Babies are born covered in a white creamy substance that was thought to be “unclean”, so they were whisked away to be bathed within 24 hours of birth.
Today, however, we are a little wiser and have come to realise that there are a number of advantages to delaying your baby’s first bath.
1. That white waxy covering, called vernix, on your baby’s skin is present for a reason. It helps to protect and nourish your newborn’s skin, moisturising it and acting as a protective barrier against germs. In fact, in days gone by, midwives were thought to have the softest hands because of their regular skin contact with vernix from delivering babies. The vernix has antibacterial properties, which help prevent any early infections in your newborn.
2. Delaying your baby’s first bath also facilitates bonding and better breastfeeding. Your baby should ideally have as much skin-to-skin contact with you in the first 24 hours – lying unclothed and unwashed on your naked chest. This is important for the initiation of successful breastfeeding.
3. If your baby is kept on your chest, she is less likely to experience stress and use excess sugar stores. Bathing a baby in her first 24 to 48 hours can stress her out, not to mention you as well. With all this stress and crying, your baby’s blood sugar might drop.
4. Babies don’t like any sudden changes in temperature. They are unable to regulate their own body temperature, so exposing their naked wet bodies to room temperature after a bath can result in a cold, unhappy baby.
So how should bathing work in the first few weeks following birth?
It is easy. Top and tail your baby daily. Gently clean your baby’s face and under her neck and in between the folds of skin with a soft damp cloth and warm basin of water. Clean her bum and genital area too, especially after any particularly explosive poos. Then every few days, when your baby is in a good mood and you are too, give her a proper full bath.
Pippa is a Registered Professional Nurse and trained as a Registered Midwife at Chris Hani Baragwanth Hospital. She has extensive experience in all things baby related with a special interest in preparing couples for the exciting journey of parenthood as well as supporting them in the weeks that follow the birth. She and her husband Richard are the proud parents of Becca age 6 and Tom age 4. Pippa has a comprehensive private clinic service that includes Childbirth Education classes, a Well Baby Clinic including Immunization as well as Post Natal and Lactation support. With over 5 years of running a private clinic facility and raising 2 children Pippa comes with a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience of parenthood. Learn more about Pippa Hime