When most expectant moms envision seeing their little one for the first time, they envision this little cherub with perfectly smooth, soft, supple, and CLEAN skin. However, in reality, newborns are anything but neat and tidy when they first arrive. Their skin is covered in a cheesy-like coating (known as vernix) which protected the baby’s skin while in utero. There’s also other residual “stuff” covering the baby’s body as a result of, well, giving birth.
For most of the last century, babies have been washed down right after they were born. The reason? – Practitioners feared that if the babies weren’t cleaned immediately after they were born, there was an increased risk of infection. Plus, let’s be honest: a freshly bathed newborn is much more pleasing on the eyes.
However, in recent years, there has been a big push for parents to delay that first bath. While it was once believed that bathing a baby right after they were born was beneficial, medical experts have actually found the opposite to be true. It turns out that there are a lot of benefits to delaying the baby’s first bath, at least for a few hours.
Here’s a look at some reasons to consider putting off bathing a newborn.
12 The Protective Layer Is Washed Away
While a baby is in her mother’s womb, her skin is protected by vernix. This special substance develops at about 27 weeks gestation, and it helps to shield a baby’s developing skin from the acidity of the amniotic fluid that she is exposed to. It helps to prevent the skin from becoming waterlogged, and also protects it from becoming dried out. Basically, if it weren’t for that cheesy-like substance, newborns would look like shriveled up prunes (picture your fingers after you’ve been swimming for too long, except that’s what the entire baby’s body would look like).
Since vernix acts as a moisturizer, it’s actually beneficial to rub it in instead of washing it off! Removing it right away can lead to dry skin. Why would we want to wash away a natural moisturizer?
11 Can Cause Hypothermia
It takes a while for a newly born baby’s body to figure out how to regulate its temperature. Giving a baby a bath right after birth can lower her body temperature, which could potentially lead to hypothermia.
There are two reasons why this can happen:
- Vernix helps to withhold body heat. If it’s washed off, the baby’s skin can have a hard time trying to adjust to the temperature outside of her mother’s womb (which was around 98.6 °).
- Any water and other products that are used to cleanse the baby can lower her body temperature.
The perfect place for a newborn baby to be right after birth is on her mother’s chest. That skin-to-skin contact will help to regulate her body temperature, thus preventing the possibility of hypothermia.
10 Exposes The Baby To Infections
Not to beat a dead horse, but I’m going to talk about vernix again, and why not washing it off right away is a good thing for babies (hence, why delaying the first bath is a good idea).
New research has found that the white substance is made up of skin cells that a baby makes during the early stages of development. Vernix is comprised of proteins, and new research has found that it contains immune properties that can actually help to protect a baby from infections while his new immune system is still developing and strengthening.
By putting off that first bath, you can actually reduce your baby’s risk of being exposed to and developing infections, which is definitely a good thing. There is nothing more horrifying than a sick newborn.
9 Hospitals Have Harsh Lighting
Imagine being in a dark space for 9 months, and then suddenly being exposed to bright light. There’s no doubt that you would be jilted. Well, that’s exactly what newborn babies experience when they are born. There they are, blissfully sitting in darkness for 9 months, and then, out of nowhere, bright lights are shining into their eyes. It has to be worse than having your eyes dilated and walking out onto a bright, sunlit street.
While there is no way to completely prevent your baby from being exposed to bright lighting, you can certainly reduce the exposure; and delaying the first bath is one way that you can do just that. Instead of having your little one bathed under severe hospital lights, she can be bathed in softer, more muted lighting at home.
8 Taking The Baby Away From Mom Is Risky
After a baby is born, he wants to be as close to his mother as possible. He wants to snuggle with his mother, smell her, feel her, hear her, and of course, look for (and hopefully find) food. The last thing a baby who was just born wants is to be taken away from his mama so that he can be bathed.
By delaying the bath, a newborn baby has the opportunity to get to experience his mother from the outside, without any interruption. The first moments a mother and child have together are not only precious, they are vital for the baby’s overall well-being. Taking the baby away for a bath right away can interrupt this precious time. Instead of letting hospital staff bathe your little one, keep him cuddled up on your chest (preferably skin-to-skin) and enjoy these first moments together.
7 And Causes The Newborn Undo Stress
Birth is a stressful journey for a baby, even if the delivery is fast and easy. Taking a baby away from his mother right after birth only heightens a newborn’s stress levels. Giving the baby a bath raises them even more.
