After hours of labor full of fluids, panting, and backrubs, your little darling finally emerged—but what a mess! He could be covered in blood, mucus, or vernix (the white coating that protected his skin in the womb). And he probably doesn’t match the cute little baby impression you expected. Many moms want to know, “When can I bathe my baby?” But if he’s healthy, immediate bonding is the most important thing, and bathing can wait.
Bathing is wonderful, in its time. But it’s also interruptive and takes away some of the good stuff.
If your birth plan says that as long as baby’s healthy you want to delay bathing, the staff will know not to whisk him away to make him pretty.
And though staff has a lot of things they need to do and check with your new baby, most of those tasks can wait an hour.
Even though you’re both probably a hot mess, the first minutes just after baby’s born are super important.
Experts agree (and many mothers, too) that the entire first hour after birth is prime time for family bonding, and immediately placing your naked, goopy baby directly on your naked chest creates a ton of benefits.
It’s everybody’s first time to make a good impression and start life together on a positive note. For some, it’s a sacred moment, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Now we know that the first bonding effects last a lifetime—if bonding is promoted, babies are healthier and more secure; if it’s interrupted, babies have more problems that can remain with them for life.
- Helps stabilize baby’s breathing, body temperature, and body functions
- Regulates blood pressure
- Reduces stress hormones and diminishes crying
- Promotes brain development by preventing separation anxiety
- Increases bonding with mother
- Increases the quiet-alert state
- Promotes successful breastfeeding
- Increase a sense of mothering
- Increase hormones that promote relaxation and attraction
- Instill confidence in caring for her baby
- Promote breastfeeding for longer
Why lose all these wonderful benefits?
What about all the goop?
When baby is placed immediately on mom’s chest right after birth, fluids come along for the ride. But mom is likely sweaty and disheveled from the hard work of pushing, so why not just be messy together?
Baby needs to be covered with a blanket to prevent getting cold in his new air environment—that cover can be used to wipe his face so he can see and breathe. Otherwise, ignore the mess and revel in the beauty.
The optimal approach is to just let mom and baby be quiet together, staring in amazement into each other’s eyes. Baby is comforted, mom is comforted, and for one short hour life is paradise. Stating in your birth plan that you want this will remind your health care team to just let you two be together, uninterrupted.
During that bonding time, most babies will find the breast and begin to breastfeed. Once that’s finished and mom is ready to let baby go, bath time still hasn’t arrived unless you want it to.
So, when should I bathe my baby?
The World Health Organization recommends waiting 24 hours before bathing your new darling!
If your baby is covered in white vernix, this should be rubbed in rather than washed off because it’s super protective. Blood and mucus can be gently wiped away.
Some people can’t wait to have their newborn squeaky clean and snuggled in a blanket. That’s wonderful—just give bonding, breathing, and breastfeeding the first hour.
You can write this preference into your birth plan (the final version listed on your hospital bag checklist). Just state that you want immediate skin-to-skin contact and no bathing until at least the first precious hour—or day—has passed. Most hospitals and birthing centers will try to respect that.
To learn more about bonding, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: September 30, 2017 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: September, 2017