Babies may not look as appealing as you had anticipated them to be at birth—covered in a white coating, fluid or a little blood. However, that doesn’t ask for a quick bath—even cleaning with a soft towel is sufficient. Bathing soon after birth might not be as happy an experience for your baby as it is for you. Instead, it might just make them upset and stressed.
WHO advises delaying a baby’s first bath to 24 hours after birth.1 Here are 6 simple reasons to not give a bath to your newborn soon after birth.
1. Promotes Natural Resistance To Infection
Babies are born with a sticky germ defending substance that covers their skin and protects them from various life-threatening infections like pneumonia and meningitis. Vernix is a waxy white coating on your baby’s body that also protects the skin from the amniotic fluid.
Bathing the baby soon after birth to wash away this cheese-like layer could make them more prone to infections. If you feel there is too much vernix and needs to be cleaned, rub it gently on your baby’s skin and allow it to get absorbed—it is completely safe.
2. Improves Mommy-Baby Bonding
The first few moments after your baby’s birth are very crucial. Doctors usually encourage a skin-to-skin contact with the baby with the mother to promote the bonding—and that is how it should be. Replacing this process and bathing the baby instead could be traumatic for the child. What they need more than anything after birth is the warmth of their mother to soothe and comfort them. A bath or anything less important can wait.
3. Prevents Immediate Temperature Change In Babies
For 9 months, a baby makes the mother’s womb its abode—the conditions are fairly favorable with nutrition and oxygen supply along with a controlled temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. At birth, the temperature difference in between the two worlds varies by 20 degrees. It might be okay for you in the air-conditioned room, but your baby could be uncomfortable. Don’t choose to offer them bath post birth—it could only be freezing for them, increasing the risk of hypothermia.
It’s an alien world for a newborn—where they are suddenly subjected to discomfort—a quick bathing being one of them when all they need is a cuddle from the mother.
4. Stabilizes Baby’s Blood Sugar Level
Your baby needs some time and energy to adjust to the temperature and conditions outside the uterus. If the baby gets a bath too soon, they cry, which releases stress hormones. Under stress, babies tend to lose blood sugar, which they are already consuming to maintain their body temperature.
Low sugar levels also make them too sleepy to breastfeed, which is really necessary for the initial few moments after birth.
5. Makes Breastfeeding Easier
Another reason why moms are asked to snuggle their babies soon after birth is because it helps them latch on their mother’s breast. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding within 30 minutes of delivery.2 When in the womb, babies practice to suckle and swallow that prepares them for breastfeeding. After birth, if the nursing is delayed, they may forget how to suckle and it won’t come to them naturally.
Avoiding the ritual of bathing immediately gives the mother and baby the opportunity to have a skin-to-skin bonding, which helps with breastfeeding.
6. Allows The Parents To Enjoy And Learn Bathing Their Baby
Delaying bath at birth also allows the parents to give their baby its first bath at home—which is a wonderful experience. Not only it helps strengthen the bond between the parents and the infant through touch, it also helps them learn how to give a bath to them.
Wait for a day or two before giving them a nice warm bath when they are more accustomed to their surroundings. You can always talk to your obstetrician or the nurses about it before your due date. While filling up the documents of the hospital before your delivery, you could mention in your wish-list about the necessary practices that you want them to follow soon after the birth of your baby.
|↑1||World Health Organization (WHO). “Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee.” Handbook for guideline development. Geneva: WHO (2012).|
|↑2||Crenshaw, Jeannette T. “Healthy birth practice# 6: Keep mother and baby together—It’s best for the mother, baby, and breastfeeding.” The Journal of perinatal education 23, no. 4 (2014): 211-217.|