BookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxFilledCheckBoxCircleBumpCheckedFilledMedical

Benefits of Delayed Bathing Go Beyond Increased Bonding Time

Technically, babies aren't born dirty.
save article
profile picture of Natalie Neusch
By Natalie Neusch, Contributing Writer
Updated September 24, 2017
Newborn's first bath
Image: iStock

Being born is a messy ordeal; that’s why newborns are traditionally whisked off to a bath within the first few hours of their birth. But recommendations from doctors and changing hospital protocols are proving that the concept of delayed bathing—waiting at least 8 to 12 hours to clean a newborn—is more than just a growing trend of wanting to spend more QT with your newborn.

Bathing babies shortly after birth began when births were moved from homes to hospitals, says Anne Groves, MD, a neonatologist with Advocate BroMenn in Normal, IL. The assumption was that the vernix—the waxy, white substance coating newborns’ skin—needed to be removed, so babies were given sponge baths one to two hours after birth, creating an extended period of time where mother and newborn were separated.

“Babies aren’t born dirty,” says Michael Farmer, MD, Head of the Department of Family Practice at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in British Columbia. “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.”

These doctors aren’t alone in their recommendations. The World Health Organization advises that “bathing should be delayed until after 24 hours of birth.” Along with the WHO, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has also published findings that the increased skin-to-skin contact that comes from delaying a bath not only helps with milk production, but is also essential in keeping newborns warm and their blood sugar regulated.

The vernix, which is made mostly (80 percent) of water as well as lipids and protein, is essentially a thin layer protecting a newborn baby from heat loss and risk of hypothermia—a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature. Because this layer keeps babies warm, it also helps regulate their blood sugar and decreases risk of hypoglycemia.

Courtney Buss, RN , of Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, IL, has revealed research that the “rates for babies with hypothermia decreased from 29 to 14 percent in babies whose bathing was delayed, hypoglycemia rates dropped from 21 percent to 7 percent in the first month, and breastfeeding rates increased from 51 percent to 71 percent.” Keep in mind that the AWHONN doesn’t recommend delayed bathing for newborns of mothers with HIV or any of the Hepatitis viruses, to decrease risk to staff and other family members.

If your hospital doesn’t include delayed bathing as part of their newborn protocol, don’t be shy about requesting it yourself—there’s a reason that “new baby” smell is actually a thing!

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

close up of pregnant belly at home
What You Need to Know About Losing Your Mucus Plug
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
man driving pregnant woman in car to hospital for labor and delivery
When to Go to the Hospital for Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman in labor at hospital
Pooping During Labor—Will It Happen? (and How to Get Over It)
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman receiving an epidural during labor and delivery in hospital
Epidural 101: How It Works
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Newborn baby resting on mother's chest after labor and delivery
The Best Labor and Delivery Gowns, According to New Moms
By Christin Perry
pregnant woman in hospital bed before delivery
What Happens at the Hospital When You Deliver
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
black pregnant woman in hospital bed for labor and delivery
These Are the Best Hospitals for Black Maternal Care, US News Reports
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Jason Kelce poses for a photo with Kylie Kelce during the Kelce documentary premiere at Suzanne Roberts Theater on September 8, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jason Kelce Shares 4 Delivery Room Essentials All Dads Should Have
By Wyndi Kappes
pregnant woman talking to doctor in exam room
What Is Cervical Effacement?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman in hospital bed during labor and delivery
13 Common Labor and Delivery Fears (and Facts to Quell Your Concerns)
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
castor oil on wood table
Is It Safe to Drink Castor Oil to Induce Labor?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman at doctor's office
Baby Is Coming: What to Know About Cervical Dilation
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
doctor examining pregnant woman's belly for membrane sweep
What Is a Membrane Sweep—and How Can It Induce Labor?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
evening primrose oil
Is It Safe to Induce Labor With Evening Primrose Oil?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
mother who just gave birth holding newborn baby in hospital bed
Expert Tips for How to Prevent Tearing During Birth
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
couple packing hospital bag for birth
Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman doing exercises to induce labor
Exercises to Help Induce Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
What Does It Mean to Have a Breech Baby?
What Does It Mean to Have a Breech Baby?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman with IV in arm during labor
The Lowdown on Using Pitocin During Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting in bed
How to Do Perineal Massage to Prepare for a Vaginal Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.