When do I bathe my newborn?
A lot of Moms aren’t sure when to bathe their newborn babies. Many people wait until the umbilical cord stump falls off. Some lose that first bath experience to hospital staff. I have some very important info on why Mothers should wait to bathe their babies and I want to share it.
A bath will lower the baby’s body temperature which may then prompt hospital staff to insist on placing the baby in a warmer until its temperature rises sufficiently. Be aware that if you do choose to delay bathing your newborn or refuse a formal bath entirely, hospital staff may treat your baby as a biohazard. In the case of a homebirth, this is a non-issue.
I test the temp with my wrist, not my fingers as my hands have become desensitized to temperature over time. Try it – you’ll feel a difference in the water temp just going from your hand to your wrist. I turn the heat on and close the bathroom door to keep it nice and warm in there. Have a cup, tear-free baby wash and a rag handy. Don’t bathe your baby right after a feeding or when they’re hungry or tired.
Bathe with your baby:
There is nothing wrong with getting into the bath with your baby. I did this with my first for every bath and I would hand her off to hubby when she was all done. I just bent my legs and she sat there, propped on them with her bottom resting on my pelvic area. My babies always loved when I got in the bath with them, then if they get upset you can just pull them right up to the breast and nurse through the bathing if need be.
My firstborn was bathed in the hospital against my wishes after a transfer from the birth center. My last two children were both water births so they had a bit of bath on their birthdays and I did not bathe them again until 2 weeks or so.
Some Moms worry about they baby crying during the bath or hating it all together. I say do whatever keeps them happy. At 1-2 weeks it is so hard to hear them cry (hormonally). No need for undue stress. My girls love the bath but I don’t know how much in part of that is from being welcomed into the world that way and how much of that is just their personality.
Here’s a tidbit on why you should wait to bathe your baby AND avoid artificial rupture of your membranes (having your water “broken”).
You’ll need to scroll down a bit to find the heading for:
ANTIMICROBIAL PROPERTIES OF AMNIOTIC FLUID AND VERNIX CASEOSA ARE SIMILAR TO THOSE FOUND IN BREAST MILK
Tests (Western analysis and immunochemistry) revealed that lysozyme, lactoferrin, human neutrophil peptides 1–3, and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor were present in the amniotic fluid samples and in organized granules embedded in the vernix samples. These immune substances were tested using antimicrobial growth inhibition assays and found to be effective in inhibiting the growth of common perinatal pathogens, including group B. Streptococcus, K. pneumoniae, L. monocytogenes, C. albicans, and E. coli.
The authors point out that the innate immune proteins found in vernix and amniotic fluid are similar to those found in breast milk. As the baby prepares for extrauterine life, pulmonary surfactant (a substance produced by the maturing fetal lungs) increases in the amniotic fluid, resulting in the detachment of vernix from the skin. The vernix mixes with the amniotic fluid and is swallowed by the growing fetus. Given the antimicrobial properties of this mixture, the authors conclude that there is “considerable functional and structural synergism between the prenatal biology of vernix caseosa and the postnatal biology of breast milk” (p. 2095). They also suggest that better understanding of these innate host defenses may prove useful in preventing and treating intrauterine infection.
Routine artificial rupture of membranes increases the likelihood of intrauterine infection because it eliminates the physical barrier (the amniotic sac) between the baby and the mother’s vaginal flora. This study suggests an additional mechanism for the prevention of infection when the membranes remain intact: A baby bathed in amniotic fluid benefits from antimicrobial proteins that are found in the fluid and in vernix caseosa.
The results of this study also call into question the routine use of some newborn procedures. Early bathing of the baby removes vernix, which contains antimicrobial proteins that are active against group B. streptococcus and E. coli. Delaying the bath and keeping the newborn together with his or her mother until breastfeeding is established may prevent some cases of devastating infections caused by these bacteria. The fact that preterm babies tend to have more vernix than babies born at or after 40 weeks might mean that healthy, stable preterm babies derive even greater benefit from staying with their mothers during the immediate newborn period.
Finally, this study illustrates how the normal physiology of pregnancy and fetal development is part of a continuum that extends beyond birth to the newborn period. The immunologic similarities between amniotic fluid, vernix, and breast milk provide further evidence that successful initiation of breastfeeding is a critical part of the process of normal birth.
So you see it is for the child’s benefit to wait a while and not rush into that first bath on the day of birth or even in the first week of life. I hope you have found this information useful.
Make sure you take pics of that first bath! And good luck!