Why You Should Delay Your Baby’s First Bath

“Do you want to hold him now, or do you want me to give him a quick bath?” my nurse asked, turning her head to me from her perch by the baby warmer. 

I sat in bed, seconds after delivering my son and hesitated, knowing from my experience as a nurse that I should delay his bath for health reasons, but also, maybe a bit selfishly, wanting him clean and fresh so we could have some uninterrupted snuggle time. 

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“Could you just clean him off real quick?” I asked, hoping for a compromise of sorts. She smiled and nodded, understanding both of my needs, and after a quick cleanup, he was mine to hold, minus any blood and goop smeared over both of us. 

I chose a quick cleanup for my babies in lieu of delaying their baths, but new research shows that I may have had it all very wrong. 

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Image via Flickr/ Kyle and Kelly Adams

A new initiative by the AWHONN, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nursing, reveals that instead of just being a tad inconvenient for new moms like me, who want to hold a fresh and clean baby, skipping the bath post-birth is actually really important for medical reasons. 

AWHONN is urging that all medical professionals and all new parents “Wait For Eight,” which means wait for at least eight hours before giving newborn babies a bath. 

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Basically, this means that, right after birth, you should push for your baby to be plopped onto your chest and not moved unless absolutely medically necessary. Most hospitals are moving in this direction anyways, but it’s good for parents to understand why this is so important.

Keeping Baby on Mom’s chest right after birth boosts immunities, helps lay down the ground work for their own microbe system to develop (which is linked to all sorts of things like autoimmune disorders and allergies), stabilizes blood sugar and body temperature and, of course, supports breastfeeding success if the mom chooses to nurse. And yes, skin-to-skin right after birth absolutely applies to C-section births as well. 

In looking at all of the current research and all of the studies that have been done on the topic, the committee concluded that “implementation of bath delay showed that, regardless of gestational age, the incidence of newborns experiencing hypothermia and hypoglycemia during the transitional period was reduced by changing the focus of unnecessary interventions.”

In other words? 

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Good things come to those who wait — for their baby’s first bath, that is. 

Bottom line, there is no drawback to delaying your baby’s bath, and there are so many benefits, many of which we aren’t even fully aware of yet, in just keeping that baby on your chest for as long as possible after birth.

So say it with me now: wait for eight! (And also be sure to arrange for some meal delivery for you during this time as well — just a suggestion.)

Do you plan on delaying your baby’s first bath?

What do you think?

Why You Should Delay Your Baby’s First Bath

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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