Hey mamas, This is an article I wrote a while ago, but because of the scare of COVID-19, I wanted to add some extra recommendations .
- Delay the bath until you are home from the hospital. (or longer if you want!)
- Ask the nurses to not vigorously rub the baby after birth unless needed for resuscitation. This ensures less vernix is removed.
Delaying Newborn’s first bath is another stellar attempt to educate you guys and continue the “get this off my chest” series of posts. I know, I’m not your typical Labor nurse. But that’s why you guys love me! Be sure to follow me, Labor Nurse Mama, on Instagram for pregnancy and birth education!
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Delaying Newborn’s First Bath
When I started my career as a labor and delivery nurse, the scene was pretty standard. Mom delivered her baby, we held the baby up for her to see, and then the assigned baby nurse would whisk the baby to the warmer to start a series of standard care items.
Dry them off, stick a hat on, measure, weigh, and then administer the medications all while mom watches from the bed. If you were lucky, we would drop your arm rail, and you could attempt to view.
Finally, Back to mom, all swaddled up and within the hour a bath at the bedside, (or in the nursery).
The scene has changed. Praise God! Because back then, you were considered a rebel or a pain in the arse if you asked for something other than the routine care. I mean, God forbid you asked for delayed cord clamping. Holy hell! Oh wait, you want to HOLD YOUR BABY immediately? What are you, some kind of tree hugger??
Girl, When I had my kids, I got so much FLACK! I had a birth plan, and I was probably spitefully mentioned at the nurse’s station as a needy patient.
Lord have mercy, thank God things have changed. The tree huggers knew a little something, something.
Crazy side story
In 1998, I had a friend who insisted on delaying her baby’s bath at a hospital in Chattanooga, TN. She also declined the Vitamin K and Hep B vaccination. Guess what? They called social services on her, and they harassed her family for months because of her outlandish ideas about birth.
What is that white stuff all over the baby? It’s called vernix, and it’s like the most precious moisturizer known to man. While in the womb the vernix protects the baby’s skin as a waterproof barrier. Back in the day, we would wipe that cheezy white substance off within a few minutes. Now most of us know better.
Studies have resoundingly proven that vernix is a rock-solid barrier against bacterias and other infections. (including COVID-19)
This study concluded with:
The presence of all of these antimicrobial polypeptides in vernix suggests that they are important for surface defense and may have an active biologic role against microbial invasion at birth.
The role of Vernix?
- Inside the womb, it covers the baby’s skin as a waterproof barrier. But underneath that barrier, it promotes healthy skin growth.
- It protects the baby from the friction of moving through the birth canal. Like a slip and slide. (insert weird emoji)
- Vernix acts as an antimicrobial barrier as the baby moves through the vaginal tract, which to be fair is not precisely sterile.
- After birth, vernix regulates the baby’s temperature.
- It acts as a natural moisturizer for baby’s skin after birth.
- Vernix is a natural anti-infection and antioxidant.
- This magical white substance also promotes wound healing.
- Can be compared to the ingredients in a commercial skin cleanser. (HOLY SMOKES)
So why am I recommending Delaying Newborn Bathing?
It Promotes Baby’s Health
Delaying Newborns’ first bath is one of the critical components of protection that you can advocate for your child at birth.
1 / As a Guard Dog
Let’s face it; most of our babies are born in a hospital. Think sick people. So to leave the vernix on our little one protects them from bacteria and fungi. Studies show that vernix has over 41 proteins in it. 29% of those have antimicrobial components, and 39% lend to immunity.
2 / Thermoregulation
A baby is not able to regulate their body temperature. The newborn baby loses its body heat four times faster than adults. Staying warm is critical to a newborn’s well being. Hence, we also promote immediate skin to skin and eventually swaddling with a hat.
Did you know that immediate skin to skin reduces thermoregulation issues by 42%? WHAT???????
3 / Blood Sugar Control
Low blood sugar in a newborn is a downright scary situation. It can quickly turn fatal. Guess what increases the risk of a babies blood sugar dropping? Stress (Like crying) which releases cortisol (stress hormone) causes the blood sugar to drop. Guess what makes them cry more? A bath.
Hello, guess what makes a baby less stressed? Being on top of their mom and being warm and not crying.
I read a study which states that babies bathed before 12 hours of birth, doubled their chance of improper blood sugar control.
4 / Breastfeeding success
Girl, if all the reasons I have listed so far are not enough then perk up. Delaying Baby’s first bath not only protects them from a whole bunch of evils, but it also increases the chance of successful breastfeeding. It’s known that when skin to skin happens during the immediate postpartum period, the baby smells the amniotic fluid on the breasts. The same is said for the vernix. It smells like amniotic fluid, and it also familiarizes the baby with the breasts. It is thus promoting breastfeeding success.
Listen to this fact, A study done in 2010, showed that delaying baby’s first bath increased the success of breastfeeding by 166%!
A hospital in Cleveland Ohio recently completed a study to check if delaying newborn bathing a minimum of 12 hours had any effect on the success of an exclusively breastfeeding plan.
The conclusion of the study:
Delaying the newborn bath was associated with increased in-hospital exclusive breastfeeding rates and use of human milk as a part of the discharge feeding plan.
So, Yes, they found that delaying newborn bathing by a minimum of 12 hours increases your odds of starting successfully with breastfeeding. They then changed hospital policy to postpone the bath at least 12 hours but preferably more like 24 hours.
The evidence for delayed newborn bathing is overwhelming. Don’t ignore it. You are your little one’s first advocate. If your birthplace is not on board, print out the studies, I have referenced and fight for change.
As always, education brings power! Stay educated don’t let someone else tell you it’s policy!