The World Health Organization, as well as most doctors and hospitals, recommend waiting at least 24 hours before giving your newborn baby a bath.
Here are six reasons to delay your baby’s first bath (Mardini et al., 2020):
To keep vernix on the skin
To stabilize baby’s temperature and blood sugar
To protect your baby against infection
To support breastfeeding success
To reduce crying
To allow time for skin-to-skin contact (and the MANY benefits that come with it)
Bonsie spoke with Erin Boje about the importance of delaying your baby’s first bath.
Erin is a former NICU RN, a prenatal yoga instructor, newborn care educator and breastfeeding enthusiast. Through in-person education and on her blog she provides prenatal, postpartum, and infant care support with a holistic wellness approach. Erin is passionate about educating mothers and empowering them to discover the best path of mothering for themselves, their babies, and their families. Erin is also a member of our Expert Panel.
How we take care of our newborn’s sensitive skin is so important, especially during those precious first few weeks.
"Immediately after birth, your baby will be covered in a white substance called Vernix. Vernix Caseosa is a white, creamy, protective layer on your baby’s skin. The purpose of vernix is to protect your baby’s skin from the fluid-filled environment in utero, as well as protecting your baby from infection and boosting the immune system. After birth, most hospitals, healthcare providers, and birth workers recommend delaying the bath for at least 24 hours. This allows for the vernix to remain on the skin, and keeps the skin’s natural bacterial flora intact to help protect your baby from infection and skin sensitivities. The vernix remaining on your baby’s skin after birth can also help your baby’s skin retain moisture and hydration, as well as help to regulate their body temperature."
"Delaying the bath after birth allows time for what is most important for both mom and baby - skin to skin contact and bonding. When you delay the bath for at least 24 hours after birth, both baby and mom can soak up all the benefits of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time, bonding, and feeding. Allowing the time immediately after birth to be calm and low stress for your baby helps them to transition into life outside the womb. And their immune systems benefit from delaying the bath as well, allowing the bacterial flora and vernix on their skin to protect them.
Also keeping a newborn warm is so important immediately after birth, as cold stress can weaken their immune system, force them to burn extra calories as they work to stay warm, and hinder their growth. So the best place for babies to be immediately after birth is skin to skin with their mothers - safe, calm and warm. Why bathe them right away? There is no rush!"
"For both my hospital and home birth I delayed my babies’ baths for at least 24 hours and soaked up as much skin to skin time as I could. I wanted them to be calm, warm, and protected - with me. That time immediately after birth is precious and sacred."
There is no rush in taking them away from exactly where they want and need to be - with their mothers.
Learn more from Erin’s expertise on her website and Instagram page:
Mardini, J., Rahme, C., Matar, O., Abou Khalil, S., Hallit, S., & Fadous Khalife, M. C. (2020). Newborn's first bath: any preferred timing? A pilot study from Lebanon. BMC research notes, 13(1), 430. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-020-05282-0
Postnatal Care of the Mother and Newborn. (2013). WHO Recommendations.