be threatened in our newborns.
It can also bring up delayed trauma reactions from having had immediate cord clamping, forceps, medications, etc. We should really try to minimize separation from mom as much as possible during those initial days postpartum (for numerous reasons).
Your baby just transitioned from womb to world, and that’s a huge, unfamiliar change. But, if you leave that vernix on, your baby will have a familiar smell that they can associate to being inside your womb. Vernix also acts as a lubricant inside the womb, preventing friction and trauma, as your baby descends to the outside (source).
4. Stabilizes Body Temperature and Blood Sugar
Brand new newborns don’t have the best thermal and glucose regulation yet. And, a quick bath could make their temperatures and blood sugars drop fast.
But, the thick, waxy, coat of vernix insulates your baby. So, why would you want to wash it off?
Bathing also uses up energy and can cause stress hormones to be released, which in turn, can cause your baby’s blood sugar to drop. Low blood sugar can make your newborn hard to wake for feedings, causing their blood sugar to drop even more.
The best thing to do for thermal and blood sugar regulation is to keep baby skin-to-skin as much as possible.
5. Better Bonding
Delaying your baby’s firth bath will also allow you more time to do skin-to-skin and bond with your baby. The more initial time you have together as a family will help you form a healthy emotional bond.
Plus, sniffing that sweet smell of your newborn also releases dopamine, triggering mother-baby bonding.
And, if you wait until you get home, you and your partner will have the chance to give your baby her first bath as a family. This can be a huge bonding opportunity for everyone.
6. Increased Rates of Breastfeeding Success
Skipping the bath and allowing more skin-to-skin time also helps initiate your baby’s interest in breastfeeding. In fact, recent studies have shown that uninterrupted bonding time is associated with increased rates of breastfeeding success (source). When babies are soothed by their mothers skin and voice, they often find the breast and latch on their own.
Plus, that distinct newborn smell can cause you to release oxytocin, which helps promote breast milk supply.
7. They Keep That Sweet Newborn Smell
The simplest reason to delay your baby’s first bath is to keep that sweet baby smell. I mean, why would you want to cover that intoxicating smell with soaps and fragrances? Plus, babies just aren’t dirty.
That newborn smell triggers maternal-bonding and breastfeeding. Skip the bath and leave the sweet baby smell.
Your Baby's First Bath
How long you wait to give your baby their first bath is totally up to you, but I would recommend waiting at least 48 hours. Most of the vernix is absorbed during this time, but it’s not fully absorbed until about 5-6 days postpartum, so it’s best to wait until then.
I know many moms wait a few weeks and some moms even wait up to a month until their baby has their first blowout. We waited about 10 days with our first baby and about 14 with our second.
When you do decide to give your baby a bath, be sure to use these tips:
- Stick with a sponge bath or wipe down if your baby’s umbilical stump is still attached.
- No soap is needed. Just stick with plain water unless your baby is really that messy.
- Involve your partner and try to make this a beautiful bonding and learning opportunity for all.
- If you’re doing a full immersion bath, you could use the kitchen sink, a reclined bath seat in the tub, a baby bath tub, or just actually get in the tub with your baby and hold them.
- Never leave your baby unattended.
Put It on the Birth Plan
While there are some amazing benefits of delaying your baby’s first bath, not all hospitals are following this protocol.
In order to ensure that your baby’s first bath is delayed, you need to have it clearly written on your birth plan. Make sure the hospital staff is aware of your decision. I highly recommend skipping the hospital bath altogether and just waiting until you get home.
By delaying your baby’s first bath, you’ll have more time to bond and a higher chance of breastfeeding success. Leave the vernix on to help fight germs, moisturize your baby’s skin, and stabilize their temperature and blood sugar.
Just say no to the hospital bath, rub that vernix in, and let that sweet baby smell ride.
The bath can wait!
What About You?
Did you delay your newborn’s first bath? How long did you wait before giving your baby a bath? Share your top reasons for delaying with us in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other expecting moms.