There’s a lot of talk lately about delaying the newborn bath for several hours or days after birth. And while many sources state that this practice helps to keep baby’s temperature regulated and enhance the bonding between baby and parents, many people have questions about how delaying the first bath will affect them.
For instance, you may be wondering, as one of our beloved client fathers wondered recently, “If we don’t bathe the baby, will blood and gunk stain our car seat?” The answer is very simple, but not obvious if you’ve never been parents before! The vernix, blood, and amniotic fluid will be wiped from your baby or rubbed into their skin right after birth, so there will be no fluid to stain the car eat on the ride home. (Leaky diapers and spit-up notwithstanding!)
Another question our doulas hear a lot is, “Isn’t the baby dirty?” The answer to that question is a bit more…subjective. The baby is dry, sweet-smelling, and silky soft, but there may be a bit of fluid in their hair if they were born blessed with a headful. That’s about the extent of the goop. Honest!
Some of the benefits of delayed bath for newborns are why hospitals across the country are changing their protocols to hold off on the bath for 24 hours (at least) as recommended by the World Health Organization. This is especially true for premature babies. These benefits include:
The bath is usually given around 2-4 hours after birth and in the parent’s room. After a baby is born, they're nice and awake for about 2 hours, then they tend to sleep for a good 4-6 hour stretch. This will be the best stretch of sleep potentially that the new parent(s) will have for probably the next several weeks. Doing the bath right away chips away at this time.
If you do choose to bathe within the first 24 hours, you can do a few things to ensure that the baby is more comfortable and is able to regulate their temperature effectively. Try requesting an immersion bath as opposed to a sponge bath, which was shown in a small study to minimize crying and induce a calm, observant state. You may also discuss with your postpartum nurse a swaddled bath for your baby. Lastly, requesting that the bath last only a few moments will help decrease the chances of a body temperature drop.
Regardless of your choices, our doulas stand ready with balanced information to help you succeed in the ways that are meaningful to you. And, if you do happen to get some gunk on your carseat, well…we can help with that!