The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends delaying a baby’s first bath until 24 hours after birth. Many medical professionals suggest waiting up to 48 hours or more.
Once you’re home from the hospital, you also don’t need to give your baby a bath each day. Until the umbilical cord has healed, you can just stick to sponge baths once or twice a week. Regular wipe-downs of the face, hands, and nappy area is enough for now.
So, if you’re pregnant, and wondering what to pack in your hospital bag for your newborn’s bathtime, read on to find out why you might prefer to wait awhile longer for that first bath.
Babies come into the world with a natural anti-germ skin coating called vernix. It contains proteins that protect against common bacterial infections, such as Group B Strep and E Coli, that can be transmitted during the delivery. Vernix is also a natural skin moisturiser, so there’s no need for any lotions.
Adjusting to life outside the womb can be distressing for a newborn, and baths can cause crying and the release of stress hormones. This can in turn cause low blood sugar, which is a problem when babies become too sleepy to feed.
The world outside the warm uterus is often quite a bit cooler, so removing their clothing and blankets is going to use up some of their energy, and once again, lead to a drop in their blood sugar.
Kangaroo care is hugely beneficial to both babies and their caregivers, and this should be prioritised over anything else, including a bath. The benefits include improved immune system function, reduced fetal stress, improved breastfeeding, and it promotes bonding with the birth and non-birth caregivers.
Once you’ve had some time to rest and recover from the birth, you can soak up this lovely milestone with your baby in your own time at home, rather than in a sterile hospital environment. Read our step-by-step guide to bathing your baby, and cherish this special moment.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to bathe your child in the years to come, so take your time, and hold off as long as you can to make the most of these natural benefits.