Baby’s First Bath, and Why it Can Wait
You’re pregnant and anticipating the birth of your newest family member. The nursery is painted, the car seat is installed, and now you wait. Swirling excitement mixes with endless questions about delivery and the safest way to welcome your little one into the world.
Did you know delaying your infant’s first bath is one of the best ways to ensure your infant’s health after birth? Let’s review what the experts tell us about why this option is becoming more common among parents and medical professionals.
- It limits the risk of infection. When your infant is born, they are covered in a white substance called vernix which is made up of skin cells from earlier development. This substance helps fight against bacterial infections and acts as a natural germ protector for your little one. Common bacterial infections for newborns include Group B Strep and E. Coli which can lead to pneumonia and meningitis. By delaying the first bath, you are allowing the vernix to continue working as a safety net for your little one’s immune system.
- Helps to stabilize infant blood sugar levels. After your baby makes its debut, its body must work to adjust to a new environment. There is no longer a 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.
- It provides temperature control. Babies can contract hypothermia when given a bath too soon after birth. Keep in mind, in the womb they are at a cozy 98.6 degrees, whereas most hospital rooms hover around 70 degrees. This means your baby must use a lot of energy to fight to get warm once they’re introduced to the outside world. If your baby gets too cold, their blood sugar levels will drop which can lead to other complications.
- More maternal-infant bonding time. Proper skin-to-skin time with mom is necessary to help encourage breastfeeding and to maintain overall wellness for your infant. Time and time again, babies who are held on their mother’s chest moments after delivery end up maintaining better blood sugar levels and temperatures and even have an easier time breastfeeding.
- Improves breastfeeding ability. The sooner your infant can spend time skin-to-skin with you, the easier the breastfeeding adjustment period is. Avoiding medical interruptions like baths help ease this process, too.
- There’s no need for baby lotion. Babies need protection as they transition into our environment. If you delay bathing them after birth, you can avoid using artificial lotions because they will already be covered in vernix which is a natural protectant.
- Nurses and doctors will continue to wear gloves. When your baby is unbathed, it is hospital protocol for all medical staff to wear gloves to prevent exposure to harmful fluids. Taking extra time before bathing your infant ensures that viruses and infections are not passed along.
- Parents get to enjoy giving their newborn a bath. Once mom has recovered, the parents can help take part in bathing their new little bundle of joy. This can be a special bonding moment for all and a great teaching opportunity for both nurses and parents.
As you prep for any upcoming pregnancies, keep these pointers in mind as you decide if a delayed bath is right for your newborn.