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  • Delaying Your Baby's First Bath Helps Him Breastfeed Better. Here's Why

    Plan for a successful breastfeeding journey the moment your baby is born.
    by Kate Borbon .
Delaying Your Baby's First Bath Helps Him Breastfeed Better. Here's Why
PHOTO BY iStock
  • If you are expecting a baby and are planning on breastfeeding your child, you may want to consider holding off on giving them their first bath until at least 12 hours after delivery. A new study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing reports that delaying a newborn’s first bath increases the likeliness of exclusive breastfeeding.

    Heather Condo DiCioccio, DNP, RNC-MNN, who works as a nursing professional development specialist at the Mother/Baby Unit at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, began the research after observing how patients started requesting nurses at the hospital to refrain from bathing their babies right after birth in recent years. Together with her team, DiCioccio performed a study where 996 pairs of women and their newly-born babies were observed. Four hundred forty-eight of those patients fell under the hospital’s policy of giving babies baths within two hours after being born, while the other 548 followed the new procedure of giving babies their first bath after about 12 hours.

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    After collecting and comparing data, the researchers gleaned the following results: breastfeeding rates rose from 59.8% in the first group (those whose babies were bathed immediately after birth) to 68.2% in the second group (those whose babies were bathed 12 hours after birth).

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    Why delaying your baby's first bath may be good for him

    According to Children’s MD, when a newborn's bath is delayed, it offers an uninterrupted chance for the baby and his mother to stay in skin-to-skin contact (or kangaroo care) with one another, and it seems to make it easier for the baby to learn how to latch.

    The website states: “[W]hen baby is inside mom’s uterus, she is constantly and rhythmically sucking in amniotic fluid and swallowing it. At birth, she cries, [breathes] air and starts to forget how to suck and swallow. If you wait more than an hour to breastfeed, babies can have a hard time latching, sucking and swallowing. If you breastfeed right away, the baby still remembers how to suck and swallow. If you put a baby skin-to-skin between mom’s bare breasts at delivery, she will be warm, soothed by mom’s voice, find the breast herself, latch right on and start nursing.”

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    The act of bathing can cause a baby to experience stress, leading to a release of stress hormones, which can cause his blood sugar to drop. Kangaroo care helps reduce that stress. Furthermore, delaying a newborn’s bath and prolonging skin-to-skin contact can help ease the stress you and your baby feel after birth and foster your bond right away. 

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) writes, “The feeling of your baby’s warm skin against yours is a special closeness and comfort for you both. At a time when so many people are caring for your baby, kangaroo care provides special moments of belonging that only you can experience with your baby.”

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    A new study claims that babies who are bathed at least 12 hours after birth breastfeed better than babies who are washed immediately after delivery.
    PHOTO BY iStock

    Other benefits of delaying your baby’s first bath

    Aside from boosting breastfeeding rates, there are several other benefits to waiting before giving your baby their first bath. One is the vernix — the waxy white substance coating a baby’s body while inside the womb — is not immediately wiped off. This substance has been proven to contain proteins that help protect your baby from certain viruses and infections that can be transmitted to them during delivery.

    Second, holding off from giving your baby a bath immediately after birth can help them in adjusting to their new environment. Delivery rooms commonly have a colder temperature than a baby is used to when he's inside his mother’s womb. Bathing a baby right away can cause them to get too cold, which can also lead to a drop in their blood sugar levels.

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    In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) already has an essential newborn care protocol in place for hospitals called the "Unang Yakap" program. Most hospitals in the country follow this protocol, which promotes kangaroo care as soon as the baby is born and has saved infants since 2015. Read more about it here.

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