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How Long Should You Delay Baby’s First Bath?

That magical moment is here, your newborn has arrived! Your baby is adorable, cuddly, and…perhaps a wee bit slimy. After your baby is dried off, there is often a white layer that remains called vernix caseosa. Vernix has a sticky or waxy texture and you will likely find that some of it will wipe off easily. The remaining vernix will stick to crevices like armpits, leg creases, and neck folds. This white coating actually serves many purposes, primarily to protect your baby against infection. It also moisturizes the skin. If we bathe a baby right away, we remove this coating which could help them during the transition period from the womb to the outside world.

What Are Some Other Factors To Consider?

Bathing a newborn too soon can certainly have other drawbacks. One is a dramatic drop in body temperature, causing unintended stress to your baby who is already trying to adapt to his new environment. Additionally, bathing can interrupt one of the most beneficial things we can do for our newborns immediately after birth- skin-to-skin snuggles. This helps babies regulate their body temperature, establish feeds, and bond with their parents.  Additional factors to strongly suggest waiting on that first bath include a rough delivery, unstable blood sugars, respiratory distress, or prematurity.

So now that we know some of the benefits of delaying the first bath, how long should we really delay it?

The World Health Organization recommends delaying the bath for the first 24 hours of life. Although this is the recommendation, it doesn’t always happen. Different birth facilities have different policies. Check with your planned birth facility in advance so you can know what to expect.

So How Do You Decide What’s The Right Time For Your Baby?

The bottom line is this: do what you think is right for your family. The most important thing is to be educated on the benefits of delaying that first bath and be an advocate for your baby. If you feel like your baby isn’t ready for their bath or your healthcare provider wants to take your baby to do the bath at what you deem an inopportune time, politely decline. Or, if you feel like the time is right, go for it and enjoy the special moment! This will be one of the millions of decisions you get to make for your child so enjoy the ride! If you have any questions please reach out to a Mama Coach in your area. We’re always here to help! 

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The Mama Coach is a global team of Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

Our mission is to guide families through every stage of their parenting journey by providing evidence-informed education infused with non-judgmental support, compassion, and empathy.

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