3 Reasons to Delay Your Newborn’s First Bath

Birth is messy, and in a culture that values cleanliness and personal hygiene. What if we gave you 3 great reasons for delaying your newborn’s first bath , and instead suggested you should pull that fresh baby straight onto your chest for warmth and breastfeeding—would you do it?

  1. Vernix—Nature’s Best Barrier Cream

That sticky thick creamy-like substance is Vernix, which is sometimes called “nature’s cold cream.” It has protected your baby’s skin from breaking down while living in fluid all these months. It’s still skin protective, helping baby stay warm after birth.

  1. Baby Needs Mom’s Warmth to Stabilize

Baby needs the warmth of your body—or their other parent’s body—to help them stay warm. They’ve been living in a constant state of 98 degrees, and just emerged into a room that 75 degrees or cooler. Now is not the time to put water on baby’s skin while they’re surrounded by cold air—that would be like a polar plunge!

Once a baby is skin-to-skin with you, they absorb your heat. Drape a blanket over baby’s back to hold in the warmth. Baby risks low blood sugar—hypoglycemia—if they can’t hold their body temperature steady. Hypoglycemia happens far less when newborn’s first bath comes long after birth, bonding and breastfeeding.

Babies use sugar for energy; they can exhaust their blood sugar if they have to burn more to stay warm. Low blood sugar means baby doesn’t have enough energy to start the work of out-of-womb life, including nursing, eliminating and growing!

There’s a misconception that when babies are born they’re normally sleepy. The reality is that birth is
shocking to baby, who has left a dark warm watery home, to be compressed through the birth canal, and thrust into a bright, cold room. Most babies emerge cold and hungry!

A stressed baby may well become lethargic and drift off to sleep if they don’t begin feeding. This could make for a sleepy baby who awakens hungry and crying because they didn’t immediately begin feeding post-birth.

  1. Beginning Breastfeeding & Parenting

Delaying your newborn’s first bath provides time to begin nursing immediately after birth. Research shows that breastfeeding gets off to the best start when baby can immediately bond, snuggle and begin nursing post-birth—which means delaying baby’s first bath.

Even if you’re planning to bottle feed your baby formula, there are many benefits to baby in delaying your newborns first bath including stabilizing their body and bonding skin-to-skin during the first hour after birth.

ALSO READ: Six Strategies for Newborn Skin Care Products



Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, BSRN is a nurse scientist at Johns Hopkins Health System and expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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