Think about it: for 9 months, a baby was safe and protected in his mother’s womb. After birth, he is looking for that safety and protection, and he can find it in his mom’s arms. When he is taken away from her for a bath, his stress levels can soar. He will likely be upset, feel very uneasy, and cry. As a result, his heart rate and blood pressure can actually increase, his breathing may become faster, and he can become highly agitated. Delaying the first bath can prevent your baby from experiencing unnecessary stress.
6 The Baby Might Have Trouble Breastfeeding
Studies have actually found that babies who have more skin-to-skin contact with their mothers’ right after birth have greater success with breastfeeding. Why? – Because when a baby is first born, her natural instinct is to search for food. When she has more time with her mother, her chances of finding and latching onto her mom’s breast are increased.
When newborns are taken away from their mothers, that skin-to-skin contact is disrupted, and thus, breastfeeding can also be interrupted. Add to that the fact that bathing can increase her stress levels, which can make her distraught and tired. This can actually cause her to forget how to suck and swallow which compounds breastfeeding difficulties. If you want to breastfeed, forget the bath: it could really help to increase the chances of success.
5 Blood Sugar Can Drop
New research indicates that bathing babies too soon after they are born can actually lower their blood sugar. Why? Well, it all goes back to that stress that a newborn can experience when he is taken away from his mother and is given a bath.
In the first few hours after birth, a baby has to adjust to being outside of the womb, which includes losing the placenta – the source of blood sugar. Bathing leads to crying, which leads to stress, which in turn, leads to the release of stress hormones; and, believe it or not, stress hormones can cause blood sugar to drop. The effects of low blood sugar usually involve sleepiness, which may make the baby too tired to wake for breastfeeding, which can cause his blood sugar to drop even lower.
4 Skin-To-Skin Contact Is Interrupted
New babies need to snuggle up with their mothers, especially right after they are born. Skin-to-skin contact, especially in the first few hours after giving birth, has been found to significantly improve the bond between a mother and her baby. The newborn has the chance to really smell, hear and feel his mother, and he also has the opportunity to search for his food. The mother has the chance to really explore her baby; to feel, smell and see him. She also has the opportunity to hopefully experience breastfeeding occur naturally.
The moments right after birth are so precious, and a mother and child should share them together; that time should not be impeded because of a bath. So, skip the bath and instead, enjoying cuddling with your little one. You’ll never get that moment back again.
3 The New 'Baby Smell' Disappears
There is nothing better than the smell of a newborn baby. Most people equate that lovely, fresh, crisp scent with baby washes, lotions and powders; however, that’s not what makes a newborn’s skin smell so good: it’s the vernix.
Believe it or not, that white, cheesy-like substance that covers the baby’s skin while she is in the womb is actually what makes her smell so good. When that vernix is washed away, some of that scent will remain, but it will be far less noticeable. Plus, while baby soaps and lotions may smell delicious, they don’t smell nearly as yummy as a baby’s natural scent. If you really want to breathe in the freshness of your newborn baby’s skin, than you should seriously consider delaying that first bath. You won’t believe how amazing your little one’s skin will smell!
2 An Important Milestone Is Missed
There are a lot of milestone events that parents will experience with their baby. Why not make the first one be giving the baby his first bath? By delaying the bath, parents can actually participate in bathing their little one for the first time.
When parents are involved in giving their baby his first bath, they have the opportunity to actually learn what they should and shouldn’t do. Plus, since newborns feel the most comfortable with their parents, it makes sense that the bath will be a much more enjoyable experience for the baby when it’s given by mom and dad.
Whether it’s given in the hospital or at home, it’s sure to be a wonderful memory that parents will have of their little one forever (don't forget to snap a few photos!).
1 Unhappy Baby, Unhappy Mom
The last thing any mom wants is to hear is her baby screaming and in distress, especially right after the baby is born. When a baby is taken away for a bath in the moments after giving birth, mothers can experience a great deal of stress.
It’s stressful for a mother to hear her baby crying and see her kicking and writhing; and the hormone surges that occur right after giving birth only compound this stress. By putting off the baby’s first bath, you will be able to cuddle with your baby and have more time to actually look her over, feel her and smell her. Plus, you will know that she is well-protected in your arms, which can greatly reduce your stress levels during a time that is often already highly stressful.