A recent study of almost 1,000 mothers and newborns conducted by the Cleveland Clinic found that when the baby’s first bath after birth was delayed by at least 12 hours, the mothers were more likely to be successful with breastfeeding. Why, you ask?
Researchers say that babies are calmer and happier when they have significant skin-to-skin time with their mothers immediately after birth (within the first 30-60 minutes), and this calm demeanor makes them more likely to latch. Also, the amniotic fluid on their bodies smells like a breast, so not washing it off may make it more likely for the baby to successfully breastfeed.
In fact, there are a lot of reasons to delay your baby’s first bath:
Vernix is awesome: The white substance called vernix that covers a newborn’s body actually provides protection against bacterial infections such as Group B Strep and E. coli, reducing your baby’s risk of infection. It’s also a natural skin moisturizer and protectant, keeping your baby’s skin healthy and moisturized. I know it seems kind of icky, but it’s well worth it to let the baby soak in the vernix as long as possible.
Blood sugar stabilization: Let’s face it – that first bath (and maybe the ones following it) is not a soothing experience for the baby. She’s going to cry, and all that crying so soon after birth causes stress to the baby. Stress hormones can cause a baby’s blood sugar to drop, which is never good. Also, if the baby is cold during the bath and uses a lot of energy to keep warm, this can also cause her blood sugar to drop.
More skin time: The precious moments after your baby is first born are meant to be shared skin-to-skin between mother and baby (or father and baby). This critical snuggling act stabilizes your baby’s heart rate and temperature, as well as forming an early bond with your baby. And, as we already learned, this skin time helps with breastfeeding as well.Most hospitals don’t bathe babies too early anymore – typical protocol is between 8-24 hours after birth – but in case your hospital tries to whisk your baby away too soon, simply request that they wait a few more hours so you can bond with your baby. You’ll never get this time back with your little one, so enjoy it!
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.