By delaying giving your newborn their first bath, studies show that they can better stabilize their blood sugar and temperature. It also helps the newborn transition to the outside world more calmly, allowing the baby to get used to being outside the womb, bond with the parents, and start breastfeeding. It also gives the parents a chance to view the first bath and learn tips on how to bathe their newborn.
It is standard practice for nurses to bathe babies in the hospital, and parents are usually encouraged to participate.
It is not done for hygiene purposes but is much more of a teaching and learning experience for new parents. But this old-school practice is becoming less common now.
That white substance that coats the newborn’s skin at birth, called vernix caseosa, has immune-boosting properties that may help babies stay healthy.
This waxy coating is a natural cleanser and moisturizer, protecting against infections that could enter the skin.
The World Health Organization recommends waiting at least 24-48 hours and up to a week postpartum before bathing your newborn.
I found no real reason to have Lilly bathed right away. I only washed her after ten days of enjoying her fresh baby smell and because she had her first massive diaper blowout.
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Five benefits of delayed bathing for your newborn
Delayed bathing of a newborn baby has several benefits. Here are some ways the delayed bath can improve your baby’s health.
1. Improved bonding
Delayed bathing allows the baby to remain in skin-to-skin contact with the mother or father, which promotes bonding and helps to regulate the baby’s body temperature.
The more initial time you have together will help you form a healthy emotional bond.
Additionally, sniffing that sweet smell of your newborn also releases Dopamine that triggers the mother-baby bonding.
And if you wait until you bring your baby home, you and your partner will have an opportunity to give your little one her first birth, which can be a considerable bonding session for everyone.
2. Better breastfeeding outcomes
Recent research has shown that delaying bathing for at least a few hours after birth can increase the likelihood of successful breastfeeding.
This breastfeeding success is due to the baby being more alert and responsive to cues for feeding when kept close to the mother.
The soothing from the mother’s skin and voice often comforts and helps babies to find the breast and latch on their own.
Plus, their distinct newborn smell can cause the mother to release oxytocin which helps to promote the breast milk supply.
3. Improved immune function
The vernix caseosa, the waxy white substance that covers a newborn’s skin at birth, has antibacterial properties that protect the baby against infection.
Delaying bathing allows the vernix to be absorbed into the baby’s skin, providing additional protection against germs and boosting the baby’s immune system.
So instead of washing the vernix off, you should be rubbing in this antibacterial goodness on your baby to help keep them healthy and happy, especially if the baby was born via C-section and missed all that good bacteria in the birth canal.
4. Nourishing skin health
Many early baths can dry out your baby’s skin, and soaps can be harsh on your newborn’s delicate skin.
Besides being an excellent immune booster, vernix is also the perfect moisturizer for your newborn.
It has moisturizing properties that help to protect the baby’s delicate skin from drying out. It is lipid-rich, so it helps keep your baby’s skin soft and smooth.
5. Improved temperature regulation and blood sugar
The best thermal and blood sugar regulation solution is to keep the newborn on skin-to-skin as much as possible.
Because newborns don’t have the best thermal and glucose regulations yet, delayed bathing stabilizes the baby’s body temperature, reducing the risk of hypothermia.
Bathing also uses energy that causes stress hormones to be released, which can cause your newborn’s blood sugar to drop.
Low blood sugar can make your baby hard to wake up for their dream feeds, causing their blood sugar to drop even more.
Newborn bathing tips
During the delayed bath period, you can clean and help keep your newborn clean in other ways but always keep these factors in mind:
- During the first two weeks of your newborn’s life, a sponge birth is recommended a couple of times a week using room temperature water and a soft cloth.
- A gentle baby soap free of dyes and scents may be used, starting with the head and ending in the diaper area, slightly stroking the skin and paying close attention to creases, folds, knees, fingers, and toes.
- Carefully avoid the umbilical cord area. Keeping it dry and undisturbed will allow it to fall off and heal. Immersing your baby in the water before the cord falls off will make it take longer to fall. It may develop an omphalitis infection, which can quickly spread to the surrounding tissues and become dangerous. In rare instances, this infection can be life-threatening.
- Be careful that your baby doesn’t swallow bath water through their mouth or nose.
What happens if I don’t bathe my baby for a week?
Bath time might be part of your little one’s nightly ritual, but doctors don’t recommend daily baths.
Excess water exposure on your baby’s skin may zap the moisture off and worsen conditions like eczema.
But then again, not bathing your baby often enough may aggravate eczema and lead to other infections.
Are there risks associated with delayed bathing of a newborn?
There are no documented risks associated with delayed newborn bathing.
However, ensuring the baby is kept clean and dry during the delay period is essential to reduce the risk of infection.
The baby’s diaper should also be changed regularly, and the diaper area should be cleaned appropriately to avoid diaper rash.
Overall, delaying the bathing of a newborn baby has become increasingly popular in recent years as research continues to demonstrate the benefits of this practice.
However, it’s important to note that every baby is different, and parents should talk to their healthcare provider about the best approach for their situation.
You may also want to read the posts below to learn more about the dos and don’t of newborn baths in their first few days of life.