Why Babies Should Not Be Bathed Immediately After Delivery
I remember when I first gave birth to my baby, I delivered in an hospital abroad and after my baby was born, he was placed on my chest for the skin to skin contact. While we were doing that the nurse asked me if I wanted my baby bathed or not and I said not for the next 24 hours . Before placing him on my chest he had obviously already been cleaned with a towel to remove all the blood and fluid from his body.
Now while I was already prepared for this moment, my mum who was in the delivery room with me couldn't understand why I would not want my child to be bathed immediately. In all honesty i didn't tell her before hand because I knew she was going make a big deal out of it and try to change my mind. But I knew she would not argue with me too much in the delivery room and I had already told my husband not to allow her say otherwise if I slept off.
While I knew it was going to be strange to her I had already on Children'sMD that there were benefits of delaying the first bath of my baby by 24hours. whereas I wanted to be awake and fully alert fro his first bath.
- Babies are born covered in a white substance called vernix, which is composed of the skin cells your baby made early in development. Vernix contains proteins that prevent common bacterial infections. Vernix is nature’s protection against these infections.Think of vernix as a sort-of natural antibacterial ointment. Your baby is born covered in this anti-germ barrier.
- Bathing a baby too soon after birth can cause low blood sugar. Here’s why: in the first few hours after birth a baby has to adjust to life outside the uterus, including losing the placenta as a source of blood sugar. Bathing causes crying, stress and the release of stress hormones. Stress hormones can cause a baby’s blood sugar to drop, which can make a baby too sleepy to wake up and breastfeed, causing the blood sugar to drop even more.
- Giving a baby a bath too soon can cause hypothermia. In the first few hours after birth a baby has to use a lot of energy to keep warm. If a baby gets too cold, he or she can drop their blood sugar or have other complications.
- New babies need to snuggle skin-to-skin with their mom be given a chance to try to breastfeed. Infants who are held skin-to-skin on mom’s chest have better blood sugar and temperature control and have an easier time learning to breastfeed. We even do skin-to-skin at c-section deliveries. The bath can wait.
- If you wait more than an hour to breastfeed, babies can have a hard time latching, sucking and swallowing. If you breastfeed right away, the baby still remembers how to suck and swallow. If you put a baby skin-to-skin between mom’s bare breasts at delivery, she will be warm, soothed by mom’s voice, find the breast herself, latch right on and start nursing.
- Vernix is a natural skin moisturizer and skin protectant. Babies need skin protection during the transition from the amniotic fluid into the air environment. If you delay the bath, there is no need for artificially scented baby lotion.
- Hospital workers are always supposed to wear gloves when caring for an unbathed baby, to prevent exposure to body fluids such as amniotic fluid and blood. Some studies have shown that glove-wearing keeps babies safer too, by preventing transmission of common viruses and other infections from workers to babies.
- After mom has had time to recover, parents can more easily participate in baby’s first bath and it becomes a teaching opportunity between nursing and parents.
“There is no urgent need to get the newborn baby bathed, and this can be delayed at the parents’ request. Mother-baby bonding time is very important, and the caregivers would not want to interfere with skin-to-skin time and establishing breastfeeding. Bathing a newborn can certainly wait.” A good towel rub is all that’s needed to remove any amniotic fluid, blood and meconium, he adds.
“The first bath in hospital is now much more of a teaching and learning experience for the new parents,” says Farmer. “It is not done for hygiene, but it is certainly helpful for parents to learn how to bathe their newborns.”
I initially thought it would be strange to suggest such in Nigeria but imagine my surprise when the President, Nigerian Society of Neonatal Medicine (NISONM), Professor Chinyere Ezeaka said that cleaning babies is very good, but we allow them to delay the first bath to at least after the first 24 hours to keep the baby warm. It is the best way of keeping the baby warm.
At the end of the day it all depends on your personal preference, it is up to you to birth your baby immdiately or wait a few hours but I chose to wait 24 hours before the first birth and I don't regret it.